Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cooking Floyd: Red Curry and Sweet Potatoes

Christmas has come and gone with a whimper around here.  Michael fought off what seemed to be a heavy cold right before the holiday.  Christmas Eve afternoon I had the "ohno" moment and proceeded to usher in Christmas Day with 102 degree fever and respiratory infection that would last nearly three days.

Michael did get to enjoy a sumptuous feast at Bob and Carol's of a beautiful standing rib roast from their own well-raised steer.  Carol is an awesome cook and loves to declare "I'm not Italian but I cook like one!"  That's the PC version anyway.  Her version is more colorful.  Thank you Carol for the plate sent home with Michael.

I was grateful for the soups I put up this past growing season.  They certainly helped nurse me through but when the fever broke and hunger pangs returned I wanted something with spices and heat that would break up my congestion.  I wanted a curry!

Cafe Mekong in Blacksburg does Viet and Thai food that we love.  I watched a red curry walk by that was redolent of ginger and coconut and kaboucha squash so I had to order it.  Unfortunately, I am a heat wuss and even though I ordered the curry moderately spicy (their lowest setting, they don't do mild) I was only able to consume a few bites before my mouth was painfully aflame.  However, those few bites were enough for me to know those flavors were something I really wanted more of!

**OK, here's my personal rant.  I don't get how a food that's so spicy hot you can no longer taste any flavors at all is good.  There is no rich coconutty silkiness, no gingery garlic enhancement, no sweet kaboucha flavor, no smoky spike of a curry blend.  Just way too much burning pain and tears.  Same with chili and other spicy foods.  Once you can no longer taste the food, it's not good, it's just a pissing contest to see who's got the biggest...well anyway.  OK, rant over.**

So for all of you out there who really want to taste their curry here's my version.  I used our own white sweets but you can use any winter squash or sweet potato.

Sweet Potatoes with Red Curry Sauce
1 T vegetable oil
1 medium onion, medium diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 medium bell peppers, any color, diced
4 large garlic cloves finely minced, or more (lots more if you're like us.  I did 8.)
a 1-1/2 square piece of ginger peeled and minced (about 2 generous tablespoons)
4 teaspoons Thai red curry paste  (This was my major change.  The recipe I used as a guide called for 3 tablespoons of this stuff!  Start on the safe side. If you want it hotter you can always stir in more paste or add sriracha to your personal bowl when serving.)
1 14 oz can of coconut milk (not cream)
1/2 cup water
1 T soy sauce
2 to 2-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (or squash), peeled and cut into 1" cubes
2 cups of peas, fresh or frozen
2 t fresh lime juice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
rice, naan, pita or other flatbread for serving

Heat the oil in a large heavy frying pan over medium heat until it shimmers.  Toss in the onion and the salt and saute, stirring occasionally until the onion softens.  Add the peppers, garlic and ginger and stir to combine.  Cook about 1 minute more until fragrant.

Add the curry paste, stirring until the onion-pepper mixture is thoroughly coated.  Add the coconut milk, water, and soy sauce, stir well and bring to a simmer.

Stir in the sweet potatoes and bring back to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to medium low, continue to simmer uncovered, and stir from time to time.  Cook until the potatoes are just tender but still firm, about 20 minutes.  Stir in the peas, bring back to a simmer and cook for 2 more minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lime juice.  Taste for salt. Sprinkle with the cilantro.

Serve with your choice of starch.  Offer more cilantro and lime wedges for garnish, and sriracha for those who want to ratchet up the heat.

Along with the curry we had a spinach and orange salad dressed with a simple vinaigrette.

I'm beginning to think curries are as good for what ails you as a bowl of chicken soup!


  1. I've been down with a cold this week (thank airport travel during the holidays) and enjoyed a curry from Nawab in Roanoke while feeling like crud--the spices definitely perked me up! I'm a huge fan of very hot dishes (as long as the heat adds flavor) and have a high tolerance level, but I totally understand that it's rough for those who don't. Your version of the curry looks super flavorful & mild, definitely good for kicking the flu! Hope you're feeling 100% and enjoying the snow!

    1. Hey Jes! Ate at Nawab once and left with a very happy food buzz! Definitely don't get over that way often enough. Not quite 100% yet but getting there! Hope you and yours had a very merry and the best of a new one to ya!

  2. Hi Rebecca - I hope you are kicking the crud soon. That curry looks wonderful. I love all the spice and flavor combinations. Lime, coconut milk, cilantro, garlic, ginger, etc. etc. Definitely a good cool kicking combo. Happy New year to you!

  3. Hope the cold is well behind you but this sounds amazing Rebecca and I have GOT to try it...

    I will, however, go for the spicy stuff. :)

    A rant of my own: I think people who eat some hot stuff don't eat it spicy enough. Tabasco is often such an example. It's too hot for some (and that's fine) but then others add a pile of it either because they are trying to see who has the biggest... OR they've developed a tolerance. Unfortunately that tolerance now means they pile it on and everything tastes like vinegar.

    I actually recommend to people who don't like hot stuff that they should eat a TINY amount of something much hotter - then they can get the heat but still enjoy the subtle flavours much like you described above. Massive heat can be balanced by proportion as oppose to mid-level heat which can overwhelm everything else by it's quantity.

    My rant over! :)

    All jesting aside, Happy 2013 and I really do have to make this dish - curry and weet potatoes is something I've never tried together and want to! :)


  4. Just to be clear- I like hot and spicy. I just don't like pain. I don't mind the nose run but I've never experienced breaking out in a sweat. Enjoy the curry! Turn up the heat!