While in Kent to watch Skate America, my son and I had a pumpkin curry at Banyan Tree Thai Restaurant that I loved enough to try at home. After a phone call to Banyan Tree to check the ingredients, two trips to Uwajimaya, and a couple of rounds of cooking, here’s a version for you. It uses kabocha squash, also called Japanese pumpkin.
You can’t beat the fresh herbs and spices in this curry for flavor. The lemongrass is distinctive, and the Thai basil and galangal are noticeably different from Western basil and ginger. The recipe I’ve made is about right for me but mild for my heat-loving family, so ramp up the chilies if you want more. If you don’t have the time or the local source for Asian produce, Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste works surprisingly well. Even Banyan Tree used a red curry sauce along with the fresh ingredients in its version.
Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste has healthy ingredients and I prefer it over other red curry sauces I’ve seen which have ingredients I’d rather avoid. You can use it on its own to replace the galangal, lemongrass, red Thai chili, basil and kaffir lime (I think I’d still supplement it with fresh garlic and shallot). I didn’t use fresh or dried coriander (cilantro) but it would have been a good addition. A non-vegetarian version of this could include fish sauce.
Besides using curry paste, buying pre-fried tofu is another way to make this recipe faster. If you are picking up produce at an Asian market they ought to have fried tofu, too. I wanted to save a buck and to use my own oil, and fried the tofu myself.
The coconut milk (and coconut oil, if you use it) is the least healthy aspect of this recipe due to its saturated fat. Light coconut milk is just coconut milk, water, and thickeners, so to lighten the recipe, use a smaller amount of regular coconut milk and more water, plus maybe a little starch if you want a thicker sauce.
Enjoy! And please let me know how you like it in the comments.
- To blend the curry:
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 tsp. gluten-free tamari or, for non-vegetarian version, fish sauce
- 1 large shallot, peeled
- 4 medium cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 Tbsp. peeled, chopped galangal (Thai ginger), or if unavailable, regular ginger
- 1 stalk lemongrass, extra-tough outer leaves removed, thick base and top of stalk cut off, middle portion of stalk chopped
- 3 Thai red chilis
- Tofu, vegetables, and ingredients added while the curry is simmering:
- 2 packages extra firm tofu
- 2 Tbsp. oil (coconut for the flavor or a natural unsaturated oil for health)
- 1 large red bell pepper, cut in half, seeds removed, cut into small pieces
- 1 medium sized kabocha squash, peeled if desired, cubed
- large handful Thai basil leaves, divided (most chopped to cook in the curry, a few leaves, or the smallest leaves, reserved for garnish)
- several Kaffir lime leaves
- Combine coconut milk, tamari, shallot, garlic, galangal, lemongrass and red chilis in a high-powered blender. A powerful blender is called for because lemongrass is quite tough.
- Blend until smooth.
- Stir-fry extra firm tofu in coconut oil or your oil of choice until golden, about 15 minutes.
- Halve, peel, remove seeds and chop kabocha squash. To make this task easier I baked the kabocha at 350 for 20 minutes to soften it, let it cool, and then did the peeling and chopping. The skin is edible, if rather on the thick side: another option is to leave the skin on.
- Chop bell pepper.
- Combine the curry sauce, kabocha squash, and kaffir leaves in a large saucepan. Add a cup or two of water as needed at the beginning so that the squash will be covered with enough liquid to cook. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add chopped red pepper, fried tofu and chopped basil and simmer for another five minutes (I add the tofu at the end to keep it from crumbling as much).
- Remove kaffir leaves, serve garnished with remaining basil leaves.