This curry is based around one of the first curries I ever had: Thai Pumpkin Curry with Chicken. It was rich with coconut milk, tender with big chunks of pumpkin, chewy with pieces of chicken, aromatic with kaffir lime leaves & lemongrass, complex with fish sauce, and spiced with peppers from curry paste. Our curry doesn’t stray far from that formula.
If you’ve been following this blog since the pre-historic days (aka September of 2016) then you’ll no doubt remember our Curry Month, in which we dove deep into different curry histories, dishes, and cooking methods (several of which were Thai). If you were around for our green curry, red curry, or Panang curry then you know that we take curry seriously; we did our research and took every precaution possible to ensure that we aren’t stepping on the traditions of Thai chefs. To put it plainly, this isn’t a curry-inspired soup – it’s a freakin’ curry. Maybe not as good as the one from that Thai place down the street, but definitely the best one you’ll find from an American recipe-blog.
Okay, so how does one make a good curry? The good news is that the process is fairly easy – there’s a reason they only take 10 minutes at many restaurants. First, all the ingredients are prepared, then they’re all added to a wok at different stages in the cooking process, which doesn’t take any longer than 20 minutes! In my eyes, a good curry is all about timing, because you want to ensure vegetables and other fillings go in at the right time so that they’re perfectly cooked when the curry’s finished.
As far as fillings go, we wanted to keep the focus on our star ingredient: winter squash, in our case: acorn squash. Albeit, most winter squashes cook for similar amounts of time and have similar flavors, so you can also use fresh pumpkin, kabocha, or butternut squash. Aside from aromatics, the only other fillings we added was broccoli, for it’s bright flavor & crunch, and strips of vegan chicken for it’s chewy texture.
I know what you’re thinking: “VEGAN CHICKEN ISN’T TRADITIONAL.” To which I respond “you’re darn straight,” but vegan meats are actually common among Thai restaurants, especially ones that are vegetarian focused. Because Thai culture is heavily intertwined with Buddhism, many Thai folks practice veganism – an important element in certain sects of Buddhism – which led Thailand to be one of the first cultures to start engineering vegan meats from plants. For this reason, the vegan meat industry actually took off in areas where Buddhism was prominent long before it ever made its way to the states. All of this to say: yeah, vegan chicken wouldn’t have been used 100 years ago, but I’m not the only one incorporating soy meat into traditional dishes.
Aaannyywwwaaayysss, now that we got that over with, what would any self-respecting curry be without rice? Certainly not one worth having. See, Thai curries are meant to be eaten alongside rice. In fact, the liquid in curry isn’t so much “soup” as it is “sauce,” and that sauce is perfect when absorbed by fluffy, white Jasmine rice. Or should I say, fluffy, BLACK Jasmine rice.
Okay, we may have mixed charcoal with our rice to fit the theme of the month, but you certainly don’t have to do that… Unless you like being cool, in which case you should totally do it.
All in all this curry is:
- Fragrant with kaffir lime, lemongrass, and Thai basil
- Seasoned with vegan fish sauce and yellow curry paste
- Savory, subtly sweet, and mildy-spicy
- Rich, creamy, tender, chewy, and crisp
- The perfect Thai dish for Fall’s chilly weather
- Vegan and gluten-free
If you like what your tastebuds are tellin’ ya, leave behind a nice rating, share your thoughts with us in the comments, or show us your creations by tagging @noeggsorham on Instagram.
Curry On Your Wayward Son,
Thai Winter Squash Curry (vegan & gluten-free)
Fragrant, rich, and comforting yellow curry focused on Fall's favorite fruit with an identity crisis: winter squash. Served alongside charcoal infused coconut Jasmine rice.
- 10 oz cubed & peeled squash (1/2 a medium acorn squash)
- 1/2 head of broccoli, cut into medium florets
- 10 strips of vegan chicken, cut in half (about 8 oz)*
- 1 1/2 cups coconut cream*
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsps yellow or red curry paste*
- 2 tbsps packed Thai basil leaves
- 1 tbsp vegan fish sauce
- 2 kaffir lime leaves
- 1/2 tsp lemongrass, minced
Charcoal Infused Coconut Jasmine Rice
- 1 c white jasmine rice, rinsed
- 1 1/4 c water
- 1/2 c coconut cream
- 1/2 tbsp activated charcoal
- In a medium pot, stir rinsed rice with charcoal to coat the grains. Stir in water & coconut cream and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as a boil’s achieved, clamp on a lid and cook over very low heat for 17 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit – without stirring or removing the lid – for at least 10 minutes. Keep aside until ready to serve.
- To prepare squash, cut in half down the middle and scoop out the seeds. Cut one of the halves into slices about 1-inch thick, cut each slice in half horizontally, then use your knife to cut the skin off, preserving as much of the meat as possible. Once peeled, cut each slice into chunks about 1-inch thick. Use 10 ounces of prepared squash (about 1/2 a medium squash).
- Add 1 cup of coconut milk and all of the curry paste to a medium-large wok (or large high walled sauté pan) over medium-high heat. Whisk until the curry paste is mostly smooth and liquid begins to simmer; about 3 minutes.
- Add in diced squash, water, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and the rest of the coconut cream. Cook at a heavy simmer over medium to medium-high heat for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in broccoli, vegan chicken, fish sauce, and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Stir in Thai Basil and cook for another 2 minutes. At this point, use a fork to check the tenderness of the squash and broccoli. Squash should yield to a fork without being mushy and broccoli should be snappy without being raw. If necessary, cook for a few more minutes.
- Serve while fresh alongside rice! Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in a pot with a splash of water over medium heat until heated through.
*Here’s two great vegan chicken options that are readily accessible: 1. Grilled Beyond Meat Chicken Strips and 2. Gardein Teriyaki Chick’n Strips. Gardein’s comes with a Teriyaki sauce packet, but the chicken is separate and only lightly seasoned, as is Beyond Meat’s. Both can be found at various Whole Foods, Sprouts, and other health-centric markets around the US.
*If using coconut milk in place of coconut cream, up the amount to 2 cups and reduce water down to 1/2 cup. Also be sure to use full-fat coconut milk; carton or light coconut milk aren’t rich enough for this application.
*Aroy-D and Chef’s Choice are two Thai brands that sell curry pastes, most of which are vegan, in many Oriental markets. I find that curry paste from Thai Kitchen, found in most Whole Foods, is too spicy and loaded with salt that it overwhelms every other flavor in the dish before you even taste the aromatics. If you can’t find an Asian brand of curry paste that’s vegan, your best would be to make your own: homemade red curry paste or homemade yellow curry paste.