Cooking With Curry

I love coming up with new ways to cook with some of my favorite ingredients, especially comfort foods. To me, a big wok full of curry is super comforting and was one of the dishes I made all the time when I moved into my first solo apartment. It’s warm, earthy, spicy and makes me feel good all over. Plus, it’s amazing for leftovers! So, when Mama Lam’s, a local food vendor making and selling their own Malaysian Curry Paste that I had the pleasure of meeting at the annual Queens Taste, event contacted me about partnering up, I was excited. I couldn’t wait to try cooking with their homemade, Malaysian curry paste and curating a couple of dishes to use their product in.

Photo May 26, 7 48 44 PM (1)

I decided to create a curry themed meal featuring Mama Lam’s Curry Paste two ways—a Pistachio Crusted Curry Salmon and a Curry Noodles with Crispy Tofu. Check out the recipes below and also watch my YouTube cooking demo here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PCoQ8uLQYU.

Photo May 26, 7 48 59 PM (1)

Pistachio Crusted Curry Salmon

  • 4-6 salmon filets (skin on)Photo May 26, 4 41 17 PM
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped finelyPhoto May 26, 4 43 42 PM
  • 1/2 jar of Mama Lam’s curry paste
  • 1 tbsp Sambal Olek or another Southeast Asian chili sauce—Sriracha works fine.
    • I recommend not skipping this ingredient, even if you don’t like spicy food. The fish has a warming heat and it is very much tempered by the coconut milk and acidity of the lime juice
  • 1/2 can of coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of ginger, chopped
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, cut into pieces–you can also use 1/2 tbsp of chopped lemongrass from a tube. You’ll find this near the fresh herbs in the marketPhoto May 26, 4 42 29 PM
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 cups of roasted pistachios, shell removed
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp of black pepper
  1. Create a marinade with the chili sauce, ginger, garlic, lime juice, coconut milk, lemongrass, oil, salt and pepperPhoto May 26, 4 48 24 PMPhoto May 26, 4 49 46 PM
  2. Marinade the salmon for at least an hour and up to 4 hours
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  4. Crush the pistachios with either your hands or a mallet. A rolling pin works well too—this is very cathartic and a great way to take out your aggression. Ha!
  5. After the fish has soaked, dip the salmon into the pistachios and coat on sides and top with the nuts
  6. Place the salmon skin side down on a greased baking pan and bake for 20 minutes until the crust is set—The fish should be cooked through, but still a bit pink in the center and very moist. It will continue cooking for a few minutes once it comes out of the oven
  7. Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice over the topPhoto May 26, 7 48 29 PM (1)
  8. This fish is delicious served all on its own with a fresh salad or some roasted asparagus, but is even better with some Curry Noodles!

