This African Red Curry is a hybrid dish which takes a more typically Asian (particularly Thai and Indonesian) curry recipe and changes up a few key ingredients and spices. I love to make Thai curries of all kinds– yellow curry, green curry, red curry, and my personal favorite: Massaman curry, usually with potatoes, tofu, onion, and peanuts. Anytime I see it in my travels I have to try it, and am constantly amazed at how different countries and different cooks prepare it. Massaman curry is by origin a hybrid dish: a Thai recipe enhanced by the aromatic spices that Muslim traders brought to South East Asia in ages past.
When I lived in Boston’s Chinatown and later in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, I experimented often with store-bought curry pastes from the Asian supermarkets. This recipe goes for a more Do-It-Yourself approach, also altering the base ingredients to make a more world-fusion recipe. I enjoy making my own homemade sauces and curries and I encourage you to try the same. Anyone can buy prepared sauce and paste in a jar, but when you make an awesome curry from scratch and it works, it’s so satisfying!
If I had to locate the Africa in this African curry, I’d trace it back to Mombasa on the Kenyan coast. I had such an amazing, spicy coconut curry at this simple place in the old Muslim quarter of town. I remember how intrigued I was by the Asian influence and artifacts I saw on that first trip to Africa. I was continually surprised by great Indian food and Thai and other Asian restaurants in Nairobi and other cities in East Africa. Even on the other side of Africa, in Senegal and The Gambia, a good decade later, I also enjoyed excellent Asian, particularly Indian food. Just goes to show, people have been migrating, moving, and mixing world cuisines with amazing results for a long, long time.
African-Asian Red Curry – with Sweet Potato and Tofu
serves 4 / time 45 min
- 8 oz / 220 g tofu pressed, cut in cubes or strips
- 2 cups / 200g sweet potato peeled, cut in thick slices
- 1 1/2 cups / 100 g green beans ends removed, halved
- 1 1/2 cups / 150 g zucchini cut in thick slices
- 2 shallots or 1 medium red onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 Tbs ginger peeled, finely chopped
- 1 Tbs lime juice
- 1 tspn lime zest
- 1 tspn cumin ground
- 1 1/2 tspn coriander seeds ground
- 1/4 tspn cardamom (2 pods) ground
- 1 tspn paprika
- 1/2 tspn red chili flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 tspn cinnamon or small piece cinnamon bark
- 1-2 Tbs dried apricot chopped or raisins
- 3/4 tspn salt
- 2 Tbs oil
- 8.5 oz / 250 ml coconut milk
- 1/2 cup / 110 ml water OPTIONAL
- Heat oil in a large pot on medium high. Add garlic, shallot, ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, paprika, chili, bay leaves, cinnamon. Fry, constantly stirring, 3 min.
- Add tofu, sweet potato. Mix well, fry until edges start to brown, about 5-7 min.
- Add green beans, zucchini, dried apricot / raisins, lime juice, lime zest. Cook partially covered, stirring regularly, 5 min.
- Mix in coconut milk. Bring to slow boil, reduce heat to medium low. Cook until vegetables are almost done, stirring regularly, about 5-8 min.
- Add salt, water (if thinner curry is desired). Return to low simmer, cook covered for 2 min.
- Garnish with fresh parsley or basil. Serve with rice.
More Asian: Replace the lime juice and zest with 1-2 Tbs chopped lemongrass. Sweetness: The apricots or raisins can be replaced with 1/2 tspn sugar (Some sweetness is recommended to offset the lime). Fresh pineapple is also fun! Quick Red Curry: Use store-bought Thai red curry paste (check ingredients!) instead of the garlic, shallot, spice mix above. Adjust salt to taste. Other Veggies: Use potatoes instead of sweet potatoes, replace zucchini with broccoli or cauliflower, add bamboo shoots, baby corn, etc. Possibilities are endless!