I’m still looking over all the suggestions that people gave me a few weeks ago when I asked for reader suggestions for meals to make. While I ended up making a spicy potato tapas recipe, there were also a lot of requests for curry.
I hadn’t made a curry dish in quite a while and I’m always in the market for a spicy and rich curry.
For this recipe, I actually made my own curry paste which is only the second or third time I’ve ever done that. It wasn’t too hard though and completely wonderful. I’m not sure if it was “The best vegetarian curry ever” as requested by a reader, but it was darn close!
1) Add the chili peppers, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon stick, and cloves to a large skillet and toast over medium-high heat until they are very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Stir regularly.
2) Add those spices to a spice grinder and grind.
3) Combine ground spices with other paste ingredients in a food processor and process until the mixture is in a paste. Set aside for later.
4) Wash eggplant and quarter it longwise. Set on a baking sheet lined with foil and drizzle it lightly with olive oil.
5) Broil eggplant on high for about 10 minutes until it's very charred around the edges.
6) Slice eggplant into chunks and set aside. Optionally, you can cut off the skin as well.
7) Press tofu between a few paper towels for a few minutes to press out some liquid. Slice the tofu in half longwise.
8) Add tofu to a large skillet with a drizzle of oil over high heat. Sear on both sides for about 4 minutes. Then slice into cubes.
9) In a large pot, add a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat with diced onion. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
10) Add the curry paste to the pan and cook until it's very fragrant, a few minutes.
11) Add coconut milk and water along with eggplant and tofu. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
12) Serve curry over rice garnished with chopped scallions.
Recipe adapted from ecurry.
The Curry Paste
You could definitely just use a store-bought curry paste for this recipe, but I was feeling ambitious on this day so I swung by an Asian market we have in town and picked up some ingredients like bird chilis, kafir lime leaves, and a few other spices.
Some of the ingredients in the paste might be hard for you to find, but if you want to give it a shot, I wouldn’t worry about getting all of the ingredients. For example, for this round I couldn’t find good lemongrass so I just left it out. I know lemongrass adds great flavor, but it was delicious without it.
My point is, don’t let not being able to find one or two things stop you from trying the curry paste!
Step one to making this paste is to toast all your spices. This is actually pretty important. It brings out a lot of flavor in the spices. Just add the whole spices and chili peppers to a large skillet and heat them over medium heat for about 5 minutes until they are really fragrant.
One note on the bird chilis: They are hot! I used 10 and my curry was really spicy. They are small but they pack a pretty serious punch.
Then just pour the spices into your spice grinder and buzz them up.
Don’t do what I did and try to smell this after grinding it. It’s strong!
Besides the spices you need some basic aromatics including lots of shallot, ginger, and garlic.
I got lucky and found some kafir lime leaves which is a great curry ingredient. I would guess that if there’s an ingredient that you won’t be able to find on the list, it’ll be these guys.
Add this stuff to a food processor with your ground spices and pulse them up until they form a rough paste.
Then add in the liquid stuff (coconut milk, tamarind paste, soy sauce, sesame oil) and pulse it again.
This has a much more intense and interesting flavor than any store bought curry paste I’ve ever tried. It was really awesome.
Prepping the Eggplant
There are lots of ways to cook eggplant, some are more work than others. This way is incredibly easy. Basically, just cut the eggplant into quarters and then drizzle them with some olive oil.
Add them to a baking sheet lined with foil and set them under your broiler on high heat. Let them broil for about 10 minutes, turning them once or twice.
You should end up with these really charred eggplant segments. They might look slightly burned, but that’s fine. It adds an almost smokey flavor to the eggplant which is really nice.
Once they cool slightly you can just roughly dice them.
I decided to leave the skin on the eggplant for this version. I thought this was fine, but Betsy said she didn’t like the skin. It is a bit on the chewy side which doesn’t bother me. My suggestion is to try a piece and see if it bothers you. If it does you can just slice the skin off after you char it.
I thought that the eggplant might not be substantial enough by itself so I decided to add in some seared tofu also.
I just pressed the tofu between two layers of paper towels to press out some of the water. Then I sliced it in half and seared each half in a large skillet with a drizzle of oil for about 5 minutes per side.
Once it is seared, you can just cube it up and it’s ready for the curry.
Finishing the Curry
Time to put everything together!
In a large pot, add a drizzle of oil and your diced onion. Cook the onion over medium heat until it’s translucent, about five minutes. Then add in all your curry paste! Cook this for another 4-5 minutes.
It will immediately smell amazing.
Add the coconut milk and water to the pan along with the eggplant and tofu. Bring the whole thing to a simmer and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes just to let all the flavors mix.
When you’re ready to serve it, pile it high on some rice and garnish with chopped scallions.
It looks kind of sloppy but the flavors are killer.
I still like store-bought curry paste a lot just because it’s really easy to use. It would make this dish an under-30 minute dish I think.
If you have the time though and feel like experimenting, give the curry paste a shot. It’s pretty awesome and very flexible.