Curry Noodles with Crispy Tofu

  • 1 package of firm tofu, 14oz
  • 1 pound of broad rice noodles
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 eggplant—chopped into bite sized pieces. I love to use Japanese or graffiti eggplant for this dish not only because of the beautiful color, but also because it has less water in it than an Italian eggplant, so it’ll be sweeter and stay firmer when cooked downPhoto May 26, 5 04 02 PM
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of fish sauce
  • 1/2 jar of Mama Lam’s curry paste
  • 1 tbsp of Sambal Olek chili sauce
  • 1 bunch of scallions, chopped (reserve some for garnish)—also called green onion or spring onion in some supermarkets
  • 1 can of coconut milk—do not use reduced fat as the texture and thickness of the sauce will be off. Plus, coconut milk is a healthy fat
  • Vegetable or peanut oil—any high heat oil will do such as canola, corn, grapeseed oil, etc.Photo May 26, 7 14 11 PMPhoto May 26, 5 02 58 PMPhoto May 26, 5 05 58 PM
  1. The first step of this dish is to make the crispy tofu—who doesn’t like their tofu crispy?
  1. Tofu has a lot of water, which is why it usually tastes bland. In fact, the biggest mistake that most cooks make when handling tofu is not getting rid of the excess water. This will never work! Even if you just want to marinade the tofu you’ll still  need to do this stepPhoto May 26, 4 40 18 PM
  2. Put the tofu between two paper towels and press. Repeat this process 2-3 times, and then let the tofu sit between the towels for at least 20 minutes to really draw out the moisture
  3. Heat up your wok until it starts to smoke a little, then add the oil. It’s important that you don’t add your oil before this as you don’t want it to bubble up and burn youPhoto May 26, 7 14 05 PM
  4. Add the tofu to the wok and spread it out in a single layer—you should hear it sizzle. If there’s no sizzle, then your wok isn’t hot enough and your tofu will steam instead of crisp up
  5. Let the tofu cook on one side for a couple min, then mix it up and repeat this process a few times until it’s crispy on all sides. This shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes or so
  6. Put your tofu on a plate and place aside for later on
  7. Heat your wok back up on the stove while you get the rest of your ingredients ready
  8. Add some more oil, then add the garlic, ginger and scallions—this is the holy trinity of Asian dishes!
  9. Let these sauté for a minute, then add the curry paste and heat through, followed by the onions, peppers and eggplant
  10. Let the veggies cook for a few minutes, then add the fish sauce, chili sauce and coconut milk and stir until it becomes a homogenized sauce
  11. Cook the curry for at least 10 minutes or longer depending on how thick you like your sauce—as it cooks the flavors of the salty fish sauce, spicy chilis, earthy curry and more will concentrate
  12. Meanwhile, drop the rice noodles into some salted boiling water—off the heat—and let soak for 5 minutes
  13. Add the par-cooked noodles to the curry and toss together in the wok
  14. Let the noodles and curry cook together as the noodles absorb the sauce and meld together into one cohesive dish
  15. Garnish with the crispy tofu, fresh cilantro, chopped scallions, and some chopped peanuts or pistachios if you’d like to tie the two dishes together even more
  16. Eat while still hot or add some sesame oil and have as a cold salad the next day for lunch. Yum!

Enjoy these dishes together with a Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad for a fabulous Southeast Asian inspired dinner at home.

Photo May 26, 7 48 50 PM (1).jpg

You can order Mama Lam’s delicious Curry Paste here: https://www.mamalams.com/shop-1/curry-sau

To watch the cooking demo for these recipes, click here or watch below.

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Recipe: Asian Fusion Chicken Curry

This recipe was inspired by the delicious Chicken Rendang dish I had at Malaysia Grill recently. One of the cooking methods that made that dish so unique was the use of ground onions in the gravy. The onions gave an amazingly aromatic and deep flavor to the dish. In my spin on a chicken curry, shallots are roasted and pureed into a paste in order to impart a similar flavor profile. This curry also incorporates flavors from Thai and Indian cuisines. I chose to make it with chicken, but it would be delicious with beef, shrimp or even vegetarian. Some crispy tofu or eggplant would be nice options. It might seem like a lot of steps, but once you’ve prepped, it really cooks quickly. You’ll love to eat this curry on a chilly day, or on any day of the year.

IMG_1553Ingredients:

1 package of boneless, skinless chicken tenders, chopped into medium sized chunks

3 stalks of lemongrass

2 tablespoons of fish sauce

2 heaping spoonfuls of hot chili oil

2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons of dried shrimp – this might seem like a weird ingredient, but it’s very prevalent in Asian dishes. It also gives a great umami flavor

3 small or 2 large limes

2 tablespoons of palm sugar (if you don’t have any palm sugar, then brown sugar or even white sugar is fine as a substitute)

2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon of peanut oil

2 tablespoons of olive oil

4 medium shallots

2 medium (or 1 extra large) russet potatoes (you want a good starchy potato to help thicken the curry and stand up to the cooking process)

2 teaspoons of Garam Masala

2 teaspoons of curry powder

1 teaspoon of ground ginger

1/2 cup of water

1.5 teaspoons of freeze-dried cilantro

1/2 of a 4oz jar of green curry paste (Thai kitchen is a good brand)

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1 can of coconut milk

2-3 Thai green chilies, minced (jalapeños are a good substitute) — this is an optional ingredient, but really helps being a nice beat to the dish

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To make the marinade:

