My first curry experience was that powdery mix my mom added to gravy or mayonnaise when she wanted to serve something exotic. It was an innocuous blend of coriander and cumin. Perhaps a bit of turmeric gave it that pretty orange color. When I lived in Japan, a similar curry blend was served in curry houses along certain bustling streets in Tokyo's suburbs. The curried gravy topped steaming bowls of white rice and diners had their choice of pork, beef, or chicken. That gravy gave sanity and warmth to many of my gray blustery days, and ironically brought me home as soon as the smell hit my senses.
Back in the States, friends and I experimented with curries, both powdered and paste, and the hotter the curry the better we liked it. The past two decades have brought a growth of ethnic food choices here in Minnesota, and now we can choose from a delicious variety of curries, from Indian to Thai, from mild to hot. Each type has its own blend of spices and mode of preparation.
A friend's ex-boyfriend taught me to make his mother's version of Thai curry. He mixed green and red paste, added fresh ginger and garlic, and methodically added the cream from the coconut milk. He whisked the cream and paste, then allowed the fats to separate before pouring the remaining milk into the mixture. Then, a fat salmon fillet was added to the curry, and he poached it until it was just done. Served over rice and topped with avocado, a simple green salad tossed in fresh lime juice and olive oil, and a glass of icy white table wine; that beautiful meal lives in my memories and occasionally on my plate.
Thin out leftovers with a bit of chicken stock for a comforting soup. T prefers chicken over fish. To accommodate him, I poured the coconut curry gravy over diced potatoes and a thick chicken breast, then simmered the combination until the chicken was done and the potatoes were tender.
Salmon with Red Thai Curry
Serves 2 - 4
1/2 red pepper, sliced thin
1/2 white onion, sliced thin
1 inch ginger, grated
1-2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 red chili peppers, diced fine
1 jalapeno, diced fine
1 tablespoon red chili paste
Dash of fish sauce
Tamari or soy sauce
1 x 15.5 ounce can of coconut milk
12 to 16 ounces salmon fillet, skin removed
1/2 cup chicken stock
Turmeric, pepper, lime
In medium sauce pan saute red pepper, onion, chili peppers, ginger, and garlic in sesame and vegetable oils until tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in chili paste; add fish sauce, tamari, coconut milk, and stock, and bring to a simmer. Flavor with turmeric and pepper to taste. Gently slid salmon into curry and poach 5 minutes or to desired doneness.
Serve over rice with peanuts, cilantro, green onion, lime wedges, and avocado.