When I was in graduate school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I frequented a restaurant called Twisted Noodles that served all kinds of Thai and Asian fusion dishes. The thing that kept me going back was their Panang curry with tofu — it was absolutely perfect. Sweet, rich, and spicy, served with crispy tofu. I have dreams about this stuff, seriously.
After I moved back to Central Pennsylvania, I searched high and low for a curry that made me crazy like that one. I’ve found some good curries, for sure, but none like the one I loved at Twisted Noodles.
So, what do I do in that situation? I make my own.
But here’s the thing — my Panang curry tastes almost nothing like the Twisted Noodles curry. If it did, I would probably gain two hundred pounds thanks to full-fat coconut milk and fried tofu. This dish is great because it’s easy to make, it’s light enough to eat once a week, and it packs a familiar Thai punch. I’ve been testing this recipe out for a few months now, and it’s finally reached a point that I’m happy with.
A few things worth noting:
- I use Maesri Panang Curry Paste, which I get for under $4 at an international supermarket
- My curry recipe is adapted from this recipe at Exploring Life’s Mysteries
- You can use any vegetables you like — my standards are green beans, red bell pepper, and mushrooms. Usually, I just add whatever I have in my refrigerator
- For a more decadent dish, use coconut cream in lieu of coconut milk
If you’re a curry fiend like I am, then this is definitely worth a try. It’s light and delicious, and a staple in our household!
Adapted from Exploring Life’s Mysteries
- 1 block extra firm tofu, preferably organic
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1.5 cups green beans (I used frozen)
- 5 oz. mushrooms, preferably baby portabellas
- 1.5 tbsp Panang curry paste
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 can lite coconut milk
- 5 kaffir lime leaves
- 1/3 cup fresh Thai basil leaves
- Prepared brown rice, for serving
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Drain your tofu and cut into small chunks. Spread them onto a lined cookie sheet (I use a silicone mat) and bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden and crispy. While it is cooking, prepare your rice and curry.
- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Chop up your garlic and add to the heated oil, cooking until golden.
- Meanwhile, begin chopping your vegetables. Start with the hardiest — in this case, bell pepper — and add to the pan as you chop them into bite-size pieces. My frozen beans were already clean, so I snapped them in half and added them to the bell pepper. Once your hardy vegetables have been added, cover the pot with a lid and allow them to steam.
- While your peppers and beans are cooking, chop your mushrooms into bite-size chunks. When they are ready, add them to the pot and cover, cooking until tender.
- Move your vegetables to the outer edge of your pot, leaving a well in the center. Add your curry paste and allow to cook for sixty seconds, breaking it up with your spoon. Next, add your brown sugar and salt, and mix them into the paste, allowing to cook for another sixty seconds.
- Add the coconut milk, one can full of water, and the kaffir lime leaves. Stir everything together and cover. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until boiling, then reduce to simmer. At this point, you can simmer the curry covered for as long as you would like, or a minimum of 5 minutes. I generally continue to simmer until my rice is cooked and my tofu is out of the oven.
- When tofu is golden, remove from the cookie sheet and place in bowls. Top with curry sauce-and-vegetable-mix. Serve alongside brown rice and pair with sriracha if desired.
Without tofu | Servings: 4 | Serving size: 1 cup | Calories: 123 | Fat: 6 g | Carbohydrates: 15 g | Fiber: 4 g | Protein: 2 g
With tofu | Servings: 4 | Serving size: 1 cup curry sauce + 1/4 block tofu | Calories: 248 | Fat: 13 g | Carbohydrates: 16 g | Fiber: 4 g | Protein: 17 g