Enjoy the Seasons
When I drove along Lake Washington toward Seward Park to my friend’s house the other day, the beauty of the drive blew me away. It was one of those rare random days of beautiful Seattle weather that exist just to tease you. I decided to stop and capture the pictures in front of me and ended up arriving fifteen minutes late at my friend’s. I asked her for forgiveness, showing her a dozen photos on my camera. She gave me a pardon. I hope you will enjoy the holiday seasons despite how busy your life is. Like the Thai say, “Sanuk.” It means to have fun.
Many Bowls of Soup
I am lucky that many friends have pampered me with many hearty soups this winter. While savoring these soups, I came up with a plan to create delicious soups to share with you. By playing around with foods during the month of December, I rediscovered some connections among the different Asian cuisines. I enjoyed the process of how this soup came about. I hope you enjoy the story and the process of making Curried Sweet Potato with Curry Leaf Soup. I hope you will be courageous and look for curry leaves in an Asian market then have a successful adventure making this soup. Happy Holidays to you all!
Curry leaf is used in Malaysian, Southern and West Coast Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine. It tastes and smells like curry powder, though more delicate and aromatic. It is available fresh at many Asian markets in the Seattle area. Thai cuisine doesn’t usually incorporate curry leaves; Kaffir lime leaves are usually more dominant. In fact, it was only a few months ago that I actually saw curry leaves being used in cooking. The first time was when I was a guest at a Malaysian cooking lesson given by my girlfriend’s mother in-law. She demonstrated her family’s secret recipe for Malaysian Chicken Curry with Curry Leaf. Then in November I took an Indian cooking class from Raghavan Iyear, an IACP associate and the author of 660 Curries. During the class, Iyear said “Use curry leaf in anything just like bay leaf, but do use a fresh one, otherwise don’t use it at all. There is nothing left in a dry curry leaf.” He then demonstrated using generous amounts of fresh curry leaves in the recipe Basmati Rice with Yogurt and Mustard Seeds from his cookbook.
After those two experiences I was crazy about the flavor of the aromatic curry leaf (Murraya Koenigii). Since then I have had a package of curry leaves in my freezer waiting for its moment. Freezing is another way to preserve the delicate essential oil in the leaf.
The other night, when I cooked yellow chicken curry for my family, instead of using a regular potato, I used a sweet potato. At home I often improvise, and this time I was glad I did. It turned out to be a delicious yellow chicken curry. When I was looking for frozen Kaffir lime leaves, I thought of the curry leaves. Though the Thai don’t use curry leaves, Yellow Curry (or Gaeng Kari in Thai) is in fact a Thai version of Indian curry. Malaysian Chicken Curry also shows the strong influence of Indian Curry. Then I saw the whole connection: Malaysian Chicken Curry itself is similar to Thai yellow curry. Just before serving yellow curry to my family, I imitated my friend’s mother in-law and placed 6 curry leaves in my left palm. Then then with my right, I roughed them back and forth before dropping the leaves into a boiling curry that was about 5 minutes from being ready to serve. (The other way that Iyear incorporated the curry in the cooking class was by adding the leaves to hot oil along with other dry whole spices to intensify the flavor, then allowing the simmering process to extract the delicate perfume and flavor.)
Curried Sweet Potato Soup with Curry Leaf
Curried Sweet Potato Soup with Curry Leaf Recipe
When you have curry paste, curry powder and curry leaves as staple ingredients in your kitchen, this dish is so easy to prepare. A small amount of oil to fry the curry paste, curry powder and curry leaves helps the natural essential oil and the flavors to bloom. Pay attention and put patience to this step – allow the fragrance to develop and the oil to separate. Then the rest is easy. There is no need to use a large amount of coconut milk, use just enough to give a nice flavor to the curry. If the soup is a little too spicy, increase the coconut milk or next time you can reduce the amount of red curry paste. I use just a little coconut milk in this recipe, cutting back further on coconut milk may effect the flavor and the balance of this curry. I consider this a hearty winter soup with big flavor.
Serves: 6 (yields about 5 cups)1 tablespoon canola oil 1/2 cup coconut milk, divided 2 to 3 teaspoons red curry paste 1 tablespoon Madras curry powder 12 curry leaves, divided 1 large onion, peeled and diced 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced 1 (32-ounce) box Pacific Natural Food Free Range Chicken Broth 1/4 teaspoon fish sauce
In a large pot, heat canola oil, 1/4 cup coconut milk, red curry paste, Madras curry powder and 6 curry leaves on medium-high heat; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in diced onions until they become translucent, about 3 minutes. Add sweet potato and chicken broth; bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium, and with the lid on, let it cook until the onion and sweet potato are softened, about 30 to 40 minutes. Stir in fish sauce and 1/4 cup coconut milk, stir for 30 seconds, then remove from the burner. Use an immersion blender or a tabletop blender to puree the soup. Serve in a soup bowl and garnish with curry leaves.