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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.


Anonymous said...

Where do you find the curry paste?

Frugal Scholar said...

In my town of 8000, I can find it at the little neighborhood grocery. In the big city of New Orleans, I can get it at the Asian groceries. At Trader Joe (I don't have one here), you can buy preblended coco milk and paste, but this tastes quite acrid to me.

I'm not sure where you live. Check the ethnic section in your area grocery. Plus you could get it on line, but shipping might be high.

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

You know Scholor, I just can't get into the curry thing. Prince loves it, me??? I'm just sort of eh, about it.
You know, when the girls come from Europe they bring us curry paste from there. If you like, our youngest is coming from Wales in June and I'll have her bring you some. What flavor do you fancy?? They get kinds there that we can't get here. No kidding.....want some??

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Funny about Money said...

This sounds VERY good. I'll have to try it. We have several Asian markets around here, and my son and his roommate are really in to Asian cooking.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Midlife--What kinds do they have? I may take you up on this, but the Asian groceries in New Orleans are very well stocked. BTW, I've had trouble leaving comments on your blog--I am a faithful reader, however.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Midlife--As usual, I forgot to say THANK YOU.

Duchesse said...

Frugal, we cook beans and rice in coconut milk, diluted half and half with water- that's delicous too.

I could eat curry nearly ever day!

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

Frugal Scholor, they get a brand directly from India and can get either green or red curry paste....Madras, Tikkamasal or pretty much any kind you please. As I said, Hannah is coming from from Wales in June. What kind do you fancy and I';; have her bring you some. I'll post it to you (Prince can send frugally through the sirline he works for, lol).
Hey, I think everyone has had a bit of trouble commenting lately....I think they are doing maintenance on the bloggy site :)
I read yours quite often as well and love it always.

Steady On
Reggie Girl

SLF said...

@Duchesse: There is actually a dish Frugal Scholar makes that I really enjoy called Jamaican Red Beans and Rice which is very similar to what you describe. The only difference is that we add some vegetables--bell peppers, onions, etc.--to the rice and beans. I love how flavorful the rice is after it soaks up the coconut milk.

--Frugal Son