I felt so exotic ordering Thai tea and a tray of chicken satay skewers with peanut sauce. I didn't know anyone else who ate Thai food, except for Fiona. (The food scene in Utah wasn't as diverse as it is now.)
My husband and I love Indian food and when we ate out, that seemed to be what we always ate. To shake things up a bit, one time when we were visiting Utah from New York, I took my husband and his Aunt Robin back to the same restaurant I went to with Fiona. My husband was far more adventurous than I was, ordering a fish with a strange name in a stew of strange vegetables and star anise, a flavor I did not care for at the time. Aunt Robin ordered something even more adventurous, though I can't recall exactly what it was.
Me? I branched out from my typical chicken satay and ordered a sweet beef dish made with loads of Thai fish sauce. It was delicious.
Then a few years later a new Thai restaurant popped up in our New York neighborhood, but it was not as great as we'd hoped. Nevertheless, we still ate there every few weeks with our oldest daughter, then a small baby/toddler, who as I remember, really loved Pad Thai and peanut sauce. Even though it wasn't the best Thai food, I still fell in love with it.
We moved back to Utah and our love affair with Thai food continued and intensified. We sought out a new restaurant that opened in the next town over, run by the brother (I think) of the restaurant up in SLC that we liked so much. We ate there about once a week.
Massaman is often one of the menu items we order because it's so mild and kid-friendly. It's usually made with chicken or beef. At home I make it with more vegetables and tofu. Two of my three kids will devour it. (The other one will still only eat bread and butter most of the time.)
Our favorite Asian market originally carried mostly Thai ingredients and was located adjacent to a Thai restaurant. The thought never occurred to us to make Thai at home until my husband's other aunt told us about it and how easy it is to make at home.
My former brother-in-law lived in Thailand for two years when we was a Mormon missionary. He and I would talk about Thai food a lot. He asked me one day if I ever made my own curry paste. I told him I have, but don't anymore because it's *so* easy to buy it. And it tastes better. He said that he never knew anyone to make their own in Thailand--everyone bought it. That made me feel better. More authentic, right? (Yeah.)
A little discouraged one day, I begged the owner of the Asian market to tell me why my Thai was not as good as the restaurant's. I used the same curry paste. (I asked her previously which kind they used in the restaurant.) I used the same coconut milk. I even used the recipes from her mother's cookbook that I bought from the store.
She said the answer was simple:
If you want it to be more salty, add Thai fish sauce. If you want it to be more sour, add more tamarind extract. If you want it more spicy, add more curry paste. And if you want it sweeter, add more palm sugar.
I felt like an idiot, but a grateful idiot.
I can't take credit for this recipe. I have adapted the recipe on the back of the giant tub of massaman curry paste, which is almost the same recipe as the cookbook I bought at the Asian market.
This is not vegan because the curry paste has shrimp in it. It doesn't bother me. I have yet to come across a vegan massaman paste. Ah...maybe I'd have to make my own. (Now we're right back where we started.)
If you don't like tofu, totally leave it out. I love that it soaks up all the flavor of the curry. You could add other veggies too. I like the broccoli on the side, but you could toss it into the simmering pot. We've added cauliflower before too. Cauliflower and curry are BFFs.
Tofu Massaman Curryadapted from the back of the curry paste tub
Ingredients:1 Tbsp. canola or other flavorless oil (you could even use coconut oil)
1 small onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
about 1/4 cup massaman curry paste (use less if you don't like it too spicy)
1 can of light or full-fat coconut milk
2 small potatoes cut into 1/4" slices
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/8" slices
7 oz. tofu, cut into 1/2" cubes
2 Tbsp. palm sugar (or brown sugar, or coconut sugar)
1 Tbsp. tamarind extract (the liquid from soaking 2 tsp. tamarind paste in hot water)
Hot cooked rice, for serving
Steamed broccoli, for serving
roasted peanuts or cashews, as a garnish
Instructions:In a large (3-quart-ish) pot, heat the canola oil. Add the onion and red bell pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the curry paste and stir-fry until it starts to smell fragrant and toasty, but not burned. Add about half of the can of coconut milk plus about 1/2 cup of water. Stir well. Add the potatoes and carrots. Bring to a simmer and lower the heat so it just barely simmers. Cook until the vegetables are tender. Add remaining coconut milk, palm sugar and tamarind extract. Taste and add more sugar if needed.*
Serve over hot cooked rice with more veggies on the side. Sprinkle with the roasted peanuts or cashews, if desired.
*The owner of the Asian market (who is Thai, whose mother's recipes are in my little cookbook), said that everyone must adapt the recipe to their own tastes. Want it sweeter? Add more sugar. Saltier? Add some fish sauce. Sour? Add more tamarind. Bam!
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