Tag Archives: coconut milk

10-Minute Singapore-Style Curried Noodles with Veggies

Singapore style curried noodles with veggies

When I think about my past business trips to Singapore, three things are always in my memory’s highlight reel:

1. Walking through a stunning sun-dappled tunnel of hanging orchids that were so beautiful that they inspired people to burst out in song. (Okay, maybe I was the only one who had a Julie Andrews moment, and maybe people stared at me like I was a serious weirdo nut job, but I like to think that they were singing along with me in their heads).
2. Gleefully wrapping myself in a pile of silk dresses in Chinatown (I am a degenerate silkaholic).
3. The spectacularly delicious array of international foods!

Like the diverse population of the city-nation, Singapore’s food is a glorious pan-Asian blend of exotic flavors and textures. One of my favorite dishes is the meal I’ve recreated for you here: Singapore-Style Curried Noodles with Veggies. The Indian turmeric in the luscious Thai yellow curry paste (which you can find in most Asian food stores or on Amazon) gives this mild curry its distinct golden glow and alluring taste. The creamy coconut milk and fragrant lemongrass remind me of the flavorful Malay influence on Singaporean cuisine. The soba noodles hail from Japan and do a great job soaking up the savory curry sauce. And the vibrant veggies bring it all together to create a multi-cultural harmony of flavor.

And did you see the part about this being a 10-minute meal? Seriously, could it get any better?! Why yes, it can! This simple, delicious and healthy noodle dish is as filling as it is tasty, so carnivores and veg-heads alike will join together to sing the praises of this lovely dish…and not just in their heads!

Look at that orchid! Gum almost fell out of my mouth when I saw it.

Cimeron’s 10-Minute Singapore-Style Curried Noodles with Veggies
Serves: 4
From fridge to table: 10 minutes

3 shallots, chopped
1 jalepeno pepper, sliced in half
1 lemongrass stalk, peeled and finely minced (use only the white part)
1 tbsp yellow curry paste*
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups fresh asparagus, sliced into 1″ sections
5 shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 package (12 oz) fresh soba noodles, or 8 oz dried noodles
2 tbsp tamari sauce (find it beside the soy sauce in your grocery store)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

yellow curry paste is available in tins at most Asian food stores. You can also purchase jars of it on Amazon.com. 

Prepare a pot of boiling water for the soba noodles, but don’t cook them until the last second.

In a wok, heat 1 tbsp of a high temperature oil (like grape seed oil) over medium-high. Saute the shallots, lemongrass and jalepeno until the shallots are just starting to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the red pepper and saute for 2 minutes. Add the asparagus, and shitake mushrooms, and stir for 2 minutes. Push the veggies aside to make room in the middle/bottom of the wok, then add the curry paste and heat until it softens, about 30 seconds. Add the coconut milk and tamari sauce to the curry paste and stir together until blended, then mix well with the veggies until they fully coated. Turn off heat and discard the two halves of the jalepeno pepper.

Cook the soba noodles according to the package (for fresh noodles, boil for 1 minute). Drain, then immediately rinse the noodles under cold water, then drain again. Add to the curry/veggie mixture, sprinkle with cilantro and toss well. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Curried Singapore noodles and veggies

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Go MSG-free: Tasty Thai Yellow Curry with Sweet Potato and Chickpeas

Thai yellow curry with chickpeas and sweet potato over millet - YUM!

“Stop goldfishing*,” I tell my husband as he plows through a bag of Doritos that’s roughly the size of a bathtub. “I can’t. They’re addictive!” he pleads as I pry them from his bright orange hands.

(*Goldfishing – [gohld-fish-ing]. Noun. 1. The act of a person who eats non-stop with blatant disregard for the physical limitations of his/her stomach. 2. Stuffing oneself to the point of spontaneous gastric explosion, like a goldfish.)

Really, he can’t stop? C’mon, like an invisible hand is shoving Doritos in his face. Well, after some research, I’ve found that actually, that’s pretty much what’s happening. The makers of the florescent nacho-flavored triangles of doom use a secret ingredient to turn consumers into goldfish: MSG.

MSG-fed lab rat

No, this rat has not swallowed a beach ball. Poor little guy has been fed MSG to make him obese.

Did you know that scientists actually use MSG to induce obesity in lab rats and mice (ironically, so they can test products to ‘cure’ obesity in humans)? In fact, scientists found that when they give MSG to mice, it increases their appetite as much as 40%. When people eat it, it turns us into mindless eating machines. But that’s not its only harmful side effect. There are all kinds of other nasty ailments associated with MSG, including asthma attacks, mood swings, fuzzy thinking, diarrhea, chest pains and headaches. Some scientists are even speculating that it may cause – and exacerbate – autism.

