My Favorite Curry

This post is dedicated to a dish that fuses spices, cultures, heat, and time into perhaps the greatest dish I’ve ever tasted.  I would eat this every week, ritualistically, if it wasn’t so confusing for my gut to digest a dozen different spices and thick, complex sauce dappled with starch and sugar.  Therefore, I’ve modified the recipe a bit for my liking (us children of the ubiquitous house salad and mashed potatoes).

‘Twas yet another pleasant Melbourne afternoon that I, in kitchen with pestle in hand,  bashed together dried red chilies along with the array of Thai curry staples, and plenty of spices reminiscent of Arabia.  That is the magic of this curry: it takes one of the most spice-rich regions of the world and synthesizes it with the fiery, herbaceous repertoire of Thailand.  Desert meets jungle.  Here, I’ll share the precise process I followed for the whole pumpkin curry, which you can imitate on a smaller scale with a jap pumpkin or butternut squash, rather than a whopping Jarrahdale (pictured below). The pumpkin’s sweetness substitutes for the tamarind, palm sugar, and pineapple often featured in this dish.  Instead of potatoes, we used Jerusalem artichokes, a massively abundant nutty-flavored tuber in the sunflower family.  The garlic and shallots can be sautéd gently in the coconut oil to release their flavor before being removed for those with IBS who want to avoid the difficult to digest compounds (oligosaccharides) found in alliums.

Paste, if not store-bought (Mae Ploy dank though):

5 dried long red chilies, soaked 10 min and drained

4 tbsp chopped red shallot (sautéd on low in coconut oil if desired)

5 tbsp chopped garlic (sautéd on low in coconut oil if desired)

2 tbsp chopped galangal

3 tbsp chopped lemongrass

1 tbsp scraped and chopped coriander (cilantro) root

large pinch of salt (smoked salt best)

2 tbsp peanuts, roasted (peanut butter)

1 tbsp coriander seeds, roasted and ground

5 cloves, roasted and ground

1/2 nutmeg, coarsely pounded and briefly roasted

2 sheaths mace, roasted and ground

1 inch cassia bark, roasted and ground (or cinnamon)

4 Thai cardamom pods, roasted and seeds ground (3 for green cardamom


The Curry:

5-6 tbsp coconut oil

2-3 cups coconut cream

20-30 Jerusalem artichokes, pierced

1 Jarrahdale pumpkin

4-5 tbsp coconut oil

1-2 tbsp salt

3-4 fresh bay leaves

2-3 outer peels lemongrass stalk

1 stick cassia bark (or cinnamon)

4-5 tbsp soy or hoisin sauce

1 cup toasted millet (for garnish)

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F
  2. Cut opening 1 foot wide on top of pumpkin and use stalk as handle on lid
    1. Carve out inside of pumpkin, remove seeds (roast ’em)
    2. Pat the outside with coconut oil and salt, place in oven
  3. Now heat large cooking pot to medium, add coconut oil (shallots and garlic on low if infusing for 15-20 min)
  4. Add whole curry paste recipe, fry on medium for a minute before adding 2-3 tbsp coconut cream every minute for 3-4 minutes gradually meld flavor
  5. Add bay leaves, cassia bark, and lemongrass peel along with 3-4 tbsp soy/hoisin sauce
    1. Fry additional minute
  6. Add all of coconut cream, bring to boil, stir to infuse and turn off heat
  7. Pour curry into pumpkin, lay out seeds and Jerusalem artichokes on separate tray with coconut oil and salt (or same tray if large enough)
  8. Roast for about an hour, until pumpkin flesh is completely tender and oozing sweet flesh into the curry
    1. After 35-45 min, the Jerusalem artichokes should be tender enough to add to the curry, and the pumpkin seeds will probably be tender and crunchy too
    2. If the curry starts leaking, contain the damage and combine the roast pumpkin and curry in a big bowl at end with picture of happy person to act like that was totally the plan all along
  9. Garnish with toasted millet, roast pumpkin seeds, coconut cream, whatever crunchiness your molars desire





Bonus video:

Check out this guy, he goes into straight childish bliss when eating a Thai grandma’s legendary curry.   Mark Wiens covets every single ingredient for its unique flavor contribution to a highly complex yet balanced curry.  Not only that, but the video pays respect to local Thai culture.  Note a couple of different ingredients in this version, which are even more difficult to source overseas.  Why it is nigh-on impossible to fully replicate anywhere but grandma’s house.  “The absolute best food you can get is not even in a restaurant, but in someone’s house.”

Note that meat is a part of the makeup of the Thai dish and meal, not the centerpiece as it is in Western (especially American) cuisine.  We can imagine a spread just as delicious with umami and amino acids deployed in appropriate substitutions.


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