I’ve been thinking about the concept of time lately. I suspect that it falls outside of my comprehension, like the infinite nature of the universe, and how the dishes manage to pile up in my sink when I’m not looking. Time comes and it goes, sure, but it never seems to run at a constant rate.
I seem to live in denial that everything takes time. Obviously work takes up a good chunk of time, though the hours devoted to work don’t seem to correlate very well with the amount of work done. Mundane but necessary routines like emptying the dishwasher take up many more minutes than I give them credit. Everything that I hold essential to being—like stretching and walking and reading—takes time as well. Not to mention the fun stuff for which I make time, like laughing with friends. Those are the best times. If I could just accept that everything takes time and plan accordingly, maybe I wouldn’t feel like I’m losing in a never-ending wrestling match with Father Time. I don’t like losing.
I’m in the midst of designing the largest publication I’ve ever produced and I wish I could devote more time to writing about this green curry dish (on second thought, I think I’ll just live in denial a bit longer so I can tell you about it). This is another recipe from the Asian seafood cooking class I attended with my friend Mark a couple of months ago, which also inspired this watercress and forbidden rice salad. If I had gone to a Thai restaurant and received something this delicious from behind the kitchen door, I’d probably assume that it required exotic ingredients or cooking skills picked up in the Far East. However, after watching a large white guy who cooks at a German restaurant make this and replicating it at home, I can say that fortunately, this dish does not require any of those things. All you need are some ingredients that are generally easy to find in the Asian cooking section, like green curry paste, coconut milk and soy sauce.
We were a couple of glasses of wine into the class by the time Chef Forster made this curry, so my recipe is based off of my scribbled notes on the chef’s vague, four-sentence recipe print-out. Regardless, the results were fantastic and I think you should make it. I’ve elaborated on the steps and details in the recipe below so you shouldn’t have any trouble. This time, I chose to add tofu, but you could skip the tofu and serve it with grilled fish, or go without it altogether.
Before we get to the recipe, I feel like I should take a minute to discuss tofu. I gave up meat almost entirely over two years ago, but I’ve never felt a need to replace meat with tofu or meat substitutes. I despise the notion that every meal has to have “a protein,” since protein is present in so many other foods, like vegetables, whole grains, eggs and dairy products. Plus, if a dish doesn’t easily lend itself to becoming vegetarian, I’m not going to fight it!
Furthermore, soy’s effects on our health are controversial. However, I don’t get too caught up in such debates because I don’t believe that consuming tofu on occasion will cause me any harm. I like tofu alright, but it’s kind of a pain to work with and I’d rather cook up an organic egg if I feel like I need more substance. I might actually prefer this recipe without tofu after all since it soaked up quite a bit of the liquid curry goodness. All that said, tofu is a natural fit in Asian dishes like this one. Whether or not you add it is entirely up to you.
- 1¼ cup brown basmati rice
- 2½ cups water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or quality vegetable oil
- 1 white onion, diced
- 1 inch nub of ginger, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
- 3 Thai chiles, chopped (entirely optional)
- 1 can (14 ounces) light coconut milk
- ½ cup water
- 1 to 2 teaspoons turbinado (raw) sugar or brown sugar
- 1 package of extra-firm tofu (optional)
- 1 to 2 teaspoons brown rice wine vinegar
- 1 to 2 teaspoons soy sauce (I used reduced-sodium tamari)
- handful of cilantro, chopped
- 2 cups seasonal vegetables, chopped (like broccoli, asparagus, carrots or bell peppers)
- Cook the rice. Rinse the rice in a mesh colander and then cook it in a rice cooker with 2½ cups water, according to your manufacturer’s instructions and the volumes given above. Alternatively, you can cook it on the stove. Bring 2½ cups of water to a boil over high heat. Rinse the rice, then add it to the pan. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let it cook until all water is absorbed (35-40 minutes). If it gets too dry, add a splash or more of water as necessary. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
- Give the rice some time to cook as you prepare all the vegetables. Drain the tofu and squeeze it gently to release some of the water. Slice it in half, into two square slabs, and slice it into bite-sized strips.
- Heat a 10-inch skillet with deep sides over medium-low heat. Once it’s hot, add a drizzle of oil. Sweat the onion, ginger and garlic with a sprinkle of salt for about 7 minutes (the heat should not be high enough to darken the color of the onion). Raise the heat to medium and add the curry paste and chilies (optional), stirring often for a couple of minutes.
- Shake or stir the coconut milk and then pour it into the pan. Add the water, sugar and chopped tofu and cook until the tofu is warmed through and the liquid has reduced to your desired consistency. Remove from heat and season with rice wine vinegar and soy sauce, to taste.
- Steam the vegetables until tender, using your preferred method. Stir cilantro into the curry. Serve rice, curry and vegetables onto each plate and garnish with extra cilantro, if desired.
- Adapted from Chef Bill Forster’s cooking class.
- Serves 4.
- I've made coconut curries that tasted flat, but the soy sauce, sugar and rice vinegar add welcome complexity to this dish. Don't skip them, and please adjust the amounts to suit your tastes.
- If you want to go to the trouble of making your own green curry paste, here's a recipe.
- Thai green curry is traditionally seasoned with fish sauce, but since this recipe is vegetarian, it calls for soy sauce instead. (Aside: is anyone else grossed out by the concept of fish sauce?)
- This dish is gluten free as long as you use a gluten-free soy sauce, like tamari.
- Another aside: did you know that some people are genetically predisposed to think that cilantro tastes like soap?