Easy Curry, China-style

One of my favorite past times is rooting around for the correct ingredients to dishes I love, as you might have noticed from previous posts. I think I’ve become something of an expert on the various grocery stores in Beijing, and can confidently tell you which aisles in Wu Mart stock peanut butter, Western tea and essential spices.

However, since I often can’t find the called-for ingredients, I tend to make a lot of substitutions to recipes. So far this hasn’t really gone wrong, and since I’m forced to use easily available ingredients, I think these can be great recipes for the cook who just doesn’t have every imaginable spice on hand all the time.

Here is a curry I made Monday that I particularly liked, adapted from/inspired by what’s becoming one of my favorite cookbooks, This Can’t be Tofu.

Empty one can of coconut milk into a frying pan/wok over medium heat and whisk in 1.5 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1.5-2 tablespoons curry powder and 1 to 2 teaspoons Thai red chili paste. I didn’t have an chili paste, so I didn’t add it, and it tasted fine. Add the chili paste a bit at a time, starting with 1 teaspoon, continuing to taste.

Bring sauce to a boil, then let it simmer for five minutes.

Add desired vegatables and tofu or meats. I used 2 shitake mushrooms cut into strips, half of a partly-cooked potato, cubed, 1 head of brocoli, 2 medium-sized tomatoes, cut into chunks, 1 bunch of green onions, and 1/2 to 1 box of firm tofu. Add a pinch of salt and let it cook for a few minutes, until vegetables are tender. Serve over rice. Done!

This is a really easy and quick recipe, and you can vary it however you like. The cookbook calls for orange bell peppers, a 1/4 cup of basil leaves (unavailable in my grocery stores), and 1 bunch of spinach leaves. I didn’t have those so I made my own substitutions, which turned out grand.

I also suggest the more tofu-inclined to trying frying cubed tofu in a small amount of oil first, until golden brown. You can also try the porous and meaty texture of frozen tofu in this curry by first freezing a box of tofu overnight and then cubing it and adding it to the curry. In both cases, it’s a good idea to press the water out of the tofu before cooking by wrapping it in a towel and leaving something heavy on top of it for about 20 minutes. If you’re in a hurry, cut it into cubes and hand press a few cubes at a time carefully, but make sure not to crush them.

Happy cooking everyone, now I’m going to get to baking some more bread!