  1. Chop the lemongrass into 1-2 inch long pieces and place into a plastic Ziploc bag (about gallon size)–Make sure the lemongrass isn’t cut too small since you’ll have to take it out before cooking.
  2. Add the rice wine vinegar, hot chili oil, the juice of 1 large or 2 small limes, fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of palm sugar, 1 tablespoon of peanut oil, 1 shallot roughly chopped, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and the dried shrimp.
  3. Place the chicken, cut into chunks, along with the rest of the marinade ingredients into a Ziploc bag with a strong zipper. Trust me, you’ll need the good kind, unless you want marinade all over your counter or the inside of your refrigerator. FullSizeRender-4
  4. Toss the cut lime into the bag as well since the zest will help flavor the chicken. You can also add some fresh ginger to this marinade if you want to turn this into a chicken stir-fry style dish. After marinating the chicken, sauté it with some broccoli or peppers or snow peas in a hot wok and serve over rice. Yum!
  5. Marinade for 30 minutes minimum, and up to 1 day in the fridge.
This is what the chicken looked like after a day in the marinade
This is what the chicken looked like after a day in the marinade

To Make the Roasted Potatoes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Chop the potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut those pieces lengthwise again. Cut the long quarters into medium-large chunks. Don’t worry if all of the pieces aren’t the same size, your dish will look rustic and let people know that it’s homemade.
  3. Place the potatoes onto a baking sheet.
  4. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper, and dried cilantro. If you don’t have dried cilantro, then cumin would be tasty and would give the potatoes a smoky taste.FullSizeRender-8
  5. Toss to coat all of the potatoes with the oil and spices.
  6. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes. You want them be crisp and light brown on the outside, but be careful to not let them get too dark. These don’t require a lot of babysitting.
Potatoes out of the oven
Potatoes out of the oven

To Make the Shallot Paste:

  1. Peel the shallots (there will be 2 bulbs in each skin).
  2. If the shallot is large then cut the bulbs in half, if not then place it whole onto a baking sheet.
  3. Season the shallots with salt, pepper and remaining olive oil
  4. Put the shallots into the oven about 10 minutes after the potatoes.
  5. Once you’ve taken the shallots out of the oven, allow them to cool a bit.
  6. Put the shallots into a blender with the curry powder, garam masala, ground ginger, and remaining teaspoon of oil.
  7. Pulse while adding water until it comes together into a loose paste.FullSizeRender-12
  8. The potatoes and shallot paste could both be made ahead of time, just make sure to refrigerate.

To Make the Curry:

  1. Add remaining peanut oil to a wokIMG_1563
  2. Heat your wok on medium to medium high heat until the oil is shimmering, but not smoking
  3. Add curry paste to the wok along with the zest of 1/2 a lime and minced Thai chilies, and heat through (1-2 minutes)FullSizeRender-5
  4. Add the shallot paste to the wok. You’ll be able to smell the aromas of Garam Masala and curry powder after cooking for a few minutes.FullSizeRender-9
  5. Add the coconut milk to the wok as well as the remaining sugar.FullSizeRender-13
  6. Let the sauce come up to a simmer and taste. You can add more fish sauce to taste.
  7. Once the sauce is simmering steadily, it’s time to add the chicken. Remember to pick the lemongrass and limes out of the marinade bag. The lemongrass is inedible in this form and has done its job in flavoring the dish. Also, drain most all of the marinade out of the bag.FullSizeRender-3
  8. Cook the chicken for a couple of minutes, then add the roasted potatoes.FullSizeRender-1
  9. Now is the fun part. Stir the wok around and let it go on the stove for at least 10-15 minutes on medium low – medium in order to give the chicken time to cook in the sauce and the potatoes do lost their crispy exterior and absorb some sauce. Use this time to get a drink, or wash the chili off of your hands.FullSizeRender-6
  10. After it starts simmering again, squeeze half of a lime into the wok and keep simmering. Save the remaining lime half.
  11. When the curry has reduced and has thickened up, so that sticks heavily to your spoon, then it’s done.

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    Doesn’t that look delicious?
  12. Garnish with a wedge of lime and serve! A dollop of Greek yogurt or raita would be delicious to help cool down the palate as well.
A Taste for the Chef
A Taste for the Chef

There’s a deep Indian-spiced, curry flavor to the dish, with an escalating heat from the Thai chilies—no bite though, rather it’s a kind of heat that rests on the back of your tongue. You also taste the warming flavors of curry, garam masala and ginger, as well as an earthiness from the roasted shallots.

