A new series of Easy Meals 🌞
Happy Tuesday. I thought I’d pop into your inbox and give you a peek under the (range) hood. 😜
I have so many meals that I make that I never add to the site. I know everyone has recipes like this in their rotation: the easy meals you can whip up with one eye closed, that you change endlessly depending on what’s in your crisper, and that you can have done in less than an hour from cutting board to table.
I thought it would be fun to start an Easy Meals series…maybe? Dare I utter that into the universe? One of my worst habits is starting things I never finish, but if you all like the concept, I’ll definitely draft up more in the future.
The version I make most often is one that strips everything down to the most basic of the basics. Why? Because to be honest with you…when I’m making a quick dinner after a tiresome day at work, I am NOT under any circumstances mincing garlic. It’s my least favorite kitchen task, so this Easy Meal removes it from the process so I have one less barrier to deliciousness.
I make this recipe almost weekly, sometimes twice a week. It’s just onion, mushrooms, coconut milk, Thai curry paste, tofu, cabbage, and noodles. Sometimes I skip the mushrooms, sometimes I add scallions or sliced bell peppers. Sometimes I use shrimp instead of tofu, but since I try to eat a vegetarian dinner once or twice a week, tofu is my typical protein choice.
What you need:
Curry paste: I’ve mentioned this over and over, but I have a very strong preference for Maesri curry paste. My favorites are the green curry, red curry, and Panang curry. I have tons of these in my cabinet that I can’t wait to try. Depending on the curry paste, it may have different ways of being prepared. For instance, prik khing is a dry curry that doesn’t have coconut milk in it. Green, red, yellow, and Panang curry to name a few are made with coconut milk, so that’s usually my starting point with my soup. While this is a ‘fusion’ recipe, I do like to take the original intentions of the pastes into consideration.
Veggies & Protein: Use what you like. This is the perfect vehicle for scrap veggies. I usually do some combination of onion, mushroom, cabbage, and bell peppers. You can use green cabbage or Napa. You can also make this with chopped bok choy or spinach. Sometimes I throw in sugar snap peas, sometimes I don’t. I also like some minced scallions added in at the end. For my weekly meal, I always use cubed soft tofu.
Coconut milk: I use full-fat coconut milk. You will ‘crack’ the coconut, so try to avoid light coconut milk as you want something with a good fat layer on top.
Noodles: Rice noodles are the top choice, but I also like it with super quick cooking ramen. I love the frozen ramen by Sun Noodles because it only takes 3 minutes to cook. In tonight’s case, all I had was Ocean’s Halo ramen. These are very thin and cook very quickly. While I do prefer somewhat thicker noodles, these are perfect in a pinch.
Toppings: I always keep a jar of fried shallots or fried red onions in my cupboard. Otherwise, minced scallions, cilantro, or a few Thai basil leaves are nice. If you have lime, I strongly suggest serving with a lime wedge. I was so bummed that I didn’t have limes tonight, but it was still delicious.
How to make it:
Brown the veggies: If using mushrooms, I like to get them to the nice golden brown color you see above. Remove them from the pot.
Crack the coconut: I learned about this method in Cook’s Illustrated and on Nyonya Cooking, and it’s one method that has completely leveled up the Thai-style curries I make at home. I don’t think I’ve perfected the art yet, but every time I make it, it’s delicious. I probably crack it a little TOO much, but every time, the result is heavenly.
The premise is that you add the top layer of solidified fat from the can of coconut milk to the pot. Let it melt and then keep going. Fry the coconut milk over medium heat until it begins to separate. You’ll see the liquid evaporate out of the oil and you may get a few little spurts of hot oil in your face (ask how I know…). Once it’s separated, add the paste to the pot. Let it sizzle and cook into the fat. It makes for the richest, most luxurious curry ever. From there, add in the rest of the milk from the can, and–because this is soup–a few canfuls of water.
Simmer the soup: Add in the cooked mushrooms and onions, the white, crunchy part of the cabbage, and the cubed tofu. Simmer it for 20 minutes. While the soup simmers, boil up the noodles. If you plan on eating everything in one sitting, you can boil them straight in the soup. I don’t recommend it, but I have done it and will probably do it again on nights when I’m not in the mood to break out another pot.
Finish it up: Add in the green parts of the cabbage and scallion whites if you want. As soon as the cabbage is wilted, you’re ready to eat.
Serve it up: I should have put it in a tureen, but I’m just not there mentally tonight, so service from the pot it is. I put the noodles in the bowl and served the soup with a few garnishes on the side.
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