City Palate

The Harvest Issue - September October 2017

9 Quick Ways with Curry Pastes
Mar/Apr 2009
Thai curry pastes can be used for much more than making Thai curries, though there’s nothing wrong with that. All you need is a little imagination and a sense of adventure. You can make your own curry pastes, but why should you (other than the fresh factor) when several brands of the good stuff are readily available at specialty and Asian markets, for example: Mae Ploy, Cock Brand, Thai Kitchen, Asian Home Gourmet and Namjai. All are made in Thailand. Red, green and yellow are the most popular curry pastes, but there are also Penang and Massaman curry that carry hints of Malaysia and India, respectively. Massaman may include typical Indian spices such as cinnamon, clove, coriander, cardamom and cumin. The measurement, a “knob” is Brit-speak for “some.” We will consider it roughly a tablespoon. Some curry pastes are hotter than others, such as green and red trump yellow, so start with a smaller knob and add more if you want more zest.

1. Chicken Noodle Soup Kicks Ass
Next time you make chicken noodle soup, whisk a knob of yellow curry paste into the broth along with minced or grated ginger. Or, whisk a knob of red curry paste into your next tomato soup. Tart up good commercially prepared soups with a curry paste. Those packages of asian noodle soups almost demand a dollop of curry paste to liven them up.

2. Shrimp in Love
Sautéed shrimp love spice. In a sauté pan, melt butter and whisk in a half-knob of curry paste to make a thick-ish paste. Add your shrimp and sauté until just done. If you cook big ones with the tails still on, you can pass them around as appetizers. If you cook smaller ones without tails, toss them on a pile of rice noodles, or rice, or soft polenta, or even a salad. You could even toss them on a pile of grilled vegetables. Yum.

3. Summer Sass

Thin curry paste with some olive oil and brush onto steaks, pork chops, lamb or chicken before grilling. Add a knob of curry paste to your favourite barbecue sauce to give it Asian sensibilities.

4. Tofu with Tickle

We like tofu but it needs all the flavour help it can get. Wrap a half-chunk of firm tofu in a tea towel or paper towels until most of the moisture has been absorbed. Whisk the tofu with one large egg. In a nonstick pan, heat some oil and whisk in a half-knob, or more, of curry paste. When smooth, toss in your egg and tofu and scramble, adding a bit of salt and pepper. Eat with crisp bacon, if you dare.

5. Stir-fry Saveur

Heat some oil in a wok, add a knob or two of curry paste and blend it well. Cook some protein first and then set aside. Stir-fry some vegetables and combine everything for a last, flavourful stir.

6. Thai Saag & Paneer
Melt some butter in a sauté pan and whisk in a half-knob of Massaman curry paste. When hot, sauté fresh spinach and cubes of paneer (firm, fresh cheese found in East Indian grocery stores) until the excess liquid evaporates.

7. Va-Va-Vinaigrette
Whisk a teaspoon of curry paste into your favourite vinaigrette, warm it in the microwave, and toss it with grilled vegetables or warm sliced beets and carrots, then sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese.

8. Paradise Poach
Give a can of coconut milk a good shake, then dump it into a pan and heat it up. Add a generous knob of curry paste, whisk until well combined and then poach chicken thighs until they are cooked through. Add frozen peas for colour and serve on rice doused thoroughly with the sauce.

9. Risotto Ramped Up
Next time you make risotto, whisk a knob of curry paste into the oil and butter you heat to stir the carnaroli or arborio rice into. Toss in minced ginger at the same time. Then, finish making the risotto as you normally would, but instead of parmesan – this is ramped up after all – finish it off with a couple of spoonfuls of a good chutney. Toss in some shrimp for good measure and good protein. But don’t serve this to your Italian friends.