You may think I'm crazy but one of my favourite pastimes is grocery shopping. The bigger the store, the happier I am. And what I love about the holiday season is that you get to listen to this lovely, soothing music while you decide what pasta to pick, which herbs to choose, what bread to buy and what snacks to opt for.
Ranch Market is usually the store I go to if I decide to cook Thai food. One aisle that I spend the most time in is the vegetable aisle. I like looking at the different varieties of mushrooms. Till now apart from what I usually buy - the regular, baby bella and sometimes portobello, the only variety I dared to buy were the shiitake mushrooms. This time I was very tempted to buy straw mushrooms. I decided to buy the peeled, canned mushrooms instead of the fresh ones. No particular reason.
I generally avoid using canned products - the fresh ones are always healthier. But this time tempatation took over me and I also picked up a can of baby corn. Back In B'lore I used to buy fresh babycorn by the dozen. Unfortunately we do not get fresh babycorn here. I also prefer bamboo shoots in my Thai curry so picked that up as well. So much for avoiding canned goods, I hear you saying.
I also like large pieces of galangal and lemongrass in my curry so I picked them too and also picked some leeks.
After I came home, I remembered seeing a recipe for Thai red curry paste in Nita Mehta's Vegetarian Microwave Cookbook. So instead of using store bought Thai curry paste, I thought of giving it a try.
I used galangal instead of ginger, increased the chillies, decreased the peppercorns and made a couple more minor changes to suit our taste. The colour didn't please me much, but I guess that depends on what chillies you use. However, the paste did lend a nice flavour to the curry and my husband liked it a a lot, so I cannot complain.
If you are using store bought Thai curry paste, just go directly to the Thai curry recipe.
Thai Red Curry Paste
5 to 6 whole red chillies (preferably kashmiri)
1 shallot or 1/2 onion
6 to 7 garlic cloves
1 1/2" galangal or 1" ginger
1 stalk lemongrass or rind of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional, for the colour)
Break chillies into half and soak in 1/2 cup of warm water for 15 minutes. Grind into a paste with the rest of the ingredients. Use the water in which the chillies were soaked as needed, to get a fine paste. [The paste will be very spicy, so beware!]
If you do not want to use the paste the same day, just roast it for a few minutes in 2 tbsp oil till the water evaporates. Cool and refrigerate.
Veg Thai Red Curry
Whenever I make pasta, lasagna or Thai curry, I like to use different varieties of vegetables. I have mentioned a few here. Feel free to make changes and add or subtract vegetables as per your liking. I personally like to use additional lemon grass and galangal in the curry because I love the flavour given out by them, but you needn't add them as they have already lent their flavour to the paste. I forgot to add carrots this time, but I will include it in the list.
Thai red curry paste - store bought or homemade, about 2 oz (50 g)
1/2 of red capsicum, chopped
1/2 of yellow capsicum, chopped
6 to 8 baby corn, slit lengthwise
1/2 cup chopped eggplant
1/2 cup chopped broccoli
1/2 cup canned bamboo shoots
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped leek
5 to 6 tofu pieces
2 tbsp chopped lemon grass
2 1/2 cups coconut milk (I used 2 cups canned coconut milk + 1/2 cup water)
1/2 tsp soy sauce
4 to 5 basil, roughly chopped
1 tsp oil + 1/2 tsp chilli powder
In a large pan, heat 3 tbsp oil. Add Thai red curry paste and roast for a few minutes till the water evaporates. Add 1/2 cup coconut milk and bring to a light boil. Add all the vegetables and mix well. Add the remaining coconut milk and soy sauce and bring to a roaring boil.
Add chopped basil and salt and boil for a couple more minutes. Adjust the spice level. Some chillies can be really spicy while some may not. I actually heated oil+1/2 tsp chilli powder in the microwave (for half a minute) and added it to the dish.
One change I would like to make next time, as I mentioned, would be to try making the paste with some other type of chilli which will give me a deeper red colour. Any suggestions are welcome.
Update - Thanks for your suggestions. I have updated the post accordingly.