MSG is used as a flavor enhancer and it’s in lots of packaged foods, from chips to salad dressings, sauces to microwave meals. If you spotted MSG on a label, you probably wouldn’t buy the product, right? So those sneaky manufacturers hide MSG behind different names like “autolyzed yeast,” “soy protein isolate,” and “hydrolyzed protein.” For example, Annie Chun’s Soup Bowls contain maltodextrin and yeast extract – both of which are forms of manufactured glutamic acid, the ingredient in MSG (and yet they have the balls to advertise that they’re MSG-free. Campbells does the same. Bastards!) As for Doritos? They don’t even bother hiding it on the label, and the chips are basking in MSG – no wonder John can’t put down the bag! It’s not just in packaged foods, either. Tests found that most chicken, sausage and even parmesan served in restaurants is flavored with MSG. (Yet another great reason for carnivores to convert into vegetarians or vegans!)

The good news is that the antidote is simple: cook healthy foods from scratch to eliminate MSG from your diet (and from that of those you love, especially those who sometimes have goldfish-like tendencies). There are lots of other ways to add flavor than with MSG. One of my favorites is by making meals in the pressure cooker. Cooking under pressure retains the nutrition of food while also amplifying the flavor naturally. And bonus –  you can cook an entire meal from scratch in 15 minutes using the ultra fast pressure cookers, even soups and stews that normally take hours!

Today’s recipe is my take on an incredibly flavor-packed and super healthy Thai-style yellow curry with chickpeas and sweet potatoes. (Special thanks to Lorna Sass and her fabulous “Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure” cookbook – I’ve altered one of her recipes to give it my own twist). If using a pressure cooker, the gorgeous sweet potato flavor enhanced with yellow curry will be utterly infused into every molecule of coconut milk. It is divine! This has become one of our favorite meals, and it’s quite nutritious. So I don’t really mind if John goldfishes on it. 🙂

I’ve also created a non-pressure cooker version of this recipe for those who don’t have one (but I highly recommend you get a pressure cooker – they are phenomenal and it will become your go-to kitchen tool). Here’s the one I use, which I adore (click on the text and it will take you to Amazon where you can buy it): Fagor Splendid 4-quart Pressure Cooker.

Yummy Thai yellow curry with sweet potato and chickpeas over rice

Yummy Thai yellow curry with sweet potato and chickpeas

Serves: 6
From fridge to table: 20 minutes (if using pressure cooker)

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight (if using pressure cooker. For non-pressure cooker method, see notes below)
2 cans coconut milk
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1” cubes (if using pressure cooker. For non-pressure cooker method, see notes below)
1.5 cup tomatoes, chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp yellow curry paste* (it’s hard to find in stores, so click here to buy a really yummy one)
½ cup cilantro, minced
½ cup fresh basil, minced
2 tbsp MSG-free tamari soy sauce
a handful of roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
Cooked rice or millet

For the pressure cooker method:

Drain and rinse chickpeas. In your pressure cooker pan, combine all the ingredients except the basil, tamari, peanuts and rice/millet. Lock lid, then bring to high pressure over high heat. Lower the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 18 minutes. Use the quick-release method (by running cold water over the locked pressure cooker until the pressure comes down all the way). Remove lid, tilting it away from your face to let steam escape. Add the basil and tamari and mix well. Serve atop rice or millet and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

For the non-pressure cooker method:

Take the unpeeled sweet potato, prick with a fork and microwave until it’s slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Cool a bit, then peel and chop into 1” cubes.

Also, you’ll need to used cooked chickpeas – 3 cups (or roughly 2 cans) will work perfectly well.

In a large, deep sauté pan, sauté garlic and ginger in 1 tbsp of oil over medium heat. Cook until the garlic starts to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Add curry paste, tomatoes, cilantro, coconut milk and chickpeas. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add potatoes, then return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook at a low-boil for 12 minutes. To thicken the sauce and infuse more of the sweet potato flavor, break up some of the sweet potato chunks with the back of a fork. Then blend in the basil and tamari, serve over rice or millet and sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Enjoy!

Dancing Taste Buds: Indian-Inspired Tofu Curry

Mmm, street food! Wherever you go in Asia, you’re sure to find some of the best food from the hawkers on the street…if you’re bold enough to try it. You’ll find these vendors on busy street corners, on boats in crowded canals, and in bustling night markets with their steamy carts lit by luminaries. The crowds around the most popular vendors might just convince you to overlook the guy at the next cart selling deep fried crickets – blehk!

