Last night I was hankering for a good curry but my pantry was out of premade Thai curry paste. (The Taste of Thai brand is available at many grocery stores, but I prefer the Maesri brand that you find at Asian markets). I improvised and combined a Thai recipe for cilantro pesto with my usual method for a vegetable curry, and threw in some coconut milk and salmon. Using precooked salmon is a bit of a cheat but makes the dish come together very quickly; substitute shrimp, chicken or tofu (raw or cooked – just add it to the pot with the zucchini and snow peas if you are using raw protein or tofu).
Once you chop off its roots, store the rest of the cilantro in a glass of water on the countertop or in the refrigerator. Treat it like a bunch of flowers and change the water every few days, chopping off the bottom inch or so of stems before returning it to the glass. The cilantro will stay fresh for a week or more – longer if you also put a plastic bag over the glass.
Thai-Style Salmon and Vegetable Curry
- 1 bunch of cilantro
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, or more
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Peanut or other vegetable oil
- One small onion, sliced
- ½ to 1 teaspoon of curry powder (Madrasbrand is my favorite)
- 1 14-oz can of coconut milk
- Water, chicken broth, or veggie broth
- 1 large or 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut on a angle into slices
- 1 red or green bell pepper, sliced (optional)
- 1 medium or 2 small zucchini, cut into ½” cubes
- A couple handfuls of snow peas or sugar snap peas, washed and string removed
- About 1 lb of cooked salmon (I used some precooked wild salmon that I bought from Trader Joe’s)
- 1-2 teaspoons of sugar (white or brown)
- 1-2 tablespoons of fish sauce (optional but totally worth it)
- Salt and pepper (use white pepper, if you have it)
- Open the coconut milk with a can opener. Don’t worry if the coconut oil has solidified and separated from the liquid.
- Cut the roots off of the cilantro, leaving about 2” of the lower stem attached to the roots. Soak the roots in a bowl of cool water to loosen the dirt and then rub them with your fingers to clean them. Rinse the roots a couple more times until clean.
- Chop the cilantro roots and garlic together until minced fine. Add the salt and pepper and continue to chop and smash everything together with the side of the knife.
- Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a small pot and add the garlic-cilantro paste. Cook, stirring, for about a minute or until fragrant. Add the sliced onion and sauté for a couple of minutes until the onion begins to soften, then add the curry powder and sauté another minute.
- Add the coconut milk and stir well (note: if the coconut oil has solidified in the can, scoop it out and add it to the pan now. Save the liquid and add that in the next step along with the water or broth). Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, stirring often, until the liquid has mostly evaporated and the oil begins to separate.
- Add 1-2 cups of water or broth, depending on how soupy you like your curry, and stir well. Add the carrots (and bell pepper, if using one ) and cook ~3 minutes, then add the zucchini and snow peas. Cook about 5 minutes until the vegetable are tender but still bright-colored and not mushy. Add the salmon, fish sauce, sugar and lime juice and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Turn off the heat and serve immediately over hot cooked rice. Make 4 main-dish servings.