As we wait for Spring to come, we still need some warming, energizing foods. Spices, with all their tongue-tingling tastes and scents, are my go-to for jazzing up my end of Winter fare. And while most of the time, I combine my own spices, some times it is absolutely fine to use a high quality blend. Especially a curry paste, which is a relatively labor intensive thing to make, and really good ones are available.
Red and Green curry pastes are the most common, and the most popular of Thai curries. But an interesting variation is the Massaman curry. Massaman is the Thai fusion with Indian cuisine, with a little less heat and more subtle spicing. While a red or green curry is usually made with chiles, galangal, lemongrass, and cilantro roots, a Massaman curry might contain cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, nutmeg and cloves. All of those are warming spices, that raise your inner fire. It’s traditionally used to flavor beef, lamb, or chicken, but it makes a really interesting sauce for vegetarian food, too.
A warming, spiced curry of tender carrots is a fun way to fulfill the potential of the exotic Massaman curry. I am always looking for a new way with a vegetable, especially when I am making food for my clients. Thai food is very popular, and everybody is familiar with Pad Thai and Spring Rolls. So sometimes I take a little license, and take a curry that might have been made with seafood or meat, and transfer the method over to a veggies.
In this dish, I took advantage of the gorgeous carrots at my Coop, to make the curry this deep, dramatic red. As you can see, the carrots were more distinctly rainbow colored when I started, but the purplish red pigments in the purple ones infused the whole bunch. There was still plenty of variety inside, though, for a lovely surprise while eating.
I had bought a new brand of curry paste that struck me as especially clean in the ingredients, with no mysterious spices or fish products. It was Kanokwan brand, in a packet. Not super hot, with a subtle, balanced spice to it. So I heated it in some coconut milk with a generous amount of julienned ginger. I went with apple juice instead of the usual sugar, and salt instead of the usual fish sauce or soy sauce. Soy sauce would taste great, but it would make the sauce a funky brown color, and that just wouldn’t do.
Once it simmered, In went the carrots. I covered the pan so they could steam in the braising liquids. Depending on the thickness of the carrots, you may need more or less time in the pan.
Once done, a sprinkling of cilantro finished the dish. That is the great thing about curry pastes: they already have lots of effort and complexity built in, all you have to do is add some simple ingredients, and it is as if you spent hours. Keeping these carrots simple makes them a great side for a less rich tofu and noodle dish, or a stir fry with some rice. Go for some green veggies in your companion dish, for a dramatic contrast. Black rice would be gorgeous.
Delight your palate and your eyes with these colorful, creamy carrots. You’ll be warmed from the inside out, to face the last bit of Winter chill.
Massaman Curry Rainbow Carrots
These carrots cook to tenderness in a spicy, creamy sauce, and their flavors concentrate to make a super-carroty curry.
24 small rainbow carrots (less than 3/4 inch wide)
1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon massaman curry paste
2 tablespoons julienned ginger
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
Lightly peel the carrots, leaving the base of the leaves intact, just clean it up. In a large saute pan, heat the coconut milk and add the ginger and curry paste, stir and mash the paste to mix well as it starts to simmer. Let it come to a boil, then whisk in the apple juice. Add a half teaspoon of salt, you will adjust it later. Add the carrots and roll them around to coat. Cover the pan and bring to a boil, then reduce to medjum low for about 15 minutes, shaking the pan a few times and taking the lid off to stir well about halfway through.
When the carrots are tender when pierced with a paring knife, take them off the heat. Taste for salt. The color is best with out soy sauce, but if you don’t mind them turning brown you can add some. Serve sprinkled with cilantro.