Saturday, March 10, 2012

Thai Curry Paste for Vegans/Vegetarians

Prik Khing Tofu

Masaman Curry on top of steamed rice.

The most important aspect in making Thai curries is making the curry paste.  If the curry paste is good with all the right proportions of spices and herbs, the rest is very easy.  Making curry paste can be an elaborate procedure.  I have done it  from scratch, measuring coriander seeds, galanga, lemongrass, chilies, shallots etc. and then pounding them in a mortar and pestle or process them in a food processor.  It is great but I know most people will not do that.  I also know that most people will not have access to Southeast Asian fresh herbs and spices that are needed in making fresh curry paste from scratch like I do.  Therefore, I decided to blog about store-bought (or on-line bought) Thai curry paste.

I can say that I am picky when buying Thai curry paste.  I have tried several brands and I found that most of them are not that good nor fresh.  I also found that most of them are just TOO SPICY HOT for my taste.  If I put in a lot of the store-bought paste into the dish, we can't eat it because it is way too hot.  If I put in less, the flavor does not meet my standard of how the curry should taste.  I won't name all the products that I have tried and don't like but I will blog about the one that I like which is the MAESRI  brand. ( Note: I have not receive any endorsement from the company.  It is just that I tried all others and this one is my favorite.)

Here are my reasons for liking this brand:
  1. Like I said, this curry paste is not too hot and spicy for our taste (only the Red Curry is a bit too hot but we still can take it).
  2. Some of them are suitable for vegetarians/vegans (meaning there is no shrimp paste or fish sauce in it).  I listed those at the end of this blog.
  3. It is sold in a small can (4 oz.).  Once I open a can, I use them all in one cooking episode.  (It is fresher this way.  With all the other products which are sold in a bottle or plastic container, I uses only 1 or 2 tablespoons after I opened them and then I put them in the fridge for a long time.  The paste was not as fresh for the second or third time when I used it again.  Not to mention  how many times I forgot I had the paste in the fridge and then to open them, found mold, and had to throw the whole thing away.)
  4. The most important reason is, of course, the taste.  It is just taste as good as if I make it from scratch.
Below are several Thai dishes I am sharing.  It is so easy to make these 2 dishes with the store-bought curry paste.  I also include 2 youtube videos (they are not vegetarian dishes but easily can be replaced with tofu, seitan, or soycurls):    Prik Khing and Masaman Curry.   In my recipes below, I replaced the chicken with fried tofu (you can use extra firm fresh tofu if you don't want it fried).

Prik Khing Tofu
Serve 4-6
Prik Khing usually use green beans as the vegetable.  It also has some shredded kaffir lime leaves or Thai Basil leaves in it  If there is no fresh kaffir lime and/or Thai Basil  leaves  in your area, you can omit them.  The dish still tastes good without it.

3-4 cups fried tofu cubes (fresh extra firm tofu) or spongy tofu (see instructions how to make spongy tofu)
Note:  tofu can be baked in the oven instead of fried, see instructions how to do that in this blog.
3-4 cups cut green beans
1-2 cups red bell pepper, julienne cut
1 cup sliced mushrooms , optional
6-8 kaffir lime leaves (shredded), optional
1 cup Thai Basil, optional
2-3 Tbsp. palm sugar or brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable broth  ( add more if you like the dish more saucy)
1 can 4 oz.  Maesri brand Prik Khing Curry Paste 
1 Tbsp.vegetable oil 
1-2 Tbsp. light soy sauce, optional
  1. Saute Prik Khing curry paste(the whole small can) in vegetable oil for 3-5 minutes in a wok on  medium heat.
  2. Add tofu and mixed with the curry paste, saute for another 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add green beans, red bell pepper, mushrooms. Add palm or brown sugar.  Mix well.
  4. Add vegetable broth.  Cover the wok with a lid and let it cooked for about 7-10 minutes until the green beans is cooked but still firm.  Taste for saltiness.  Add 1-2 tablespoon of light soy sauce if necessary.
  5. Serve with steamed brown rice, white rice, or sticky rice.
Masaman Curry with Tofu, Kabocha Squash, Potatoes, Carrots, and Peanuts
Serve 4-6

2 cups fried tofu cubes (or fresh extra firm tofu) or spongy tofu (see instructions how to make spongy tofu)
Note:  tofu can be baked in the oven instead of fried, see instructions how to do that in this blog.
2 cups yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups carrots, peeled and cubed
2 cups kabocha squash, peeled and cubed
1 cup raw peanuts, optional
   Note: Although in the video, she used raw peanuts.  I boiled the peanuts for 40 minutes before it becomes soft.   
              Otherwise, the peanuts stayed crunchy.
1 can 14 oz coconut milk or light coconut milk
water or vegetable broth
1 small can 4 oz.  Maesri Brand Masaman Curry Paste
2-3 Tbsp. palm or brown sugar
1-2 Tbsp. light soy sauce, optional

  1. In a soup pot, on a medium heat, pour 1/2 can of coconut milk.  Add the whole small can of Masaman curry paste.    Mix well.  Wait until the mixture started to bubble.
  2. Then, add the tofu, potatoes, peanuts, and carrots.  Coat these ingredients with curry mixture.  Add the palm or brown sugar. 
  3. Add the rest of the coconut milk and another can of water or vegetable broth (the non-salty kind since the curry paste is already salty).  Make sure all the ingredients are covered with the liquid.
  4. Put a lid on and simmer for 15 minutes in low heat.  Add the Kabocha squash and let it simmer for another 7-10 minutes.  Potatoes, carrots, and squash should be soft but firm
  5. Taste for saltiness and 1-2 tablespoons of light soy sauce as necessary.
  6. Serve on top of steamed brown rice, white rice, or sticky rice.
These 4 oz. cans of curry pastes can be bought at or  or your neighborhood Asian markets.  I believe only the Masaman Curry Paste, Yellow Curry Paste, Prik Khing Curry Paste, Kaeng Kua Curry Paste, and Red Curry Paste  are vegetarian (meaning no shrimp paste or fish sauce in it).  However, the Red Curry Paste is the hottest (spicy hot) one.  Have fun making Thai dishes!