Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lychee red curry

This is my spin on one of my favorite Thai dishes, a classic pineapple red curry. Not that it needed spinning, I just had some canned lychee, but no pineapple. The bromeliaceous tang of the pineapple was missing a little (and no amount of lime could mitigate that), but the slightly savory, sweet pop of juicy orbs was really perfect in its own right. My curiosity was rewarded.

I've been sitting on this for a few days, on the fence about whether or not to even post it. I thought about revisiting it in the summer, when I could use fresh lychee and get glare-free photos, when I'd make time to make fresh curry paste from scratch instead of scooping it from a tub.

I remember a time when to me, this was really authentic Thai cooking. Knowing where to buy Mae Ploy, at one time, meant I was braver than the rest of my friends. It required an adventure into an Asian market that smelled of dried fish, incense and moth balls, and bringing home a tub of red or green curry was like sneaking a secret weapon into my kitchen. My friends would ooh and aah at how much my curry tasted like the "real" stuff at the restaurants.

Nowadays, an adventure into an Asian market means I come home with armloads of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal rhizomes and chiles, jars of shrimp paste and discs of palm sugar and tamarind. These are the bases from which I construct my nowadays curries, and for me, it was a major phone-in to make dinner from a tub (even though I'm pretty sure that's what the restaurants use).

But it was so tasty.


Michael said...

It's hard to call anyone a fraud who uses "bromeliaceous."

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I think this looks great - and everyone does this sometimes, so I wouldn't be too worried about it. Your cooking is always first class, Heather!

dp said...

Red curry is Hubby's favorite as well. Me, I'm more of a green curry gal, but wouldn't turn up my nose to a good red curry either!

Few Thai people make their own curry pastes. They usually buy it fresh from their favorite vendors. My mom always used the stuff from a tub over here. No shame in that! But it is nice to make it yourself too.

toni said...

Honey, any curry that uses lychees in it is worth a try! And we all resort to tub cooking from time to time, even when we doctor the tub ingredients.

But I think I'll wait for the fresh lychees to try this dish. I don't mind scooping red curry out of a tub, but I have a thing about fresh lychees vs. canned.

Manggy said...

Take it from Darlene-- no need to feel like you've phoned it in :) I will, however, wait for the pineapple, heh :)
(I guess the biggest advantage to not using the tubbed stuff is that you can control how much salt goes into the paste.)

Brooke said...

Damn you! I had red curry planned for next week...and of course I bought the tub.

The Spiteful Chef said...

I love lychee. Every once in a great while, WhoFo has them fresh, and I always buy a bunch and hoard them all to myself. Never thought of using them for curry, although they make a damned fine martini. Looks great.

Daniel said...

Just stumbled onto your blog for the first time today and I'm enjoying catching up.

And it's not too often I can see a great example of an improvised dinner, have my appetite stoked AND learn a new vocab word--all in one post! You've found yourself a new reader. :)

Casual Kitchen

cookiecrumb said...

Better than pineapple.

we are never full said...

nice one... love the lychee. i just had my first fresh lychee last year and i can see why you would consider remaking it w/ fresh ones, they do taste so much different and more delicious. but i totally love pineapple curry - may have to steal this idea.

Peter G said...

Yep! We all do it! Still looks great Heather!

Brittany said...

I'm still all about the tub.

But slowly, thanks to you and Peter, I'm learning...

I love lychees.

LC said...

I have a serious weakness for red curries, and now, lacking ingredients and will, you may have forced me into a take-out corner.

MrOrph said...

You sound almost apologetic Heather. S'up with that?

This dish looks great and I bet it tasted better than you lead on.

Yer not foolin' me. Open a tub, get some grub, I always say...well sometimes.

Foodycat said...

Lychees are too much like eyeballs for me. I've had a killer green duck curry with tiny plums in it, though.

peter said...

It's OK Heather- it happens to lots of girls. I still respect you.

Tub curry paste is less jarring to me than the fruit, actually. I have a thing about fruit in stews, curries, etc. but that's just me.

Alex said...

I'm with Foodycat...

Ever since a primary school Guess The Body Part Halloween experience lychees have been on my 'get-the-Goddamn-things-away-from-me' list.

Bet it tastes fab though.

Heather said...

Michael - Well I'm a fraud that got a botany degree. :P

Jenn - AW, shucks. You always know how to shoot a little hug at me. Thanks. :)

Darlene - I wish I had a friendly neighborhood curry paste lady.

Toni - The fresh lychee would be really special, I know it.

Marky - The pineapple has that certain something, dunnit?

Brookie! - I ain't mad at the tub, really. I just rely on it less than I used to.

Kristie - They make an excellent bellini, too, if you want to start hitting the sauce first thing in the morning.

Dan - You've no idea what you've just gotten yourself into, have you. ...I mean, "Welcome!"

That's The Way The Cookiecrumb - Ooh, what about mangosteens? And the things that look like hairy lychee? Hoard, hoard, hoard.

Amy - The pineapple red curry was ready for a facelift. Maybe the pineapple fried rice will be next.

Petah - You're always so encouraging. I don't know what I do to deserve you. :)

Britty - The tub is still better than literally phoning it in to the Thai join on the corner.

Lang - Ha! Can't go forage some lemongrass and red chili, eh? (I'm just having a laugh, don't mind me.) We have so much good Viet-Thai in the Pac NW that I can hardly be bothered any more either.

Don - I wish I had a slogan like that. Though that sounds like one for fishing.

Alicia - I'll see your eyeballs (ha!) and raise you a goats eyeballs. Still love lychee though. :P

Jubilation - Coconut red curry is already so sweet (why I can take so much heat on it) that it made perfect sense to me. Shrimp woulda been a nice touch.

Alex - The effect is somewhat diminished if you buy fresh ones and peel and pit them yourself. Takes away all the oogly-booglies.

cook eat FRET said...

will you come visit me and we can cook asian food together?

i need to learn...

glamah16 said...

I bet it was tasty. Shopping at the Asian markets beats clothes shopping for me any day. Its always an adventure. Im glad you posted this. I have some experiments on the back burner that I have yet to post from my shopping adventures. BTW, love lychee canned or fresh!

kyouell said...

I feel like I used to when I'd sneak under the grown-ups' table after big family dinners and listen to them talk. Yeah, I know all the words but the way they are put together it sounds like mystical charms are being spoken. Especially the asian food posts, man I'm such a noob! Thanks for letting me listen in, I love it.

cookiecrumb said...

Slumber party at Claudia's! I'm in. I heard she has a lot of space.
I'll bring my new $35 bottle of shoyu.

(WV: unglysin)

Jude said...

Never seen lychees in a savory dish before, much less curry. That is some good looking stuff.