The area of Greenpoint that I live in– bordering East Williamsburg, close to the BQE– is just far enough from Greenpoint proper, Williamsburg and Bushwick that it falls a block or two outside of most restaurants delivery zones. This is, in some ways, a blessing, because it forces me to cook for myself almost every night. Not only is this usually healthier and cheaper, but it also means that I’ve gotten more skilled in replicating the flavors of some of my favorite ethnic cuisines, like Thai food.
I’ve found that the key to a good Thai curry (and most Thai food, and even some other food) is fish sauce. It adds so much depth to the flavors. I use the Squid brand, which I’m told is a premium brand in Thailand, and is superior to the Thai Kitchen brand. Honestly, I don’t know that I can tell the difference, but the bottles of it are huge compared to the tiny Thai Kitchen bottles, and I tend to use it liberally, so that’s a plus. I buy it from Rosemary Farms, the Asian produce market on Graham Ave, right near the L stop.
Thai Coconut Curry
One day soon, Now that I have access to the Cuisinart, I am going to make my own curry paste and keep it on hand, but for now, I just purchase curry paste. It’s available in most major grocery stores as well as in the bodegas near me, and it makes this a relatively quick and easy dinner. Red is hot, and green is hotter.
I do most of this to taste– adding fish sauce and brown sugar bit by bit, and adding more chile paste to increase the heat, if necessary.
- 1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- Protein (I used 7 ounces of tofu*, drained, pressed and diced and 2 ounces of seitan, cut into small pieces)
- 3-4 tablespoons curry paste (red or green)
- 2 cans coconut milk
- 2-3 tablespoons of fish sauce (or to taste)
- 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar (or to taste)
- Assorted vegetables, steamed (I used bell peppers, broccoli, eggplant and carrots)
- 3 serrano peppers, halved
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped Thai basil
In a large saucepan, add sesame oil and soy sauce and cook on medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so. Add tofu and/or seitan and turn up the heat. You might want to add a dash of fish sauce, or even worcestershire sauce as well. Cook, turning regularly with a spatula, until browned. You can now drain the protein if it seems especially oily, but I try to limit the amount of oil I use, so that I can proceed to making the curry in this pot.
Add coconut milk. Stir in curry paste so that it’s throughly mixed. Add fish sauce and brown sugar– a little bit of each at a time– to taste. Add more curry paste or just a simple chili paste if you want it to be hotter. Heat the mixture on low to medium heat. When it’s hot, add steamed vegetables, and garnish with serranos, cilantro and basil. Serve over rice or rice noodles.
*Open your tofu packed in water, place it between clean paper towels, and place a weight (such as a heavy saucepan filled with water) on it. Do this at least 2 times. You can use it as is, but the texture is even better if you’re able to freeze the tofu over night. I try to just always have frozen tofu on hand.