This week, in less than 48 hours, our town’s dam went from 17% to 80%. Deadset, it rained that much. We’ve had a pretty mild summer here for all intents and purposes, but the rain does come after several weeks of sweating it out like a fox caught in a forest fire. Not to mention we haven’t actually had any rain in close to eight years.
But, just like clockwork, the rain comes right on the turn of Autumn, and the turn in the weather 100% matches the calendar. The air smells of damp leaves, and it’s actually cool enough at night to consider the additional layer of a light cardigan. At any rate, in our household, the airconditioners are off, and the doonas are well and truly clocked on.
But back to the rains. The two days of torrential liquid gold we received were just awesome. The roads were chaotic, the council’s disaster plans activated, and eeeeeverybody was late for work and school (if they bothered to go at all). It was seriously, the kind of weather that commanded us to flop around in our pyjamas all day long while wrapped up in a blanket. Glass of wine optional/recommended.
It was also the kind of weather that made me want some gorgeously spicy, flavour-packed comfort food.
Enter this Thai Red Curry dish.
It’s warm and comforting, and just perfect for days like this. Also a little rich too, but the load of vegetables that it accommodates negates that – in my book anyways.
Thai cuisine is one of my all time favourites (it runs third after Italian and Indian/Pakistani) and for ages, I would just go to restaurants to get my fix. The reason being, that if I ever attempted to make Thai food at home, the flavour just never came close, so I just stopped bothering. I will admit though, that I used to also just throw a few tablespoons of generic Thai red curry paste in with some meat veg and coconut milk and crossed my fingers hoping it would do the job *slaps forehead*.
These days, I understand that to develop the complexities of flavour that comes anywhere near that of true Thai cuisine, things do require a little more effort than that. That’s not to say that store-bought red Thai curry paste is out of the question – far from it. This particular recipe uses it and I won’t shy away from that fact – especially after a gruelling work day when I just want dinner to come together in 30 minutes or less.
There’s no denying that making a curry paste from scratch makes a difference, but if you want to use store-bought paste, there is a right and a wrong way to do it. To do it properly, really is just a matter of freshening up the flavours a little; adding something extra and treating it all with a bit of love (I don’t apologise at all for that cliché).
So my secrets to making amazing Thai curries with store-bought paste as the base are the following:
- Always use plenty of aromatics. Never go without onion and always add a touch of ginger and garlic. Always drop the paste into your hot wok or pan with your aromatics for a few minutes before adding anything else – not only will your home smell incredible, but you will be releasing all of those flavours, and it will take your curry to the next level before you have even really started.
- Full fat coconut milk for richness. Never, ever the light stuff. Unless you like eating water, you won’t regret it.
- Add a little fish sauce (or rice vinegar if you are looking to go full vegetarian) and some palm sugar – these ingredients will add loads of complexity to your dish – without them it will still taste nice, just, a little… flat.
- And my ultimate tip? Absolutely has to be kaffir lime leaves. They are crucial. Slightly earthier than standard lime flavour, but they are magical. They act a little like bay leaves in that when you unload a few into your sauce while it is simmering away, the dish you produce will come close to putting your local Thai restaurant out of business.
This particular version is loaded up with only vegetables, with some rice noodles to pad it out. You could just as easily though, add some meat to make this the ultimate comfort food. Throw in some shredded barbecue chicken, or brown some sliced breast at the beginning with the paste and aromatics. Fish or prawns would also be incredible – but I would suggest adding them closer to the end and simmering for only a few minutes so as not to overcook them.
Also, you don’t need to follow the vegetables I have used here as gospel either. Feel free to change them up to whatever you like or is in season – although I always recommend adding a leafy green (baby spinach or kale work really well).
So enjoy this warm, comforting and multi-dimensional Red Thai Curry. It comes together so quickly and with its ease of preparation and simplicity, I have no doubt will become a bit of a go-to dish during the warmer months on our household’s weekly ‘Meat-free Monday’.
But for now, it’s back to the couch because there’s more rain clouds building outside … drought officially broken, life is good.
Thai Red Vegetable Curry with Rice Noodles
Cooler weather calls for some gorgeously spicy, flavourful comfort food... and this Thai Red Vegetable Curry with Rice Noodles is perfect.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red curry paste
- 1 onion, sliced into wedges
- 1/2 teaspoon grated/minced ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed/minced garlic
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 1 red capsicum, sliced
- 1 yellow capsicum, sliced
- 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
- 1 cucumber, sliced into strips
- 2 x 440ml cans coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce (see note)
- 1 tablespoon palm sugar
- 6 kaffir lime leaves, sliced
- 200g flat rice noodles
- Lime wedges (for garnish)
- Long red chilli (for garnish)
- Coriander (for garnish)
In a large wok or pan, add the oil and curry paste over medium to high heat. Cook for about 1 minute before adding the onion, ginger and garlic. Allow to heat through for a further 1 – 2 minutes until fragrant.
Add the vegetables and stir fry for a further 2-3 minutes.
Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, palm sugar and kaffir lime leaves and bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles according to packet direction (usually a couple of minutes in boiling water, no longer).
Turn the heat off the curry mixture, drain the rice noodles and prepare serving bowls with noodles as a base.
Removing the kaffir lime leaves, ladle the vegetables across the top of the noodles, and follow with the soup.
Layer with cucumber strips, garnish with coriander, chilli and fresh lime wedges, serve immediately.