One of my favorite things about living in Seattle is the access we have to Asian food. There is Pho on every corner; Malaysian places with lines out the door; grocery stores that package up the freshest pre-cut sashimi you can imagine. I grew up in a prototypical small town on the east coast and that has always influenced my cooking. But Seattle has changed me. My pantry, which once predominantly featured varieties of dried pasta, herbs de Provence, canned tomatoes, etc., is now filled with coconut milk, curry blends, fish sauce, and mirin. My hot sauces have turned from Franks and Cholula to gochujang and sambal oelek. My vinegars from balsamic to rice wine.
How I cook is drastically different since I moved to the west coast—and my typical winter comfort foods have changed too. I used to bake heaps of pasta and simmer gallons of chicken soup through the cold months; now, my preference is batches of every color curry. Curry, which had always perplexed me previously, is now my favorite winter dish. It’s easy to make, highly customizable, and with a thoughtful pantry, you can have every ingredient you need at arms length. If I can master it—a woman from Maine who never even ate curry until she was well into her 20s—there’s no doubt you can, too.
Herby Cod Curry
There’s a simple formula to weeknight curry, one that you can embellish as you like. The key is this: Always have onion, ginger, garlic, curry blend, and coconut milk on hand. The rest is interchangeable. This particular recipe uses lots of fresh green herbs, green vegetables, green curry paste, and fish. Want to use chicken? Just brown it first, remove it from the pan, and follow the same steps as you would for fish. Vegetarian? Use chickpeas! Only have red curry powder or garam masala? That sounds delicious. I included some helpful tips for customizing below.
Time: 30 minutes
Active Time: 30 minutes
Drink: Let’s keep this green theme going: Sancerre, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, or Gruner Veltliner.
1. Mise en place
Things move quickly once you get started, so it’s best to get all of your ingredients ready in advance.
Mince your onion, thinly slice your garlic, grate your ginger. Pick your herb leaves off the stems, keep them separate, and roughly chop them both. Open your coconut milk can and pour it into a medium bowl. Whisk to incorporate the solids into the liquid. Wash your kale, remove the leaves from the ribs, and roughly chop the leaves. Quarter your lime. Thinly slice both Serrano peppers, but keep them separate.
Okay, now you’re ready to rock.
2. Sweat the onions
Heat a glug of coconut oil—or whatever oil you have on hand that you like to cook with—over medium-low. Once the pan is hot, cook the onions for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.
Note: They will not caramelize in this amount of time—caramelization takes much, much longer—but they should be soft and smell delicious when you move to the next step.
3. Add aromatics
Bring the heat up to medium and add garlic, ginger, the stems of your dill and cilantro, and one Serrano pepper, and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Add curry paste
Cook for 1-2 minutes, until very fragrant.
5. Add coconut milk
Pour in the whisked coconut milk and scrape any bits off the bottom of the pan. Then, add a full can’s worth of water. Simmer the whole mixture for five minutes to reduce slightly. Add more curry powder if needed.
6. Add veggies and fish
Add the kale leaves and stir as they wilt. Stir in pea pods, followed by the fish. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 5–7 minutes, or until the fish is opaque and flakes easily.
7. Dry toast your peanuts in a small pan while your curry cooks
Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add shelled peanuts. Cook until the nuts smell toasty and deepen in color, tossing frequently to prevent burning.
Serve with brown rice and top with additional Serrano pepper, lime wedges, cilantro and dill leaves, and greek yogurt.
Um, excuse me?
So, tell me more about using a different meat.
This curry would be really excellent with just about anything. If you’re going to use chicken or pork , just make sure to brown the meat first—it builds more flavor, and takes out any fear you may have of raw meat curry.
After your prep work is done, cut your meat into two-inch chunks and brown it in oil over medium-high heat. Then, remove it from the pan, set it aside for later, wipe out the pan, and continue with step two. Add the meat back in when you would add the fish. (PSST: You can do the same thing with tofu, too!) If you want to use chickpeas, just add them at the same time you add your vegetables.
I want to use fish, but I only have salmon.
That’s fine! Seriously, almost any sea creature would be good here. Shrimp, salmon, halibut, clams, mussels. Follow your heart.
Can I switch out the vegetables?
Definitely. Just maker sure to account for their cooking time. Kale and snow peas will cook quickly alongside your fish. If you use potatoes and broccoli, you’ll need a longer cooking time before you add something as delicate as cod.
What do you mean by curry blend?
Curry isn’t a spice on its own, it’s a blend of spices. This recipe works with a curry powder or curry paste—green, red, yellow, whatever. 1 TBS of paste equals roughly 2 TBS of powder. If you don’t have either at your house, try out a blend of any of the following: turmeric, cardamon, coriander, cumin, mustard powder, cayenne, cinnamon.
This has a lot of liquid—how do I make it less saucy?
You can reduce the liquid more before adding your vegetables and fish.