A lazy vegan’s pantry is always stocked with curry powder and curry paste. And while you’re at it, you should also have coconut milk, turmeric and cayenne pepper on hand. That’s because curry is a fun and easy way to fire up veggies, lentils, soups, noodles and rice. As spicy, savory and sweet all mingle in your mouth (plus the textures of creamy sauce, crunchy vegetables and chewy noodles), the experience is magical.
Having grown up with Malaysian food, curry was a staple at home — the culinary heart of my youth. Every week there was a whiff of fragrant coconut, pungent shrimp paste and fresh, hot chilies drifting from my dad’s kitchen. Over the years I discovered a vibrant world of curries from India, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Jamaica, Trinidad and Japan — just a few variations of what I’d been eating forever.
What’s the difference between curry powder and curry paste? In Western cooking, the powder is a complex mixture of herbs and ground spices like cumin, turmeric and coriander plus dried hot chilies. Curry paste includes this blend of spices, as well as oils and fresh stuff like ginger and garlic. The powder should be stored airtight up to two months while the paste can be kept in the fridge up to six months.
A lazy vegan’s curry bowl
For this post, I was in the mood for red Thai curry ramen (pictured above). I used a jar of the Thai Kitchen brand of curry paste and a can of full-fat coconut milk. Big pots of soup are easy to make because you can toss in all the veggies, spices and garnishes you like without having to measure them out.
The process starts as a bright feast of the senses: watching, smelling and hearing the garlic, onion, ginger and lemongrass sizzle in coconut oil before adding broccoli, carrots and mushrooms. Then, while pouring the coconut milk, catching a waft of rich sweetness as it bubbles and simmers in my steamy cauldron.
For protein, I sautéed some tempeh*, which had been marinating for a few hours in sesame oil, chili sauce and a drizzle of tamari sauce. I boiled and added the ramen, then topped my bowl with bean sprouts and cilantro.
When using curry, you can control the level of heat to suit your taste buds. Start with a smaller portion of powder or paste and add more if you like. Sprinkle cayenne pepper if you want even more spiciness. If you prefer a soupier or thicker sauce, add more veggie broth or hold back on the liquid.
Basically, there are no rules when it comes to curry. The more you practise, the easier it is to currify your meals. In the case of my ramen, the greatest effort I had to make was lifting the noodles to my mouth.
*Tempeh, made from fermented soybeans, is a nice alternative to meat because of its earthy flavour and chewy texture.
Here’s a quick tutorial on making your own curry paste (just use veggie broth instead of chicken stock, and add lentils or chickpeas instead of chicken).
And check out these ways you can bring more curry into your life. Which would you try first?
easy homemade curry pastes
curry lentil chili
red curry coconut soup
curried chickpea salad sandwich
curry coconut fried rice
Thai curry sweet potato fries
curry and cilantro hummus
quinoa curry bowl
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