After making that wonderful massaman curry paste recipe, it’s time for my official veggie massaman curry. The unique fusion of Thai, Middle Eastern and Indian flavors, called me to create a simple curry with potatoes (yes, regular potatoes), carrots and beans. This mellow, sweet curry is a sure-fire winner and opened up new and unexpected avenues for curry enjoyment.
It’s all about the curry paste
This recipe relies on using a flavorful massaman curry paste. Just last week I noticed that massaman curry paste had made a debut on my local market’s shelf, but I had already made my own, so I didn’t bother with reading the ingredient list. After all, making my own massaman curry paste recipe followed the exact same impetus as making red Thai curry paste - quality control.
I use ‘quality control’ as an umbrella term in cooking these days. It actually means that when I make my own, I can ramp up the flavors as I choose. Yes, this applies to something like Bharat or Berbere dry spice blends and curry pastes, but it also applies to something as simple as how much salt I choose to use when I make pita bread or even corn tortillas.
The other motivator for DIY (doing it yourself) cooking is that you are in full charge of what you don’t add. The main culprit in the plant-based world, or at least my corner, is added oil. Although I fully accept that there is disagreement on both sides of this issue, my stance is that I don’t cook with it, I don’t add it to dressings and I try my best to buy ingredients that don’t contain it.
How to saute onions without oil
I know, fried onions. How can that be accomplished without oil and without a sticky mess at the bottom of the pan? There are a few strategies that can help, but the absolute best way to saute oil-free onions is incredibly simple – heat the pan first. Admittedly, it took me some time and a changing of my cooking prep. I was one of those folks who would chop up the onions and add them to the cold pan right away. If you do this, you are destined to need a few tablespoons of water or broth to keep them from sticking through the saute process. Here’s the flaw to that strategy: When you saute the onions, you usually want to deglaze the pan, but you want to do that after they are at least slightly browned. The reaction of starting with a cold pan of onions and heating them together and adding water to keep them from sticking too much can result is soggy onions.
Cold pan, onions and oil free
When you start onions in a cold pan they naturally expand and release their moisture as the pan heats. This means all that moisture has the opportunity to create a sticky situation. When you start with a pan that is at medium high heat and then add your onions, the onions start to crisp on the outside immediately and keeps the onions from expanding. This results in less sticking. It’s after the browning that you may want to add a bit of water or broth to ensure that you get all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
Add coconut milk for creaminess
This is exactly the process I followed for making this veggie massaman curry. I sauteed the onions, add 2 tablespoons of water just to clear the bottom and then I added the curry paste. The rest of the process is pretty quick. Just add those small potatoes, the carrots and green beans, mix in a can of coconut milk and the equal amount of veggie broth and allow it to all make curry.
Veggie alternatives - sweet versatility
My aim for veggie massaman curry was to keep it super simple and I was drawn to the idea of adding small baby potatoes. This is a big diversion from sweet potato curry or my normal go-to Thai veggie curry. It isn’t that you couldn’t use regular potatoes at any time (and we do), but the different flavor profile of the massman curry paste is well-suited for this. For whatever reason, I associate potatoes with spices like cumin, coriander and cardamom. Possibly, that’s all in my head and so I will happily suggest that you can use sweet potatoes for this one. You might also consider zucchini or another starchy vegetable as well.
I’m a realist and therefore, as much as I advocate making food from ‘scratch’ because it’s the ultimate quality control, I know also know that life intervenes. We are always in choice and that sometimes means that we sacrifice what we really want, with a need or response that supersedes it. Seems we’re always engage in a balancing act. But there are a few things we can do to push the balance in our favor.
Get prepared. Life’s coming, so take advantage of that extra massaman curry paste for example and stash it in the freezer alongside the frozen veggies you always have on hand. Make those spice mixes you love, label them and keep them on hand. Make a double batch of dinner, ready for the next day or frozen for the future. Get familiar with the brands of ingredients that fit your nutritional aspirations and stock up. Not an exhaustive list by any means, but rather than assume that life won’t derail you at any given moment, assume is just might. Peace.Print