I saw this recipe in the weekend Wall Street Journal and immediately decided I had to make it. It either can be made with shredded chicken or cubed tofu for a vegan version. This time I went for the chicken, but I’m sure that I will also make the vegan version in future. The spices are what make this dish, so while I freely admit that I am not always such a purist and will use bought spice mixes and pre-ground spices, there are times when I will go all out and grind my own and this is one of those times. Relatively recently I have been seeing fresh turmeric in my grocery store, but had never bought it until now. Since I do both Mediterranean and Indian cooking, I knew that the turmeric would not be wasted and decided to give it a try. I understand that it also can be used as an herbal infusion, which is supposed to have many health benefits as an anti-inflammatory.
Obviously this dish is not something you are going to make after you arrive home late from work, but it is fun to try for a lazy Sunday. I did cheat by using a store-made roasted organic chicken since I am all for short-cuts when they don’t compromise the end product. I followed the recipe pretty strictly (unusual for me) except I did not bother to strain the curry or put it into a new clean pot before adding the chicken and final ingredients. That just seemed like needless extra work to me and I can live happily with a bit of texture in my final dish.
Thai Style Yellow Curry with Sweet Potato by Mary-Frances Heck from her new cookbook Sweet Potatoes: Roasted, Loaded, Fried, and Made into Pie’ (Clarkson Potter)
Yield: 4 servings
15-ounce can coconut milk (full-fat, please)
For curry paste
1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
3 dried small, hot chilies such as Arbol
3/4 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup garlic cloves, peeled
Chopped stems from one bunch of cilantro
1 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1-inch piece fresh turmeric, peeled and thinly sliced (or 1 Tablespoon ground turmeric, if you must)
1 large orange-fleshed sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 cups water
About 12 ounces shredded cooked chicken or firm tofu, cut into cubes (I ended up using an entire small rotisserie chicken)
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 pound Chinese-style egg noodle (See Note at the bottom.)
Thinly sliced shallots
- Place the unopened can of coconut milk in the freezer for 15 minutes to solidify the layer of cream at the top.
- In a dry skillet set over medium heat, toast the seeds, shaking the pan frequently until fragrant and a few of the mustard sees pop, about 1 minute.
- Pour the seeds into a dish to cool. Place the hot chilies into the dry pan and toast, turning them as they puff and turn bright red, about 30 seconds. Allow the chilies to cool.
- Once the spices have cooled, place them between waxed or parchment paper and using a heavy pan, crack the spices.
- Add the cracked spices, shallots, garlic, cilantro stems, turmeric and ginger to the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse to form a paste.
- Open the can of coconut milk and spoon the solid cream into a heavy medium pot. Set over medium heat and melt the coconut cream. Add the curry paste and stir through, frying the paste for about 1 minute or until smooth and everything is combined. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking uncovered, stirring frequently until the paste darkens a shade and orange oil begins to seep from the paste – about 8 minutes.
- Stir in the remaining coconut milk, the cubed sweet potato and 3 cups of water. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a simmer, uncovered. Cook, stirring often until the sweet potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
- Using a standing blender, puree the mixture in batches until smooth. Please be sure that the liquid has cooled first and do in batches. Otherwise, you will be cleaning up a mess! I tried using an immersion blender but I just couldn’t get the mixture smooth enough. (The directions then say to strain the curry through a fine-mesh sieve, but after trying to do this, I thought it was a total waste of time, although it will make for a thinner curry. If like me you are okay with a slightly thicker end product then simply puree it well in the blender and skip the sieve. It also said to transfer to a clean pot. REALLY?! No way.)
- Stir in the shredded chicken or cubed tofu, the fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice and salt. Adjust the seasoning to taste by adding more fish sauce or brown sugar. Warm through. The curry is only moderately spicy. I found the flavors delicious and very subtle – rounded out by the sweet potato and coconut milk. If you are looking for something with more heat, you will need to use a hotter chili pepper or simply add more hot chili oil.
- Cook the noodles according to the package and drain well. Divide the noodles into 4 bowls and ladle the hot curry over the top. Garnish.
NOTE: While the recipe called for noodles, I would use rice the next time I make this. The dish is quite rich tasting and I think the rice provides a better foil.