Crispy pan-fried tofu, veggies and tender sweet potato chunks are simmered in a peanutty Thai-spiced coconut curry sauce to create this flavorful vegan massaman curry.
Massaman curry is, without a doubt, one of my absolute favorite meals on this planet.
I remember falling in love with Thai food during my early twenties. First I discovered pad Thai. Good. Then Curry, starting with red. Better. Then green. Even better. Then, finally…where have you been all my life?! Massaman curry! Of course, this happened when I wasn’t quite as wise as I am now.
You need to be careful with curries. I discovered this when, after a few months or maybe even years or regularly ordering massaman or occasionally some other curry off of the vegetarian section of some Thai restaurant menu, I scanned some of the other menu items and descriptions and noticed references to stuff like “fish sauce” or “shrimp paste.” That was a big uh-oh moment.
Nowadays, I’m always super careful. I always inquire as to not only “is this item vegetarian?” but more specifically, “are there any meat, fish or other seafood ingredients, like fish sauce or shrimp paste in here?” Not everyone defines “vegetarian” in the same way, so you gotta look out for yourself.
I met with a similar challenge when I decided to start creating my own Thai dishes. A Thai curry can be a super quick meal if you use a pre-prepared curry paste, and such pre-prepared curry pastes are readily available in the Asian sections of most supermarkets. Even better ones can be found in Asian markets.
Most of these curry pastes, however, contain some kind of fishy ingredient. You can get around this in one of two ways: (1) Make your own curry paste. Lucky for you, I’ve provided a recipe below for just that. Or (2) do some research and find a vegetarian curry paste. Also lucky for you, I’ve already gone ahead and done that. Maesri is my favorite vegetarian store-bought curry pastes. It’s tasty (though not as tasty as homemade) and totally vegan. Keep a couple of cans on hand and you’ve got a head start on a quick and delicious curry any night of the week. If you opt, instead, to make your own, keep in mind that you can freeze it. Make a big old batch, stick it in the freezer and most of your work is done. Once again, you’re just thirty minutes away from a weeknight curry.
You can use all kinds of vegetable combos in your vegan massaman curry. The green beans and red peppers in my version are fairly traditional, but you’d normally find white potato in place of the sweet potato if you got this in a restaurant. Serve this alongside some jasmine rice, and experiment with different veggies. There’s all kinds of ways to make this meal delicious.
With all of that in mind, I should warn you that the ingredients list for the homemade variety of massaman curry paste is quite long. I keep a pretty well stocked pantry these days, so I only had to go out and buy a few of the fresh ingredients. Once I had all the ingredients on hand, making the paste was a breeze, because all it involves is throwing everything into a food processor. I also made life a little easier by using ground spices, whereas most truly authentic recipes would use whole cloves, cardamom pods, etc. If you prefer the whole versions and can do the conversions, go right ahead and make it that way. In either event, if you have a substantial spice collection and a food processor in your kitchen, I totally encourage you to make your own paste. It’s the tastiest way to go, probably the cheapest as well, and you know exactly what is going into your food.
This post originally published on Connoisseurus Veg on October 7, 2013.
Thai Massaman Curry with Sweet Potatoes and TofuMassaman Curry Paste
For the Massaman Curry Paste
- 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
- 1 tbsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp. ground pepper
- 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- 5-15 dried red chili peppers* soaked in water for about 10 minutes and seeded (use gloves!)
- 1 stalk of lemongrass, minced
- 1 three inch piece of fresh ginger root, sliced
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 shallot
- 1 1/2 tsp. lime rind
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- juice of 2 limes
For the Massaman Curry
- 2 (14 ounce) cans coconut milk
- 1/4 cup homemade massaman curry paste, recipe above or 1 can of store bought
- 1 sweet potato, diced into 1/2" to 1" cubes
- 2 cups fresh green beans, chopped to 1" to 2" pieces
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 lb extra firm tofu
- about 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- about 4 scallions, sliced
- 1/4 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
To Make the Massaman Curry Paste
- Place all ingredients in food processor bowl and process until a paste is formed, scraping bowl as needed.
To Make the Massaman Curry
- Drain and press tofu.
- Mix coconut milk and curry paste in large saucepan. Heat to a simmer, stirring frequently.
- Add sweet potato, and allow to simmer about ten minutes.
- Add green beans and simmer about another four minutes, and then add pepper and simmer another two minutes. Your broth should be thick and creamy by now and your veggies tender.
- Taste test, and add a bit more curry paste if you'd like some extra umph.
- While your veggies simmer, cut your tofu into bite sized pieces. Heat oil over medium skillet, and pan fry tofu pieces on each side until slightly browned.
- Add tofu to curry mixture. Ladle onto plates or bowls and top with scallions and peanuts. Serve with rice.
Base the number of chili peppers on your personal heat preference. If you're not sure how many to use, go with less. You can always add some extra peppers or chili paste to the curry during cooking.