Putting the Excitement Back into Curry [Coconut Red Curry Pork with Thai Eggplant, Snap Peas & Enoki Mushrooms]
It’s funny how you get stuck in a funk with certain recipes in your weekly (monthly, yearly) routine.
There are a few things I make regularly that I’ve made the same way for so long, I don’t even think about them when I make them. And in making them without thinking, I often forget that everything can be made better with a little extra love and a little more effort.
Curry is one of those things. Onions, garlic, store-bought curry powder, cinnamon, coconut milk, whatever vegetables I happen to have on hand, and some cilantro and lime to brighten things up. Delicious, but far from inspired. And even further from how great a homemade curry can be. You probably already know this, since you’re always up to date on only the most awesome of things, but homemade curry paste is second to none. NONE. You hear me? If you could have seen my face when I tasted not one, but all of the raw ingredients used in making a curry paste, you wouldn’t be surprised when I tell you that each and every ingredient packs so much flavour, it would blow your shoes square off your feet. Not always in a good way, either. There’s a lot of extremely prominent, almost medicinal flavours that, for those of us not used to authentic Thai ingredients, would probably cause your face to contort into shapes you never thought possible. But when combined with everything else, it just works.
After doing a little research, I was slightly more intimidated than I was initially to try making curry paste at home. I read a few food blogs that focus solely on Thai cuisine that stated “If you don’t have all the authentic ingredients, and they must be fresh, don’t even bother making at home”. Lucky for me, I was able to find everything I needed.
I started asking around about ingredients and, as usual, Don, one half of the ever-wonderful local foodblog, foodiePrints, came to my rescue offering a suggestion of Manphong Supermarket for Thai/Vietnamese ingredients. And again, as usual, he was perfectly on point. A market that carried ingredients I’d never heard of, never seen before, and certainly never tasted (to the best of my knowledge, anyhow) took me completely out of my comfort zone and into a world that was exciting and new. I walked up and down every aisle, touching and smelling everything I could and grabbing up everything I needed. By the time I left, I had my arms filled with so many new and inciting ingredients, I could hardly fit them all into my basket to bike home with.
I can’t tell you how incredibly happy I am that I ventured slightly out of my realm of comfort in order to try something completely new to my kitchen. Twenty extra minutes of chopping and blending made for the best curry I’ve ever made at home. And I have made my fair share of curry, believe you me. The depth of flavours a homemade curry paste unleashes will shock you. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was a thrilling surprise. I promise you it’s worth it. Take the extra time, even if it’s just this once, to source out some not-as-easy-to-find ingredients and give it a shot. You’ll be shouting from the rooftops about how much you love it. I know you will!
Coconut Red Curry Pork with Thai Eggplant, Snap Peas & Enoki Mushrooms
adapted from 101cookbooks
If you’re unable to find specific ingredients, there is no shame in buying a high quality pre-made curry paste. In fact, it’s better than making one with inferior ingredients.
Red Curry Paste
makes about 1/2 cup
2 red Thai chilies
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
1 large shallot (2 small)
1 tsp galangal, rough chopped
1/2 tsp kaffir lime zest
1 tbsp lemongrass stalk, sliced thin
1 tbsp krachai, rough chopped
1/4 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1/4 tsp toasted coriander seeds
1/2 tsp salt
Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.
1 shallot, diced
1 pork tenderloin, silver-skin removed and cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup red curry paste
1 can coconut milk
5-6 Thai eggplants, cut into quarters
two handfuls sugar snap peas
a few small bunches of enoki mushrooms
Thai basil for garnish (optional)
Lime for garnish (optional)
extra Thai peppers, sliced thin for garnish (optional)
In a wok or heavy dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sweat until translucent. Add the pork and brown on all sides.
Add the curry paste, stir and let it cook for 1 min. Pour in the coconut milk and the eggplant and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook until reduce by 1/3, about 10 minutes. Add the snap peas and cook for another minute.
Spoon into bowls and serve with a little bundle of mushrooms, a squeeze of lime, some basil and a sprinkle of peppers.