Yield
Serves 4–6 as part of a multi-course meal
Time
10 minutes + blanching time prep, 10 minutes cooking, 20 minutes + blanching time total

For fast suppers with sensational flavors, think Thai-style curries. Contrasts really fly in curries. For instance finish a curry of leftover chicken and roasted vegetables with a few chunks of pineapple and a lot of lime juice. Use this Winter Squash Curry as your basic formula and take off from there.

The basic makings are easy to have on hand, coconut milk and chiles, and of course you want a tub or jar of imported Thai curry paste.  Yes, Thai cooks use them; too, when they don’t have time to pull the together curry pastes’ laundry lists of ingredients. Red curry paste is usually robust and mild to hot; green is fresher, brighter and often hotter, and yellow is often the mildest with roasted spices and turmeric.

Commercial curry pastes hold in the refrigerator for six months and more. Two brands we’ve liked are Nittaya and Mae Ploy. The next one we’re trying is Hand curry pastes; the word on the street is they’re worth ordering online.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (700 g) winter squash (butternut squash, kabocha pumpkin, etc), diced
  • 4 tablespoons thick red curry paste
  • 3 cups (750 ml) coconut milk
  • One 16 oz (500 g) block firm tofu, drained, patted dry and cut into 1/2 in (1.25 cm) cubes
  • 4 tablespoons sliced long red chili
  • 1/4 cup (5 g) fresh Thai or Italian basil leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons palm or brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Cook the squash in boiling water until tender, about 4–5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the squash to an ice bath until cool. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, mix the curry paste and about 3/4 cup (65 ml) of the coconut milk. Cook for about 2–3 minutes over medium-high heat until fragrant.
  3. Add the squash and the remaining coconut milk. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes or until boiling.
  4. Add the tofu, chili, and Thai basil leaves. Stir ingredients carefully so as not to break the tofu. Stir in the salt and palm sugar. Dish out and serve immediately with jasmine rice.

Everyday Thai Cooking: Quick & Easy Family Style Recipes by Katie Chin, published by Tuttle Publishing (August 6, 2013). Recipe by Katie Chin, courtesy of Chef Hong Thaimee.