When I was new to Thai food I was a Pad Thai girl all the way. Pad Thai seems to be the gateway food for many who are new to Thai cuisine, though I eventually did venture away from the noodle dish and experimented with Massaman curry and satay and various peanut-based curries. Lately I’ve been really into Penang curry.
I’m not so well-versed in Thai food as to be able to tell you what makes Penang curry different from other curries, I just know that I like it and also that a local Asian grocer conveniently carries Penang curry paste. Score.
I found a recipe for a simple vegetable curry to use as a guide and went from there. The recipe called for sweet potatoes (love), cauliflower, and chickpeas (which I had cooked up myself from dried beans and stored in my freezer for later use a few months back).
I wanted to add a little more color to the curry so threw some frozen peas into the mix.
A little tip that I sort of feel like a genius for thinking up, though by no means do I think that I am the first one to have this thought: the recipe called for coconut milk and a cup of water so I emptied my can of coconut milk and then filled the can up with water and added that to the pot. It made broth richer by getting a little more coconut milk in there and also cleaned out the can for recycling at the same time: two birds, one stone. So simple, and yet I’d never thought to do this before.
The resulting curry tasted pretty much exactly like the Penang curry I often get at a local Thai restaurant so on nights I don’t feel like making the half hour drive for carry-out I can recreate it myself at home. It would be especially excellent with a little Thai iced tea.
Penang Vegetable Curry (loosely adapted from “Simple Vegetable Curry” from Everyday Food magazine)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
- coarse salt and ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons Penang curry paste
- 13.5 oz. can of unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 sweet potato (about 3/4 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 small cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 bag of frozen peas
In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until soft, 3 minutes. Add curry paste and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in coconut milk and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Add sweet potato and cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
Stir chickpeas into curry and increase heat to high. Simmer rapidly until liquid reduces slightly, 2 minutes. Serve curry over rice.