I’m not one of those food snobs who think that absolutely everything I cook has to be made from scratch. Though I believe that the results are usually better (and more nutritious) when all the ingredients are homemade, I’m not above using packaged ingredients, such as vegetable broth or canned beans, when the ingredients aren’t polysyllabic. I usually draw the line at using pre-mixed spices, though I make an exception for my beloved Maharajah curry powder and for more time-consuming seasonings like Thai curry pastes.
So the first time I made this dish, I used green curry paste from a can, and it was delicious. It wasn’t food snobbery that led me to make my own green curry paste, but curiosity–a desire to see how all the individual ingredients combine to create something completely new. And in the process I found that the beauty of homemade curry paste is that you can still taste all the individual components–the heat of chiles, the sparkle of lime–a quality that’s lost during processing and canning. Homemade really is better.
But….It’s not so much better that you should pass up making Green Curry with Vegetables and Tofu if you’re short on time or can’t find all of the ingredients for the curry paste. Look for a green curry paste without fish sauce in your supermarket or Asian grocery store. But if you do have access to the ingredients and a little extra time, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can make your own curry paste, which will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks or in the freezer for 6 months. You’ll be able to make four to six batches of green curry from this one recipe:
Thai Green Curry Paste
The beauty of homemade curry paste is that you can still taste all the individual components--the heat of chiles, the sparkle of lime--a quality that's lost during processing and canning. Homemade really is better.
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 5 medium green chilies such as Serrano, stems removed and cut into large pieces
- 3 stalks lemon grass white part only, chopped
- 2 shallots peeled and quartered
- 8 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 inch piece fresh ginger peeled and cut into pieces
- 1 grated rind of 1 lime
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves or Italian parsley (optional)
- 2 tablespoons water (more as needed)
- Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a small, dry skillet for about two minutes over high heat or until they become fragrant. Remove them to a bowl and allow to cool. Then grind them and the black peppercorns in a spice mill or coffee mill until powdered. (You may also grind them in a mortar and pestle).
- Place the spices and all remaining ingredients into a food processor and process until it’s a thick paste, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Add more water, if necessary to keep the mixture moving, and be careful not to breathe in the fumes as you remove the cover (I know this from experience!)
- Place in a tightly covered jar and refrigerate. Use within 2-3 weeks or freeze for later use.
Makes about 1 cup.
Long-time readers may notice that this is the first time that cilantro has appeared as an ingredient in one of my recipes. As I was researching green curry paste, I found that some recipes contained cilantro leaves, stems, and roots, while others called for just the roots or no cilantro at all. As someone who is genetically predisposed to think cilantro tastes like soap, I couldn’t quite bring myself to add it to my curry paste. And then I read in Real Vegetarian Thai that Nancie McDerMott used cilantro or Italian parsley only to add green color to the paste. So I opted for the parsley (which you can’t even taste in the finished recipe) and sprinkled chopped cilantro over my cilantro-loving husband’s bowl of curry.
Thai Green Curry with Vegetables and Tofu
- 1/4 cup raw cashews
- 1/4 cup dried, unsweetened coconut
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
- 1 large onion halved and thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2-3 tablespoons green curry paste
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons lite soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari)
- 1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu cubed and lightly pressed(see variations below)
- 4 cups swiss chard leaves thinly sliced (see variations below)
- 1 bunch asparagus ends trimmed and stalks cut into 1-inch pieces
- Juice of half a lime
- 1 teaspoon sugar agave nectar, or sugar substitute
- salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro to garnish
- Place the cashews and coconut into a 2-cup measure and add water to reach the 2-cup line. Allow them to stand as long as possible, preferably several hours (but 20 minutes will do in a rush). When ready to use, transfer to a blender and blend at highest speed until as smooth as possible. Add cornstarch and blend again to combine. Set aside.
- Heat a large, non-stick wok or pan and add the onions. Cook until they begin to soften, adding a splash of water if necessary to prevent sticking, and then add the garlic and curry paste and cook for another minute.
- Blend the coconut mixture again briefly and add it to the wok. Stir in the vegetable broth, soy sauce, and tofu. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the Swiss chard and asparagus and stir well. Cover and simmer, stirring often, until vegetables are tender but asparagus is still slightly crisp. Stir in the lime juice and sweetener and add salt to taste. Serve over brown rice, garnished with chopped cilantro.
Instead of uncooked tofu, you may use baked tofu or 2 cups of shelled edamame. Also, you can reduce fat by using lite tofu.
Instead of chard, use 4 cups of any green leafy vegetable that you like; bok choy, mizuna, and other Asian greens are particularly good.
For another way to use your Thai green curry paste, check out my recipe for Green Curry Tofu Cakes, a take-off on Thai Fish Cakes.
More Green Curries:
- Green Curry Tofu Scramble at Show Me Vegan
- Green Curry Duchesse Jewel Sweet Potatoes in Ginger Coconut Cream by Messy Vegetarian Cook
- Easy Green Curry by Vegan Dad
- Thai Eggplant in Coconut Curry by Herbivoracious
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