I had a pile of candlenuts sitting around the kitchen for a while, as they are key to many Malaysian dishes, but I had never used them. Their primary function is to thicken curry-type sauces, so I decided to throw together a Thai and Malaysian-inspired vegetable curry with a bunch of stuff I had sitting around. I used eggplants and potatoes, as they were what I had, but you could put just about any vegetables or meat in this and it would turn out fine. If you can’t find some of the ingredients, just leave them out – there’s so many things going on in here, that even if you drop some ingredients, you still have enough flavors in there to come out with something pretty delicious.
- 3 Japanese eggplants, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 4 medium potatoes (Yukon Gold or others), cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 yellow onions, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 candlenuts
- 1 stalk lemongrass, sliced thinly
- 1 thumb ginger (around 1.5 inches), peeled and sliced thinly
- 1 thumb fresh turmeric (around 1 inch), peeled and sliced thinly
- 4 cayenne chili peppers (or serrano), halved and seeds removed
- 2 bird's eye chili peppers, halved
- 3 shallots, halved
- 4 curry leaves
- 2 kaffir lime leaves
- 2 pieces star anise
- 1 pandan leaf
- 1 cup coconut cream
- 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
- 4 kalamansi limes, juiced
Toast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and black pepper in a pan, then grind in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.
In a blender, combine, the ground spices with the garlic, candlenuts, lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, both chili peppers, the shallots and puree until smooth. Add a bit of water if necessary to get it all to puree together.
In a medium-sized sauce pot, sweat the onions about 5 minutes in the canola oil over medium heat, just until they start to brown.
Add the spice paste from the blender, and turn the heat up to heat. Add the star anise, curry leaves, kaffir leaves, and pandan leaf. Crumple the pandan leaf or tie it in a loose knot before adding it, to help release its flavor. Cook the curry paste until the water has cooked out and the paste is starting to dry out and toast. Stir frequently to prevent burning.
Add the coconut cream, fish sauce, eggplant, potatoes and enough water to cover the vegetables. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through and the curry has thickened. Just before serving, stir in the lime juice.
Serve with rice - sticky rice or Jasmine rice ideally, though any will do - and garnish with a few sprigs of cilantro.