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Sunday, April 21

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Last week, I enjoyed the simplicity of some Italian style noodles. This week, I'm delving into my perennial favorite, Coconut Curry with Tofu. You'll find this dish in a few Thai places and it really isn't that hard to make. I use tofu because I rarely eat meat, but you can use chicken. It's got a few simple ingredients and it takes some prep work and time to cook and simmer, but it's such a rich and complex dish perfect for these cold days. It's hearty!

Coconut Curry with Tofu (or chicken) and Noodles
(for two to four)

Coconut curry with tofu

You'll need:
2 heaped tablespoons curry powder
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped or minced
2 cans of coconut milk
2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock (or use stock cubes)
1 tbsp lemongrass
Cornstarch or flour
Lemon juice
Soy sauce
Oil, olive or otherwise
1 block of tofu or one chicken breast
Asian egg noodles of your choice: a high quality egg noodle is good — rice noodles tend to be too precious.
Fried rice noodles (to top)

Now here we go: get a large pot, something in the range of 6-8 quarts and splash about 2-3 tablespoons of oil in there and get it heated on medium. Once it starts to heat up, bring the heat down and sauté the garlic over low, then dump the two heaped tablespoons of curry powder into the pot and mix the oil and garlic with it. You smell that? It's quite an aroma. Essentially what you're doing is getting the powder damp and roasting the powder. If you feel you don't have enough oil and the powder still looks really dry, add a bit more until the powder has darkened because of the oil.

Now, you're going to bring the heat back up to medium and add the two cans of coconut milk. Stir it up a little to get the powder mixed in, then add the two cups of stock. Now you've got a milky looking soup-like curry that doesn't really look like curry... yet.

Take the tablespoon of lemongrass and put it into a tea ball, or an empty tea bag if you have one, and add it to the pot. The lemongrass will flavor the curry as it simmers and cooks. You can, if you really have to, add the lemongrass directly. But it really isn't fun picking pieces of lemongrass out of your mouth and teeth.

You've got a large amount of liquid working here and the goal is to let it cook down and integrates. Slowly, over the next 45 minutes, the milk, stock and curry powder will get darker and look more and more like curry. Keep checking up on it to make sure it starts to become one big happy family and keep stirring!

A bit of a shortcut to getting this curry to keep some of its mass without cooking down too much is to add a bit of cornstarch or flour. This will thicken up the curry and get it ready sooner. Stir in half a teaspoon of cornstarch or a tablespoon of flour and bring the curry up to a boil to get it to thicken.

Once it starts looking pretty good, you're going to want to season the curry. Get some lemon juice (or fresh lemons) and squeeze in or pour about 1/3 of a cup into the curry. Add about 1/3 cup of soy sauce. Add 2-3 tablespoons of regular or brown sugar. Mix. You'll notice the curry is starting to looks really rich and dark and that it's cooking down to a nice thick base. These ingredients can be adjusted to suit your taste: you can add more lemon juice or soy sauce or sugar to get the balance right. This sometimes depends on the stock you use and the quality of your coconut milk.

As it cooks, you can start prepping the tofu or chicken. I cut and dice mine and shallow-fry them to give them a bit of crunch but you can add it in raw if you prefer or add some sautéed or boiled chicken strips. Add it into the curry or if you prefer to portion it out, on top of the noodles. Speaking of which...

Noodle prep is of course easy. Boil and when they're ready, get them into serving plates.

The curry should be done by now (close to an hour), so remove the lemongrass tea ball and now you plate!

Noodles on bottom, add the tofu or meat if you've separated that out and then soup curry into the bowls. Top it off with the fried rice noodle bits and you're set! You can garnish with some scallion or red onion if you like.


The curry will stuff two people or be perfect for four. Or you can save the leftovers for another night — since curries tend to get better with time, feel free to store this away. If you plan on eating it within the same week, refrigeration is fine. If over a week, store it away in a freezer. A tip for the health-conscious: after the curry is chilled, open up the Tupperware and you'll find that the fat (oil) has surfaced on the top. You can use a spoon to scrape this off to rid the curry of the excess oil.

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