It’s been rather chilly here in the Bay recently, and there’s nothing that will warm you up better than a bowl of warm curry. Especially, some spicy red pumpkin curry.
My pumpkin of choice is the Kabocha squash—also known as a Japanese pumpkin. It’s that dark green, squat shaped melon-like thing you’ve been seeing at the grocery store. It’s delicious. It’s flavor is much like a butternut squash, but 10x sweeter and much creamier in texture.
It works magically in this curry recipe because as the curry simmers, the pumpkin sort of melts away and breaks down and thickens the sauce. No cornstarch needed here.
I threw some cauliflower into the mix to add some crunchy texture amidst the rich creaminess of the overall dish. I also threw in a few red jalapenos as well, for a pop of color, and also because I like things to be nice and spicy. This curry is packed with flavor, mostly because I didn’t skimp on the aromatics—ginger, lemongrass, and chili. No I didn’t use the dried stuff, it is pertinent here to use fresh. And although you will end up with more lemongrass stalks than you can think of ways to use, the flavor is incomparable and totally worth it.
By the way, anyone have some lemongrass recipes for me?
This was my first time using prepared red curry paste, and boy does it make life a lot easier. I don’t have room in my tiny kitchen to stock a year’s supply of fish sauce, shrimp paste, and dried chilies—plus that stuff would stink up my entire studio apartment existence. However, I do feel a bit guilty using prepared curry because I pride myself on making everything from scratch. Real scratch. Like never buying a jar of marinara sauce—kind of scratch. Maybe one day when I move into a much larger place, with a much larger kitchen, with a countertop that spans more than 21 inches, I will have the means to elevate myself to become a true #everythingfromscratch chef.
Speaking of moving, there have been talks about me moving back to Los Angeles. It’s been nearly two years since I moved up to San Francisco to pursue a career in food, and that path may just take me back down south. From working for a food-tech startup, to being a pastry cook at a top restaurant in SF, to working with brands in the natural foods industry, I’ve been around the block and I just haven’t found the right fit yet. Maybe that’s why I love blogging so much, it makes me feel complete after I’ve published a post. Thank you all so much for your support and reading these things. Ya’ll keep me going!
There’s one tip I’d like to offer about this recipe. I made the mistake of slightly overcooking the pumpkin, which left me with fewer chunks. I cooked the pumpkin for much longer than I should have just because the pumpkin felt so firm after I checked it at the 10-minute mark. I set my timer for another 10 minutes and before I knew it, the pumpkin had already overcooked and disintegrated into the sauce. Be careful not to overcook the pumpkin, because it will actually cook much more quickly than you think!
Now…about all that lemongrass…
Pumpkin Red Curry
Adapted from CHOW.com
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 ½ tsp salt
2 medium red or green bell peppers, cut into 1” chunks
½ medium cauliflower, chopped into bite-size florets
4 medium garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger cut into strips (from about a 1 ½” piece)
1 stalk of lemon grass, bruised (by smashing knife along the stalk) and cut into 2” pieces
2 small red jalapenos, seeds removed and sliced into strips
3 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 can unsweetened regular coconut milk (not reduced-fat please)
½ cup water
1 tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp granulated organic sugar
1 medium kabocha squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1” cubes
Heat olive oil in large frying pan, or small stockpot (whichever you have a lid for) over medium heat. Add diced onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, lemongrass and red jalapenos. Sauté until fragrant—about 3 minutes. Add red curry paste and sauté for 1 minute. Using a spoon, skim off the top of the coconut milk (the fattiest part) and add into the curry paste mixture. Add soy sauce, sugar, and salt. Mix to combine, then lower the heat to medium low and cook until incorporated and very fragrant—about 2 minutes, being careful not to burn the coconut fat.
Add the remaining coconut milk and water. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a low boil, then add kabocha squash pieces. Cover and simmer until kabocha is about halfway softened—about 10 minutes. Add red bell pepper, and cauliflower until cooked—another 10-12 minutes.
Serve over cooked jasmine brown rice, with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Cuddle up to a loved one and enjoy on a rainy day.