Thai Red Curry
I've always liked spicy food. My roommate even got me a water bottle that looks like Sriracha for my birthday. But I've always wondered why certain cuisines are so dang spicy - especially in those countries near the equator that are always so hot. Take Thai food for example. While I haven't been to Thailand, I've been to enough Thai restaurants to know to never mess with spice. When they say hot, they mean so HOT you're blind because you can't open your eyes cause you've got tears in them HOT! I can handle spicy food, but when I went to Pa Ord Noodle here in LA I was crying tears of pain and joy. SO SPICY. SO GOOD. While I've learned to be cautious when I go to authentic Thai restaurants, it doesn't stop me from ordering my favorite coconut curry.
Turns out there's a reason behind spicy foods in hot places: the capsicum in spicy foods makes you sweat. Sweat naturally cools your body and helps regulate your temperature. Hence, spicy foods are prevalent in hot places! Think of Thai chilis like they're mini devilish fans :)
While I have yet to try and make curry completely from scratch and blend my own paste together, here's a quick and tasty version that'll trick your taste buds and give you that satisfying warmth that you crave in a coconut curry.
Thai Red Curry
Serves 6-8 people that like to sweat!
1/2 block tofu
4-6 cloves garlic
1 Thai chili
1/2 yellow onion
1 large eggplant
6-8 shiitake mushrooms
1 head broccoli
1 red bell pepper
1 sweet potato
2 Tbsp red curry paste
1 can coconut milk
Dice tofu into cubes and pat dry. Heat a splash of canola oil in your wok and fry tofu till golden brown and a little crisp. Set tofu aside. Mince garlic and chop onion into long thin slices. Carefully mince thai chili, maybe wear a glove if you have it. Nuke your sweet potato in the microwave for 2-4 minutes till soft and slice into moon shaped slices. Then chop the rest of your veggies: bell pepper, broccoli, eggplant, and mushrooms all into large but bite-sized slices.
Once your veggies are all chopped, add canola oil to the wok and turn on high heat. Begin to stir fry your garlic, chilis, and onions till softened, then add your eggplant and mushrooms till cooked, about 3-5 minutes. Then throw in your bell pepper and broccoli and stir. Place the lid on your wok with a dash of water and steam for a few minutes to cook the veggies. Then add your sweet potato and cooked tofu to the wok and stir fry till mostly cooked.
Now add red curry paste (found mine at my local grocery store in the Asian food section) and stir. Then pour in your can of coconut milk - the liquid should turn pink from the paste. Let the coconut milk come to a simmer, then add a few dashes of salt and about a tablespoon's worth of brown sugar for a little sweetness to go with the coconut. Be sure to taste and see if it's spicy/sweet/salty enough for you. Consider topping it all off with a squirt of Sriracha like me if you want a little more heat. If it's too spicy, you can always add a little water or more coconut milk.
Once the curry has simmered for a bit and the sauce has reduced and thickened, your dish is complete! Serve on top of white or brown rice and be prepared to sweat!