Malaysian Vegetarian Curry in the USA for MZ

28 Jun

One of the things M really wanted when I was cooking for her was a vegetarian curry. This is what I came up with, given the ingredients I could source in her part of the world!

Curry and rice must be one of the most ultimate comfort foods for us. Theres something about the warmth and heat – the pedas and the panas – that sends a glow to the soul. Its relatively easy to make as long as you take a couple of things into consideration: make sure you think about the vegetables you are adding, and ensure they all get proper and respectful cooking time; fry the spices – you want them to release their volatile oils and infuse their scent into the whole house; make sure there is some protein in the curry as vegetarian food like this needs to be balanced; think about colour, size and texture when you choose your vegetables; and finally, know your heat (spice) limit, and stick to it!

For a curry feeding 4 – 6 people, you will need:

  • 2 – 3 tbsp peanut oil (or a mix of canola and roasted sesame oil if you cant find peanut, coconut oil is also nice)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Thumb sized portion of ginger, minced or grated
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 red chili (or more, according to your taste) minced fine (with or without seeds, according to your heat desire)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp  good quality red curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp each: cumin + coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 – 2 stalks lemongrass, bruised
  • 2 – 3 leaves limau perut or curry leaves
  • 1 potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 yellow squash, washed and cubed
  • 2 – 3 small carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium head broccoli, separated into small spears
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • Handful of frozen peas
  • 1 packet baked tofu (or chickpeas if you cant find baked tofu)

Heat in a large pan or saucepan, over medium heat, heat oil until almost smoking. Add onion, garlic, and ginger, and stir well. Season with salt and pepper. Let onion soften, this should only take a few seconds. Add red chili, stir again, and check if oil has all been absorbed. If it has, move all ingredients to the sides of the pan, so you make a well in the centre, and add a little bit more oil. Add the curry powder and spice powders and fry until they separate from the oil and the scents have been released. You will know when this happens!

As soon as the spice powders have fried, stir all together, add the cinnamon, star anise, cloves, lemongrass and limau perut and stir. Add the potatoes, and stir to coat. Let the potatoes fry for a minute, and brown a little bit. Once the potatoes have browned, add a little water, and add the squash, carrots, and broccoli in stages, stirring to combine well. Add the coconut milk, and allow all the vegetables to cook to lightly cook (you dont want them boiled, but more like lightly poached).

Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if needed. I have also added some brown sugar (tiny pinch) to add a deeper resonance if necessary.

Add frozen peas and baked tofu and allow to heat through. Taste again.

I always think curry is best reheated gently the next day, once all the flavours have had a chance to get acquainted. And always try and serve it warm, not piping hot – you destroy any flavour if you serve it boiling hot.

Serve with brown rice and enjoy memories of home and family and heat and humidity.

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