Saturday, February 28, 2009
Thai Shrimp Coconut Curry: Ultimate Frugal Food
The Divine Miss Em is only home for another day and she requested Thai curry as her last dinner. This in spite of the fact that we all had it a few days ago. But I do like to indulge my wonderful daughter, so I said yes. What follows is not a recipe, but a method.
Thai coconut curry is the ultimate frugal food. It is easy, cheap, quick, and impressive to family and guests alike. If you aren’t much of a cook or if you think of Asian food as mysterious and complex, then you are probably skeptical. Trust me and read on.
Or not a method, but two ingredients: a can of coconut milk and a jar of Thai curry paste (red, yellow, or green. This sometimes comes in tins). That’s it. For an added fillip, you can sprinkle in a bit of Thai fish sauce or soy sauce, but even that is extra.
With these ingredients, you can turn anything into Thai coconut curry : shrimp, beef, or chicken. Or tofu.
For a one-pot meal—my favorite kind—you can make a stir-fry of whatever you have in the way of vegetables, add the protein at the appropriate time, and that’s it.
After your stir-fry or meat is about done, add the can of coconut milk and the curry paste to taste. That’s all there is to it.
Truly, this tastes like what you get in Thai restaurants. That’s because it is what you get in Thai restaurants. A friend revealed this secret to me almost 20 years ago and I admit I didn’t believe him. After a quick trip to the Asian grocery and a taste, I was a convert.
Emulating my son with his obsessive cost analysis of meals, I present tonight’s dinner:
1. Stir fry of scallions (from garden), carrots ($0.29 for reduced organic!), bok choy (garden).
2. Add curry paste (1/3 of a jar=$0.80) and coconut milk ($1.00).
3. Add shrimp at end to avoid overcooking. We had some frozen, which cost about $5.00 for a pound.
So a little over $7.00 plus some rice. This will feed the three of us tonight and provide a big leftover lunch tomorrow.
Most essays on frugal cooking exhort you to eat beans. Doesn’t that Dave Ramsay fellow say “beans and rice” till you are out of debt? To me, beans and rice aren’t a punishment, though they are to many. Still, I think everyone regards Thai coconut curry as an incredible treat. So even though we’re in the midst of hard times, we can feast on shrimp curry.
Need I say, bon appetit?
What do you cook that is both extremely frugal and extremely indulgent? Please share, dear readers.