The chicken almost braises in the curry sauce, and doesn’t get chewy while cooking in the sauce. The potatoes also have a great mouth feel; they absorb some of the sauce, and the starchiness of the potatoes helps thicken up the gravy. The lemongrass complements the lime throughout the dish, and gives it a subtle citrus flavor, which helps cut across the heaviness of the dish itself. The dried shrimp rehydrates in the marinade as well as the curry, and much of it melts. The leftover pieces become chewy and add a nice fishiness to round out the flavor profile. Rice or naan is a great vehicle to scoop up the thick curry sauce, although the dish is filling enough to eat on its own. It’s so good you may lick your plate clean!

Comfort Food with a Malaysian Twist

Malaysia Grill

224 W 104th Street (Between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave), NYC
Malaysia Grill – Google Maps
It might be easy to miss this place, since it almost resembles a hole in the wall, but you’ll want to try this hidden treasure on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The decor reminded me of an old-school ramen shop with lots of wood paneling, and several small tables. You might have to wait a few minutes from a table since the place is not that big, but it’s worth the wait. The food, and amazing aromas in the dining room, are what it’s really all about here.
Curry Mee Noodle Soup with chicken
Curry Mee Noodle Soup with chicken
We started with the Curry Mee Noodle Soup ($8.25), which we got with two bowls to split, and the Roti Canai ($3.50) appetizer.  Both dishes were delicious. The curry broth coated your tongue with a pleasant layer of fattiness, and had a great viscosity. It came with a combination of (homemade?) egg noodles, as well as delicate rice noodles. Both were cooked well—not an easy feat to accomplish. The broth also had subtle coconut and intense curry flavors that warmed you up—perfect for the tail end of Winter weather. This soup was definitely asking for a nice squeeze of lime juice though. In addition, the chicken was cooked nicely in the broth, and I’m planning on trying the shrimp version next time.
Roti Canai
Roti Canai – Malaysian pancake with curry chicken dipping sauce
The Roti Canai consisted of a Malaysian/Indian style pancake flatbread, which was thin and a perfect vehicle for scooping up the spicy chicken curry sauce that served as a dip. The pancake itself was crispy on the edges with a doughy consistency throughout so it didn’t fall apart from the, at times, heavy curry. It also came with some pickled vegetables as a garnish that didn’t seem very necessary on the plate. At only $3.50 for the dish, this is a major deal and a delicious way to start the meal.
Chow Kueh Teow noodles (#22)
Chow Kueh Teow noodles (#22)
The next dish to come to the table was the Chow Kueh Teow ($8.95)–flat rice noodles with shrimp, squid and vegetables–a Malaysian specialty. The plate arrived with a big portion of chow fun-esque noodles, but the noodles were more angular with a firmer texture, though not in a bad way. The delicate baby shrimp were cooked perfectly, and the squid was not overcooked and retained its meatiness, but seemed to be an odd choice in the dish. Scallops might have fit in better. The noodles lacked enough spice or tanginess to elevate the squid. Luckily there was some sambal (a very spicy Asian chili paste with a bright red color, sometimes made with the addition of garlic, lemongrass or lime) on the table to mix in.
Chicken Rendang
Chicken Rendang
The final dish to arrive was the Chicken Rendang ($9.95) that came (recommended) with coconut rice. The Chicken Rendang consisted of succulent pieces of boneless, dark meat chicken with an aftertaste of lemongrass mixed with heat, but a mild mouthfeel. The meat was melt-in-your mouth tender and the sauce was a beautiful dark red color that was offset by the bright pickled vegetable garnishes. In this dish, the pickled veggies were a welcome addition to act as a cooling agent as the heat built on your tongue. The gravy was reminiscent of an earthier tikka masala sauce, with strong notes of lemongrass. The ground onions gave it a very aromatic flavor, especially mixed with the lingering heat. The coconut rice was a solid side, especially as it complemented the coconut in the sauce, but it was nothing special in comparison. The dish also featured pieces of potato, with the skin on, and just on the edge of overcooked, as well as eggplant, which was super soft and tender. The eggplant lived up to its spongy reputation, and absorbed a lot of the spiciness. The eggplant and Rendang gravy could have made a delicious vegetarian dish all on its own. However, the plate could have stood to lose the blanched string bean and tomato garnish. Otherwise, this dish was awesome!
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Overall, the meal was fantastic in terms of taste, smell, aesthetics and value. You should make it a point to stop by this place anytime you get a hankering for some comforting Malaysian dishes.