Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Spicy Thai Tofu Curry

Thanks to March Break, I've been able to get into the kitchen more than before - something I've truly missed! Of course, the first thing on the docket was a batch of homemade lunches for my mom, who is currently caring for my grandma, planning birthday parties, preparing to move my sister home from college and hosting a part-time boarder in the basement. With Easter (as well as the aforementioned parties) coming up, we were all in the mood for something light on the stomach and wallet that was still soul satisfying and warm. Flipping through my copy of Vegetarian Comfort Foods by Jennifer Browne , I spotted the perfect solution: a Thai-inspired tofu curry.

The recipe was relatively Spartan as written, without much in the way of Asian flavours or a vegetable medley. Those paltry issues were solved with an open-minded trip to the Asian grocery store, where I managed to pick up a wealth of cheap, high quality produce as well as the tofu, coconut products and spices I wanted. Given that curry is so versatile, you could certainly use your favourite veggies from the supermarket - I just wanted to see what I could find, not to mention save money on (our Asian grocer is reliably lower-priced for the same, if not better, quality when it comes to produce, meat and seafood).

I also had a few aces up my sleeve for enhancing the flavours in this stew - the first was a spoonful of Litehouse Freeze Dried Lemongrass - one of the three bottles of the freeze-dried herbs sent to me by the company, and definitely the most unique one of the bunch. With a fairly lengthy simmer time, the dried pieces softened and flavoured the mixture without any woodiness - something that couldn't be said for quick marinades or stir fry sauces. As an aside, the salad herbs and red onion are DELICIOUS and have no preparation needed.

Litehouse Foods Instantly Fresh™ Lemongrass

My second secret to taming the relatively spicy body of the curry was to use a mixture of sweet starches in addition to the bland tofu and a ton of other veggies. On one of my regular trips to the Asian market, I picked up an Oriental yam and an Okinawan Sweet Potato, and paired them with one of the last Delicata squash I had at home. The light, slightly earthy sweetness buffered the sharp spice of the chile powder and serrano, but stayed mild enough for the brightness of the spinach, green peppers and snow peas to cut through the rich coconut cream.

Sweet Starches
L-R: Delicata squash, Oriental yam / Japanese sweet potato, Okinawan Sweet Potato

Mixing the coconut cream with coconut water and cashew milk created the perfect body for the stew as well - not too thick or thin, with the needed richness but enough fluidity that you don't feel like you just ate porridge or rice pudding for dinner. The cubes of tofu soak up the spice just enough that you get a little "pop" with each bite, and the whole thing livens up a plain bowl of rice both in flavour and nutrition! The best part for us was that it freezes fairly well too - so for families like ours, who eat at a myriad of times throughout the day, it's easy to pull out a single-serving container (and some frozen cooked rice!) and reheat it when you don't feel like cooking for one.

Spicy Thai Tofu Curry

Spicy Thai Tofu Curry 
Serves 8
1 cup unsweetened coconut cream
1 cup coconut water
1 ½ tbsp curry powder
½ tsp Kashmiri chili powder or cayenne
1 Serrano or finger chili, minced
1 tbsp Litehouse Freeze Dried Lemongrass
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
4 garlic cloves, grated
3 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp kelp granules (optional)
2 baby leeks or 1 large leek, thinly sliced
1 Oriental yam (AKA Japanese sweet potato / Satsuma Imo), peeled and diced
1 purple sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 Delicata squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 ½ lbs firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup unsweetened cashew milk
1 (8 oz) can shredded bamboo shoots
7 oz snow peas, halved
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 bunch (about 10 oz) baby spinach leaves
  1. In a large pot, whisk together the coconut cream, coconut water, curry powder, chili powder, minced chili, lemongrass, ginger, garlic and tamari.
  2. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
  3. Add leeks, yam, potato, squash and tofu. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in cashew milk and bamboo shoots.
  5. Bring to a low boil and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add snow peas and green pepper, cook 5 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in baby spinach.
  8. Serve over rice (I'm partial to sticky brown rice here, but go for your favourite).
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 237.7
Total Fat: 14.4 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 452.8 mg
Total Carbs: 19.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.7 g
Protein: 12.0 g

Adapted from Vegetarian Comfort Foods: The Happy Healthy Gut Guide to Delicious Plant-Based Cooking by Jennifer Browne (I highly recommend it - it's full of great recipes and healthy tips without being "preachy")

Find the author on Twitter: @jennifer_browne and Instagram @freshfitvan