Let me tell you a little story about my favorite Asian grocery store, a failed attempt at green curry, and a successful “backup plan” curry.
It all started with Nich and I making a trip to Fubonn. Fubonn is a giant Asian grocery store, with items from Thailand, Korea, Japan, China, India, etc. We love to go and wander the aisles, while searching for new & crazy ingredients and stocking up our pantry with various Asian staples.
The reason for this past trip to Fubonn was simple: I had seen a recipe for Thai green curry paste that I wanted to make. I knew that I could get most (if not all) the ingredients for the curry paste at Fubonn; even some of the more obscure ones like fish sauce or Thai basil. Before we embarked on our journey, we had decided that we would use the green curry paste to make some sort of vegetable curry for dinner, and we wanted to make Vietnamese summer rolls to go along with it. (Thanks to my new blog friend, Sarah at Simply Cooked for the idea. I saw them on her blog, and knew I needed to make them!). It was decided that Nich would be on roll duty, and I would make the curry. Our plan was to whip up a delicious Asian dinner and enjoy it while watching Top Chef. It was going to be a great night.
Things didn’t exactly go according to plan. When we got home we realized that the salad roll wrappers I insisted on buying weren’t the right wrappers. Thankfully, Nich ran down to Fred Meyer, and they had the right kind of rice paper wrappers. Crisis averted. I left him to make the salad rolls and continued on with my green curry paste. I followed the instructions exactly. Well, maybe not exactly…there was a small matter of shrimp paste. When I saw shrimp paste in the list of ingredients I would need, I assumed that it would be along the same lines as fish sauce (which I use in Thai cooking often). However, when I opened the can of shrimp paste, Nich and I were horrified at the smell that immediately wafted from the tiny can. It was unspeakably bad. There was no way that shrimp paste was going anywhere near my curry. In any case, even without the addition of shrimp paste, the green curry was inedible. It looked like a sad, gloppy cold green soup (and that’s putting it nicely) and tasted foul. We had no choice but to toss it.
So, I went back to the drawing board. I had a can of Panang curry paste, a can of coconut milk, and a bunch of shiitake mushrooms. I was going to make curry, even if it killed me. So, I ran with the ingredients I had and whipped up a “backup plan” curry. Dinner didn’t exactly turn out as I envisioned it, but nevertheless the end result was fantastic. The curry was rich, hearty, flavorful, and oh-so-very spicy. I washed it down with some coconut lemongrass sake (!!!) and part one of the Top Chef season finale. The episode was strangely appropriate as the finale takes place in Singapore, and all the contestants were struggling with the strange flavors and ingredients that are so prevalent in Asian cuisine. (Especially Kelly. Poor Kelly, I know exactly how she felt!)
So, if you would like to make a delicious and Asian-inspired meal, I will save you the trouble of making an inedible green curry paste, and I will instead include the recipe for vegetable panang curry. Also, if you’d like to make Vietnamese spring rolls, I recommend you use Sarah from Simply Cooked’s recipe. The ones we made were a slight variation (vegetarian) of hers with baked tofu (marinated in ponzu and red chilies), spinach, Thai basil, cilantro, green onions, and carrots. I also make a yummy spicy peanut dipping sauce for them (my old standby peanut sauce. click here for the recipe!)
And, without further delay – here is the recipe for the curry that I made up on the spot.
Vegetable Panang Curry (aka Backup Plan Curry)
*Serve over white or brown rice
1 package shiitake mushrooms (approx 1 to 1.5 cups – washed & cut in halves or quarters)
1/4 to 1/2 can Panang Curry paste (*I highly recommend Maesri brand panang curry paste, available in most Asian grocery stores. Please note, this is a SPICY curry paste. Nich and I used 1/2 of a can and it was really spicy.)
1 can coconut milk
Soy Sauce, to taste (1 to 2 Tablespoons)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 T freshly grated ginger
1 small carrot, sliced thin
1 Thai chili, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup fresh green beans (or frozen & thawed)
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Add a small amount of oil to a wok or skillet. Turn the heat to medium high. Sautee onion in the oil until translucent (a couple minutes). Add in Thai chili, garlic, and ginger. Continue to stir fry over medium high (be careful not to burn. turn down to medium if need be) for another minute. Add in mushrooms and sear for a minute. Add in curry paste, and stir to coat the vegetables. Add more oil if necessary.
Turn the heat down to medium low and add in the coconut milk, green beans, and soy sauce. Go light on the soy sauce (as you can always add more later). Simmer in the wok/skillet for 30 minutes to an hour (whenever you think it tastes good!. Serve over rice, and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro .