Tuesday, February 16, 2010

thai red curry with root vegetables

Thai Red Curry with Root Vegetables

Well hello there, lovelies! Are you sick of winter yet? If you’re reading this and you live someplace warm, like LA, where I am told today is supposed to be a balmy 79 degrees, we, the East Coasters, are very jealous and wish you all the best, but please don’t rub it in. We just might start crying. We’d kill for some sun dresses and flip flops right about now. Am I right? I’m ready to take my Uggs and my sweaters and my puffer jacket and pack them away for at least 10 months. I look like a black marshmallow making my way down the streets of New York. No matter how you slice it, winter wear is just not that flattering – it can be pretty frumpy. Also, I’d like to stop using cups of tea as ways of warming up my hands at the office. A girl can only take so much.

vegetables, awaiting their fate

But, though I’ve prepared quite a soliloquy about my winter discontent, I realize that what I’m about to tell you cannot possibly be appreciated unless you’re bundling up this month. Do you really want to eat Thai coconut curry in balmy weather? I didn’t think so. And even if you did, doesn’t it taste so much better when there’s snow falling outside your window and you’re enveloped in warmth and stillness of your home? Perhaps, these cold winter months are an opportunity for us to appreciate these comforting stews. There is some joy to hibernation, to puttering around your home, inviting a friend or two over and lazing around on the couch wrapped up in blankets.

onions, curry paste, cumin

Winter is also a time when few vegetables are in season – and mostly, these are root vegetables. Much like my winter get-up, they, too, are rather frumpy looking. Have you ever looked at a parsnip or a turnip and thought to yourself, “My, what a looker?” I didn’t think so. And frankly, neither have I. But, given a chance, these little guys can truly transform themselves. They clean up rather nicely. Typically, they are roasted with salt and pepper, and maybe a glaze of sorts, to bring out their sweetness. Sometimes, they’re added to soups. All these things are great and wonderful, but there’s an opportunity to let them shine in an unlikely place – a Thai-inspired red curry made with coconut milk!

red curry paste - gluten-free!lemongrass
turnipscoconut milk

This curry brings me such joy that I think, for all my complaining, I can tolerate winter a bit better, snow, sleet, wind and all. Armed with this dish, some sweaters and strong coffee – I can take winter with all its elements. The curry is so delicious, that I can’t get enough of it, and in fact, I’ll be making it for the book club ladies this Thursday; not to mention, this was a permanent weeknight dinner fixture throughout most of November. And so I must say this to you – drop whatever it is you’re doing, and make this without delay! Unless you have a really good excuse tonight, this should be on your dinner menu. Really, I insist. You’ll thank me later, I’m pretty sure. I’m so smitten with this curry, that each night you might delay making it – I’ll feel personally responsible.


This curry has everything going for it that you’d want in a weeknight winter meal: ease, taste, leftover potential, scalability, function. It’s as unfussy as they come and once all the ingredients are in the pot, you put the lid on top, reduce the heat to low and go about your business doing whatever it is you want to do at night – be it catching up on emails or tidying up your living room, or kicking back with a beer. Here’s the best part – this curry comes together in about the same time it’ll take you to dial and wait for take-out. Any leftovers you have will freeze beautifully, saving you time in the nights ahead. Winter’s bite might not even seem that bad. Who knows – your LA friends might even get insanely jealous of your cold-weather meals and wish for sweaters and mittens themselves. Probably unlikely, but please don’t burst my bubble.

Thai Red Curry with Root Vegetables

Thai Red Curry
I should say here that this is Thai-inspired. I’m not Thai, so I can’t really claim authenticity with this recipe. It tastes amazing, but I’m very new cooking Thai food, and so if anything here seems not authentic, like the vegetables themselves, for instance, forgive my ignorance.

canola oil
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 tbsp cumin
2 cloves garlic
1 large onion, sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, sliced diagonally
2 tbsp fresh chopped ginger
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 can coconut milk
1 cup water
2 turnips
2 parsnips
2-3 medium potatoes (I like Yukon Gold here)
1/2 lb cut butternut squash (didn’t have in this iteration, but makes for a nice addition)
2 tsp sambal oelek (if you like your curry to pack some heat, I do!)
cilantro leaves (optional) for garnish

Also a good addition here would be kaffir lime leaves (which I didn’t have on hand), and maybe some green beans to throw at the end of the cooking process.


In a Dutch oven, heat up some canola oil with the curry paste and fry the paste a bit letting the flavors develop and mix with the sauce. Add cumin, stir well and give another minute to allow the flavors to blossom. Add the chopped onions and the garlic, stir to mix well, and cook for about 7-8 minutes, until onions start getting softer. Add the lemongrass and the ginger, stir well to combine and stir in fish sauce. Let that cook for a minute or two and then pour in the coconut milk and the water, stir well.

Cut up in chunks or slices the turnips, parsnips, potatoes, and, if using, the butternut squash. Gently, as not to splash the hot coconut curry on yourself, add the vegetables, stir well to combine and cover with a lid. Cook on medium-low to low heat until the potatoes are soft when pieced and turnips are easily pierced with a knife (as they tend to be quite firm) – about 30 minutes. Stir in sambal olek and taste to see if you want more heat in your curry.

Remove from heat and serve over rice, garnished with chopped cilantro.

Serves 4.

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  • 1
    Carolyn said:

    Ooh, this looks right up my alley. And I should probably keep this to myself, but I do actually think some turnips are on the gorgeous side.

