Quick Vegetable & Tofu Curry
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My naan experiments earlier this month sent me on a curry bender. I started with this favorite lentil + kale dal, then made this chickpea + cauliflower number, then sort of combined the two, leaving out the legumes, adding tofu in their place.
The result is a veggie-loaded, super flavorful, Thai-spiced “curry”, a stewy, comforting not-quite-one-pot wonder of a dish. Here, the curry materializes stovetop, while tofu cubes bake briefly in the oven, just long enough to lightly crisp the edges, a measure that ensures the cubes won’t dissolve while simmering, but not so long to render them tough, incapable of absorbing the sauce.
Inspired by this one-pot chicken curry, a dish I learned from Thien Ngo at Fork, this dish is flavored with Thai curry paste, curry powder, turmeric, and coconut milk. I love serving it with rice — this (no-rinse!) Instant Pot brown rice is a favorite — and, of course, naan.
If you’ve made any of the curries mentioned above, the process here will feel familiar. This is the formula:
- Sweat onions (and/or garlic, ginger).
- Stir in spices + Thai curry paste.
- Pour in coconut milk + water.
- Add the substance (lentils, chickpeas, vegetables, tofu, chicken)
- Simmer till substance is cooked and sauce is flavorful.
- Fold in greens — spinach, kale, Swiss chard — at the very end.
Vegetable Curry Notes
Thai Curry Paste:
- Using a ready-made curry paste is a serious time saver. It’s a concentrated mix of aromatics, often shallots, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass, along with spices such as coriander, cumin, and cardamom. Using a few tablespoons of such a paste almost renders additional aromatics (such as onions as here) or spices (such as turmeric and curry powder as here) unnecessary (though I do find their inclusion here worthwhile).
- Maesri was Thien’s favorite brand. My Asian market carries it, but I also order it online. I’ve used both red and green curry pastes in this recipe.
- Heat Level: Thai curry paste is spicy. Start with a tablespoon if you are sensitive to heat; add more to taste.
- Cauliflower: Look for a head of cauliflower with lots of greens still intact — discard only the tough stem and leaves.
- Greens: Folding in something like kale, spinach or Swiss chard at the very end of the cooking process not only gives the curry an extra boost of vegetables, it also provides color and flavor.
- Other vegetables: If you are not yet tired of winter squash season, roasted delicata, Kabocha, or butternut squash would work well here. Sweet potatoes would be nice, too.
Here’s the play-by-play: Gather your ingredients.
If time permits, drain the tofu. Here’s one way to do it (but place the colander in the sink):
Cut the tofu up into 1-inch cubes, roughly:
Spread on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, and transfer to a 425ºF oven for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly golden.
Meanwhile, slice up an onion.
Then, cook it covered over low heat with a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt.
Add spices: turmeric, curry powder, and curry paste (see recipe for notes.)
Cook for a minute or two or until the onions are nicely coated and the spices are beginning to toast and stick to the pan.
Add a can of coconut milk and some water to the pan, and bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile, chop up a head of cauliflower. Much of the greens can be used — remove the tough stem and the tough outer leaves; use everything else.
Add the cauliflower to the pot along with the tofu, and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is knife tender.
Meanwhile, chop up some kale (spinach or Swiss chard is fine here, too).
Add to the pan and stir gently to incorporate. Cook for another 5 minutes.