Always in the mood for Asian flavors, I recently pulled out my well-worn, go-to cookbook for Chinese food, none other than Sunset’s aptly named Chinese Cookbook. It is a sliver of a book compared to many of the tomes out there but it is packed with dependable recipes. This is one of the few cookbooks I owned before marriage so it is a golden oldie in my collection. The spotted and stained pages testify to its frequent use.
The curry recipe from this beloved book was part of my repertoire when my kids were younger. But, somewhere along the way it got pushed aside as I played with Thai and Indian curries…and then eventually forgotten, until recently.
The recipe is said to have originated in the Sichuan region of China, which may come as a surprise as curry is not often associated with Chinese cuisine. Sichuan province is located in the middle of China and has a semi-tropical climate conducive to growing chiles and coconuts which were most likely introduced via trade along the Silk Road. Travelers along this route, particularly from Burma and India, are said to have influenced Sichuan’s culinary scene.
This yellow curry is a little spicy, but doesn’t pack too much heat, and is a perfect complement to rice and veggies. I use madras curry powder which uses chiles less sparingly, but it is perfectly acceptable to use a milder curry powder.
The original directions call for chicken. However to satisfy my veggie diet,I split the recipe in half and do two versions-one with chicken breast for my husband, and one using tofu in place of the meat, for me. All other ingredients remain the same.
To round out the dinner consider serving the curry alongside steamed brown rice, sautéed or braised mustard greens with chopped garlic (maybe dressed lightly with hoisin sauce). sliced cucumbers spritzed with vinegar, and orange wedges.
Curried Coconut Tofu or Chicken
Adapted from Sunset’s Chinese Cookbook
14 ounces firm or extra firm organic tofu (or 1 1/2 lbs. chicken breast)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons dry sherry or Shaoxing rice wine
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash of white pepper
2 large organic yellow potatoes, peeled
1 large onion
1-2 tablespoons peanut oil (or another vegetable oil)
1-2 tablespoons curry powder (the heat of the curry powder you use will determine how hot the curry will taste)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup vegetable broth or water
2/3 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
Cut your tofu or chicken into 1 to 1½ inch pieces.
In a bowl, combine the cornstarch, sherry, sugar, salt and white pepper. Add the tofu or chicken to this mixture and toss lightly to coat. Set this aside for 15 minutes while you continue to prep. Cut potatoes into 1½-inch chunks. Chop the onion in 1/2-inch or wider wedges.
In a large frying pan or wok, heat a tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Stir in the potato and onion wedges, and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove the vegetables and set aside.
Heat the other tablespoon of oil. Add the tofu or chicken pieces and sauté, browning on all sides. Move the tofu or meat to the side of the pan and add the spices, stirring for about 30 seconds. Next add the potatoes and onions back to the pan. Follow with the vegetable broth and coconut milk. Add salt at this point or wait and taste the curry after the ingredients have had a chance to meld to determine how much salt you would like to add. I make my own broth so how I salt may be different than someone using a commercial broth.
Bring the ingredients to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue cooking for up to 15 minutes as the sauce thickens.
Serve hot with rice. Garnish with with chopped cilantro or provide small bowls of peanuts, chopped green onion, fresh cilantro and shredded unsweetened coconut so diners can garnish their own.
I have been known to add coarsely chopped red pepper and butternut squash cubes to the simmering stew. When doing so I also add more coconut milk and broth or water.