This fragrant coconut milk-based Indian-style tofu curry makes me think of warm Bombay nights and a exuberant Bollywood movies bursting with vibrant tropical colors, smiles and dancing. It’s a delicious, thick, filling curry that’s oh so satisfying! And the tofu packs this dish with protein. It’s so rich that meat-eaters love it, as do vegans! And the chef in your family will like it too since it’s so easy and quick to make. I like to make this on my Bollywood dancing night – yes, I take a Bollywood dance class and I flipping love it! (You don’t believe me, do you? Well this is a photo of our last performance – that’s me on the bottom left.) The music is so happy and the choreography is so fun that I can’t help but laugh through the whole class. I have yet to get John to do a little Bollywood dance with me, but I’m persistent. One day, I swear I’ll get him to gyrate to a tabla beat!

I’ve adapted this from a recipe by the wonderful cookbook author, Andrea Nguyen. You can use regular curry powder, but if you have Madras curry, this dish really comes alive and adds a spicy kick that’s sure to make your taste buds dance!

Indian-Inspired Tofu Curry

Serves: 4
From fridge to table: about 15-20 minutes

2-3 tbsp canola or grapeseed oil
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
14-16 oz. firm tofu cut into thin domino-sized/shaped pieces
1/2 tsp salt (I like using smoked sea salt – it adds so much depth, it’s delicious)
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup sliced bamboo shoots (drained and rinsed)
1.5 tsp curry powder, preferably Madras curry
2 tsp light brown sugar
2-3 small heads baby bok choy, cut into 1″ pieces
1/2 cup asparagus tips, sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh Asian-style herbs. Any of the following works great with this dish: mint, cilantro or basil. (Confession: I used all three and it was fabulous!)

Cooked rice, or cooked noodles (soba or udon are great with this)

If you have time, do this step with the tofu since it creates an interesting texture, but if you don’t have time, you can skip it: put tofu in a wide, shallow bowl. Mix in 1 tsp salt with 2 cups very hot water and pour over tofu. Let sit for 15 minutes, then drain and let sit on paper towels for 15 minutes.

Heat oil in large non-stick saucepan over medium heat. Fry shallots until lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and saute 2-3 minutes until light and crisp. Add curry powder. Remove solid ingredients from pan and set aside, but don’t clean the pan. Add a little more oil and then saute the tofu, turning once, until golden – about 4-5 minutes. It won’t get crispy, but it’ll get golden around the edges.

Add the shallot mixture to the pan again, and add coconut milk, salt, bamboo shoots and brown sugar. Bring to simmer and cook 2-3 minutes. Add bok choy and asparagus and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with chopped herbs.  Serve with either rice or atop noodles. Then rejoice as your taste buds dance!

Warming the Soul: African Curried Coconut Soup with Chickpeas

This divine, filling, utterly delicious creamy curried soup takes me back to Kenya when we arrived fresh off the plane at the stately ivy-covered English-style Giraffe Manor, which sits on the grounds of a preserve they created for endangered Rothschild giraffes. Expecting Africa to be hot, John and I were stunned to be shivering in our shorts and t-shirts. No matter how cold I was, I was not going inside until I fulfilled my dream of having a giraffe wrap his two-foot-long tongue around my head. But the kind chef noticed my goosebumps, urged me to come inside and made me a soul-warming, exotically spiced vegan coconut soup with chickpeas to thaw me from the inside out.  That soup was a miracle – it was like being wrapped in a velvet-lined fluffy jacket and was just what both John and I needed. While hungrily devouring it, an elegant mama giraffe stuck her head through a large open window, put her face next to my cheek and while locking my gaze with her medallion-sized eye,  she gracefully stretched her enormously long black tongue past my face to slyly scoop up some sliced fruit on a plate beside me. (When I saw her snake-sized tongue up close, I was rather glad that my tongue-wrapped-head dream didn’t come true.)  As awed as I was by her presence and her comfort with me, I found myself instinctively protecting my bowl of soup – yep, that’s how good it was!

I was so happy to find a very similar tasting soup in this recipe from the The Tropical Vegan Kitchen cookbook. I’ve modified it just a tiny bit to more closely approximate that divine soup that I had at the Giraffe Manor. It’s thick and filling enough to be a main dish, but can also be a great starter for seriously hungry people.

I am IN LOVE with this soup – its mellow curry flavor, the perfect way that the rice and tomatoes compliment the coconut milk, and the interesting flavors that warm my memories and my soul with each bite. Every time I have this soup, I half expect to feel giraffe breath on my neck, and I can’t help but protect my bowl…but this time it’s from John who likes this soup as much as I do. I hope you like it as well!

