By Wendy Ruopp, Managing Editor of EatingWell
Thai food is so flavorful and so full of healthful fresh vegetables–why don’t I cook it at home more? Naomi Duguid’s story “Thai Tonight” in the May/June 2013 issue of EatingWell Magazine helped me realize what I’m missing: a few easy-to-find Thai ingredients.
I just need to slow down in the “Asian” aisle at the supermarket and add a jar of fish sauce and a jar of curry paste to my shopping cart along with a couple cans of “lite” coconut milk (so when I use one this week I still have one for the next time I need it).
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With those ingredients in my pantry, the next time I run across a Thai recipe I want to make I won’t have to regretfully turn the page–and I’ll have what I need to make this amazing Vegetarian Thai Red Curry for dinner tonight!
Vegetarian Thai Red Curry
Makes: 4 servings, about 1 1/3 cups each
Active time: 30 minutes | Total: 30 minutes
This flavorful vegetarian Thai red curry recipe matches sweet potatoes with fresh dandelion greens and asparagus, though you can substitute cauliflower florets, cubed Asian eggplant, squash or carrots. If you’re using cauliflower or eggplant, add them earlier, when the potato is only partially cooked, as they will take longer to cook than asparagus. Classic Thai red curry is flavored with lime leaves and Thai basil. If you find them, use them, but even without them the vegetable curry will still be a knockout.
1 14-ounce can “lite” coconut milk, divided
2 tablespoons vegetarian Thai red curry paste (see Tip), or to taste
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 11/2-inch cubes
2 cups water
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
2 fresh cayenne chiles or bird chiles (see Tip), cut into long strips (optional)
2 whole lime leaves (fresh or frozen; see Tip) or 2 teaspoons lime zest
2 cups coarsely chopped dandelion greens or arugula
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, preferably Thai basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Heat a wide heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons coconut milk and curry paste, stirring to dissolve it. Cook, stirring, until aromatic, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the coconut milk and cook for 1 minute, then add sweet potatoes. Stir to coat the pieces and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes more.
2. Add water and bring to a boil. Cook until the sweet potatoes are almost cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining coconut milk, asparagus, chiles (if using) and lime leaves (or lime zest); cook for 1 minute. Stir in dandelion greens (or arugula), basil and salt until well combined. Continue cooking until the asparagus is just tender, 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove lime leaves, if necessary, before serving.
Per serving: 175 calories; 7 g fat (5 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 25 g carbohydrate; 0 g added sugars; 5 g protein; 4 g fiber; 354 mg sodium; 433 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (333% daily value), Vitamin C (52% dv), Folate (25% dv).
Red curry paste is a blend of chile peppers, garlic, lemongrass and galangal (a root with a flavor similar to ginger). Look for it in jars or cans in the Asian section of the supermarket or specialty stores. The heat and salt level can vary widely depending on brand. Be sure to taste as you go.
If fresh cayenne chiles or Thai bird chile are not available at your market, serrano or jalapeño chiles can be used as a substitute.
Lime leaves lend Thai cooking one of its signature flavors–lemony and floral. Look for them fresh (or frozen) in Asian markets and online. Fresh leaves may be frozen, airtight, for up to 3 months. If you can’t find them, use freshly grated lime zest as a substitute: 1 teaspoon zest for each lime leaf.