Our newest VBU! contributor is Sian White, from the UK and author of The Cheeky Vegan. She is an animal-loving, seitan-simmering vegan with a passion for good food and a penchant for general geekery. Plays well with others. In her About Me section, she writes, “This blog is a space dedicated to that thing I love: food. I’m beginning to develop my own recipes, and there are a few cookbook ideas floating around my brain. All in good time.I realised that I have a passion for cooking. Going vegan was a pivotal moment for me, because it forced me to address what foods I was eating, and I began to cook everything from scratch. There is an amazing variety of readymade products these days, but the real fun has come from learning what my body needs to survive, alternative sources for these nutrients, and therefore the discovery of ingredients I never knew existed. I’ve always been a foodie, but I’ve never enjoyed food so much as I do now.”
Such a lovely way to say what we all feel. Please find Sian on her blog. Welcome Sian!
As I mentioned here, my journey to veganism began in Thailand when I spent two weeks travelling with a vegan called Nic. Whilst in Chiang Mai we signed up for a cookery class which, of course, had to allow for Nic’s diet. She found an adorable vegetarian restaurant called Taste of Heaven which did just that. For 950B (£19) we did a morning class where we learned to cook 9 different vegan Thai dishes. I think I can safely speak for both of us when I say that this dish in particular stood out among the rest.
The Pumpkin Curry was absolutely to die for; sweet and soft pumpkin flesh, crispy and chewy tofu, combined with spicy red curry paste perfectly balanced with cooling coconut milk. This dish can be made in so many ways and each will be tastier than the last!
This is an incredibly easy dish to recreate and adapt. I tend to use squash rather than pumpkin, as it’s much more readily available in the UK all year round, and every time I make it I use different vegetables, depending upon what’s in season and what takes my fancy. Red curry paste can be bought almost anywhere, but I would say if you’re not making it from scratch (which I rarely do due to time constraints), get it from an Asian supermarket if you can – just be sure to check the ingredients carefully, as some brands contain shrimp paste and others don’t. As a general rule, use a slightly heaped dessertspoonful per person. This will result in a warming curry with a slight kick, but won’t burn the roof of your mouth. If you can’t take much spice, use about a teaspoonful per person and taste after you’ve incorporated the coconut milk. It should be really mild, so if it’s not warm enough you can add small amounts until it’s right. If it’s still too hot for you at this point, well, I’m surprised you can taste food at all.
Think of this dish as having a skeletal structure: at the very least you’ll need a pumpkin or squash (I use butternut squash), extra firm tofu, red curry paste and coconut milk. Once you’ve got the base ingredients in your hands you can make it any way you like.
A note on the tofu: this recipe works with deep or shallow fried tofu, depending on what facilities you have available to you. If, like me, you’re lucky enough to have access to a deep fat fryer (god bless my boyfriend’s penchant for fried food), chuck it straight in until it’s lovely and crispy, then add to the dish when the recipe calls for it. If not, or if you’re in a healthier habit than I am, be sure to press the hell out of it to remove any excess water from the tofu before frying, otherwise it will disintegrate in the pan.
Like my Luigi-style getup?
- ½ a medium sized Butternut Squash, Pumpkin or any other type of squash available (cubed)
- Extra Firm Tofu, pressed (cubed)
- Red Curry Paste (roughly 1 level dessert spoon per person, adjust for spice preferences)
- 1 tin Coconut Milk
- a couple of Spring Onions (sliced)
- a couple of Garlic cloves (minced)
- small nugget of Fresh Root Ginger (peeled & sliced thinly)
- Large Red Chilli Pepper (sliced into rings)
- Dried Kaffir Lime Leaves (3 large or 5 small – generally a small palmful)
- Vegetable or Mushroom Stock
- Vegetable Oil
- Plain or Jasmine Rice (to serve)
First things first, fry your cubed tofu until it is crispy on the edges. Set aside, and try not to snack on it while you prepare the rest of the curry.
In a wok (or deep frying pan) over a medium heat, fry spring onion slices in a little vegetable oil until softened, then add a couple of finely chopped garlic cloves and thin slices of fresh root ginger and cook until soft.
Add desired amount of curry paste – if you’re cautious, it’s better to use too little than too much at this point, as it can be rectified later when you add the coconut milk. Fry gently. You’ll know if it’s too hot because it’ll hit the back of your throat and you’ll be coughing and spluttering all over the place.
Add the coconut milk. Just start by adding half the tin and after tasting, continue to add in small amounts until you’re happy with it. Mix, taste, judge for yourself. Once you’ve got the balance right, add a little stock (about a cup) and incorporate into the mixture.
Reintroduce your tofu into the dish, along with the cubed squash and a handful of kaffir lime leaves. Ensure everything is completely submerged in the liquid and simmer for about 30 minutes until the squash is tender and you can no longer resist scoffing the lot.
Serve with boiled or steamed rice.
Variations: I like to play around with adding different vegetables into the mix, and frequently use mushrooms, pak choi, peppers, beansprouts and sweet potato.