African Curried Coconut Soup with Chickpeas

From fridge to table: about 25 minutes
Serves: 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalepeno pepper, seeded and chopped
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 15oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1.5 cups chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
3 tsp curry powder
1 tsp smoked sea salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 14oz can coconut milk
3/4 cup cooked basmati rice
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

In a stockpot, heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and japeleno; cook, stirring, until softened – about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir constantly for 1 minute. Add the broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, curry powder, salt and black pepper. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until heated through, about 4 minutes. Serve hot. Close eyes and imagine eating your soup with a giraffe standing next to you, possibly about to lick you and/or your bowl. 🙂

Crazy for Thai Red Curry (vegan-style!)

Is it unhealthy to be head-over-heals in love with a meal? Before you call for an emergency psych consult and fit me for a tight fitting jacket with extra long arms, let me explain my infatuation with Thai red curry. See, it’s the meal that has it all! First of all, it only takes *15 minutes* to prepare, start to finish! The silky smooth sauce has luscious savory-sweet flavors with just the right amount of spicy heat. It’s rich enough to satisfy the most hardened carnivore. The flavors of the sauce blossom in your mouth, and since it’s thick, it’s easy to hide lots of healthy vegetables in it. And the addition of pineapple also adds a surprising, sweet burst of flavor to keep your palate interested with every bite.

Thanks to jarred Thai red curry paste, this is my go-to dish when I’m feeling really lazy but we still want to eat a delectable, flavorful meal. When I want to mix it up a bit, I sub in Thai green curry paste for the red curry, which has a mellower, earthier and equally alluring flavor that’s a little less spicy. And yes, it’s carnivore tested and carnivore approved: John loves Thai curry! He likes it so much that sometimes I can sneak in a handful of tofu cubes without him noticing, which is cause for much rejoicing. So can you blame me for being crazy about Thai red curry?!

(Well, you might still want to have me committed when you read the story about my attempt to make red curry paste from scratch, which is below the recipe).

Cimeron’s Vegan Version of Thai Red Curry

From prep to plate: 15 minutes!

Serves: 3 big eaters, or 4 people who have had an appetizer

1 – 14 oz. can coconut milk (note: do NOT use light coconut milk as it’s too watery for this dish)
1/2 tbsp – 1 tbsp “Thai Kitchen” Thai red curry paste (which you can find at most Safeways, and even at some Targets – see photo at bottom of post. Adjust the amount of curry paste based on your taste and how much heat you want in the dish)
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable broth
7 shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped into 1-2″ pieces
1/2 cup pineapple, cubed
1/2 cup baby corn (if you think they’re freaky, feel free to sub in sugar snap peas or another veg)
1/2 cup asparagus, chopped into 2-3″ pieces
3/4 cup fresh basil, torn
small handful of tofu, cubed (optional)

Cooked rice (I prefer basmati since it’s so fragrant and has a lovely hint of nuttiness)

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, blend the coconut milk and red curry paste until the paste is fully integrated and the coconut milk turns pinkish red. Once it’s heated through, add the salt, brown sugar and broth. Stir and bring to gentle boil. Add the mushrooms, red bell pepper, tofu and pineapple, stir well and cook for a few minutes. Test the mushrooms – when they’re soft, add the baby corn, asparagus and basil. Cook just until the asparagus is tender but still crisp in the middle. In a bowl, serve atop rice and prepare yourself for a loud chorus of “omm nom nom nom!”

Note: The pineapple and shitake mushrooms really add a lot of flavor, depth and a unique flavor to this dish, so I think those are pretty essential. However, you can swap out some of the other veggies for your favorites, like broccoli and sugar snap peas.  Get crazy!

When I was in Thailand a couple of years ago, I sampled Thai red curry at 16 different restaurants in all parts of the country and it tasted just a little different each time. At a tiny restaurant tucked behind a Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai, I asked an ancient, nearly toothless cook to teach me how to make her version of it. She grinned so wide that her two teeth sparkled in the light of her cooking fire as she gleefully handed me smoked chilis, fragrant galangal (a relative of ginger), lemongrass stalks, kaffir lime leaves, and a stone bowl in which to grind the ingredients for her curry paste. With a playful, friendly monkey watching over me from a nearby rain tree, I started off strong, but after 20 minutes, my arms felt like they’d caught fire. After 40 minutes, my hand was blistered and I’m pretty sure the monkey was laughing at me. After 60 minutes, the monkey was openly mocking me and I declared this to be an insane and potentially crippling endeavor. After 61 minutes, I decided that Thai red curry paste out of a jar is one of the best inventions of our time and I thanked my lucky stars that I could buy it at just about any Safeway in the U.S. And after you try this Thai red curry recipe and see how easy, delicious and fast it is, you’ll be doing the same!