    What? I didn’t hear anything.

    February 16, 2010 12:07 pm
  • 2
    Sarah said:

    The funny thing is, I was recently preparing some rutabagas and after I had them all washed and peeled they were sitting there on the cutting board and I thought, “Dang, you all are handsome!”

    This dish looks great. I love the idea of combining Thai curry with winter root vegetables.

    February 16, 2010 2:25 pm
  • 3
    Claire said:

    I make a lovely sweet potato curry with mushrooms and spinach – and my vege hating son usually eats at least two bowlfuls – so this will be definitely be going on the menu (as soon as the Sydney summer ends cause yes, I’m wearing flip flops and complaining about the humidity – tmi??)..

    February 16, 2010 3:29 pm
  • 4
    kickpleat said:

    I love curry anything and often add curry to turnips, rutabagas and other odd vegetables not associated with Indian or Thai culture. Good job!

    February 16, 2010 3:42 pm
  • 5
    Whitney said:

    What brand/type of red curry paste do you use? A curry sounds like the perfect winter cure :) Spring has to be (sorta) on the way….right?

    February 16, 2010 5:01 pm
  • 6

    I have never put turnips and parsnips in curry – sweet potato yes, but never thought to include some friends in there. Silly me! They look amazing! Great idea, thank you!

    February 16, 2010 8:01 pm
  • 7

    This sounds fantastic! I’m putting red curry paste on the grocery list right now so I can make this asap. And, for the record, the last time I cooked with a turnip I decided it was actually quite a stunner. (Though the most stunning of winter veggies is, in my humble opinion, the brussel sprout.)

    February 16, 2010 10:51 pm
  • 8
    Radish said:

    Whitney – I used Thai Kitchen (in the picture), but also have been looking out for others. I’m still learning about various brands and whatnot.

    February 17, 2010 7:04 am
  • 9
    Ulla said:

    This looks so good! I am tired of winter. I have been craving vegetables and this looks perfect!

    February 17, 2010 7:15 am
  • 10

    Ah, yes, one of the best antidotes to winter misery! I have been making a fairly similar version with the addition of some tempeh-love the idea of parsnips and will absolutely give this a whirl soon, though I agree with Katie above that brussels are #1 for me :)

    February 17, 2010 8:26 am
  • 11

    I just might make this for my book club! Looks delicious, and it’s even works for our one gluten intolerant member. Thanks for a great post.

    February 17, 2010 9:36 am
  • 12

    I love making Thai curries using the store-bought curry pastes. I buy this brand called Mae Ploy and if you read the ingredients it’s exactly what you’d put in if you were making it from scratch. They come in cans and cost less than a buck each at the Asian grocery. Since I don’t use anywhere near a whole can at once, I portion them in the freezer for future use.

    Curious what you’re reading for book club. I always use my book club as an excuse to cook for people too. :)

    February 17, 2010 12:41 pm
  • 13
    Radish said:

    Noelle – we just finished Her Fearful Symmetry (same woman who wrote Time Traveler’s Wife, which I’ve not read). I have to say, it’s an okay novel, nothing to be super excited about – it sort of loses momentum, I think. I’m hosting this time and will be choosing our next read — I’m pretty sure it’ll be Cloud Atlas.

    February 17, 2010 2:11 pm
  • 14
    Shoshana said:

    This sounds delicious. I have been craving Thai food a lot lately but until reading your post hadn’t thought that it might be weather related. Once I get the ingredients to make a new batch of curry paste I will be making this recipe.

    February 17, 2010 8:05 pm
  • 15
    Banu said:

    I like that you are using winter’s bounty in such delicate ways in these recent recipes. Keep ’em comin’!

    February 18, 2010 6:30 am
  • 16
    Radish said:

    Banu – thank you!! I am finding these little guys so irresistible this winter. Plus, root veggies need some lovin’ too, right? :)

    February 18, 2010 7:44 am
  • 17
    Monika said:

    You had me at “sick of winter”. They feel endless here, in grey Toronto…but a good, interesting curry like this will likely keep me going!

    February 18, 2010 11:48 am
  • 18
    lo said:

    And all week I’ve been wondering what to do with that rutabaga sitting there in the fridge. Bet it would be perfect in a red curry! Thanks for the inspiration!

    February 18, 2010 4:52 pm
  • 19
    Cherry said:

    What a great recipes, and those photos are mouth watering!

    February 18, 2010 5:11 pm
  • 20
    Eileen said:

    I love that curry paste from Thai Kitchen! I have made red curry (with shrimp) with it and was very pleased. I once tried to make it from scratch, but using the pre-made paste is so much easier and tastes better. I also like the idea of making it in a dutch oven- I used a simple frying pan.

    February 24, 2010 8:32 am
  • 21

    Oh, it has to be tasty, looks delicious at least. I love Thai food, I have to try it.

    May 4, 2010 1:18 am
  • 22

    […] each of these because I am so excited to finally see these guys in season. Much as I love a good curry or soup, it’s finally nice to have more than just root vegetables in season. No offense to […]

    May 24, 2010 9:03 am
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  • 29

    Beautiful photos and, yes, it’s actually quite easy to make but absolutely delicious. There’s a woman at the bottom of my street who makes something similar, and it’s amazing. Only $1 a bowl too :)

    July 14, 2014 5:17 am
  • 30
    olga said:

    Rachel – $1 a bowl?? That’s an amazing deal!

    July 14, 2014 6:13 am

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