By Elena Johnson
On a recent trip to the Asian market, I found ingredients which inspired me to experiment and create some vegetarian Thai recipes. I wanted to try my hand at vegan versions of the dishes that I normally order at Thai restaurants – my all-time favorite being panang curry. Though many Thai recipes traditionally include fish sauce, meat, or chicken stock, they can be easily made without any animal ingredients while still maintaining the authentic flavors. The key is using authentic ingredients such as Thai basil and kaffir lime leaves.
Tofu is an excellent protein for this dish because it absorbs the pungent flavors of the panang curry sauce. I suggest using Maesri brand curry paste because it is made in Thailand and it’s vegetarian. If you can’t find that brand, simply read the ingredients to make sure the curry paste you’re choosing is free of fish sauce, anchovy, shrimp paste, or any other animal ingredients. This dish is rich and creamy, while also being spicy. Serve it with steamed rice for an entrée you’ll crave again and again.
Panang Curry Tofu
Freezing the tofu first gives it a chewier texture. Press the block of tofu to remove some of the moisture and then wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze overnight. Defrost the tofu and press out more of the moisture before using.
2 Tbsp. canola oil
14 oz. extra firm tofu, frozen and defrosted, then cut into 1 inch cubes
1 – 2 Tbsp. Maesri brand panang curry paste, depending on spice preference
28 oz. light coconut milk
3 medium carrots, thinly sliced on a bias
12 oz. green beans
5 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
1 cup Thai basil, finely chopped
1 – 2 Tbsp. soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos, to taste
1 – 2 tsp. palm sugar or brown sugar, to taste
Steamed rice for serving
Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Fry tofu in oil gently on all sides. Add curry paste, stir and heat until aromatic. Add coconut milk, carrot, and green beans. Stir well and simmer until vegetables are just tender and coconut milk has thickened. Turn off heat and stir in kaffir lime leaves and basil. Add soy sauce and sugar to taste. Serve with steamed rice.
About the Author
Elena Johnson is a second-generation Filipino American living in Baltimore, MD. As a vegan chef and caterer she has been reinventing her family’s recipes and sharing these vegetarian versions of Filipino comfort food with friends, relatives, and those unfamiliar with the flavors of the Philippines. Elena is also the Special Projects Manager at Compassion Over Killing, a national animal advocacy organization focusing on cruelty to animals in agriculture and promoting vegetarian eating as a way to build a kinder world for all. Elena combines her passion for vegetarian food with a love of teaching by offering cooking demonstrations to the public. To learn more about why she went veg, visit TryVeg.com. Questions/feedback: email firstname.lastname@example.org.