I’ve always known that I love curry, but I didn’t realize just how much until Travis, Nolan, and I visited my sister and her husband in Japan this past June. In addition to traditional Japanese fare, the streets are sprinkled with tiny, authentic Indian restaurants, serving many varieties of curry with chewy naan. Travis, Petra, Craig, and I decided that we really needed to check out these curry joints; the chefs there must be doing something right if there is just as much curry available in Tokyo as sushi and ramen.
Thus, we embarked on what we lovingly named The 2013 Curry Crawl. We sampled curry from six different Indian establishments over the course of two days, with one day of rest in the middle (curry can be intense, ya’ll). We even found a bakery that sold savory curry-stuffed donuts! Yes, it’s true, and boy were they delicious! Here you can see me and Petra, members of the Curry Crawl Clean Plate Club, and the donuts.
Vegetarian curry was easy to find, but vegan curry? Not so much. While coconut milk is a typical base for the creamy curry sauce, many places use heavy cream or milk. Being lactose intolerant, I knew pretty quickly when I had just wolfed down a cream-based curry rather than the preferred coconut milk variety. Uh oh… 🙂
Full and inspired, I knew I had to come back to Arizona and perfect my own totally vegan curry dish. I experimented with different vegetable and bean combinations, plant milks, and spice levels, and think I just may have figured this out. I discovered that there really is no ideal recipe since I like so many different flavors and because different people prefer their curry differently: sweet, spicy, mild, thick, soupy, etc. Thus, vegetable curry (now under Square Meal Formulas) lends itself perfectly to my Fresh Formula model.
When I’m making this dish—which Travis claims is the best vegetable curry he’s ever had, just sayin’—I throw together whatever vegetables and beans I have on hand and have a unique experience every time. I keep the spice blend and sauce thickness consistent, since to me, that’s what makes my curry, my curry.
Before we get started, I have pictured here an actual sweet potato, since that is what I am using in today’s recipe. If you didn’t already know, while some varieties of sweet potatoes may be orange inside, the orange guys you find in the grocery store may actually be yams, with the true sweet potatoes being pale yellow inside. Does it matter? Yes! Sweet potatoes are higher in protein and fiber than yams and a mega source of vitamin A. While both are extremely nutritious, sweet potatoes have an edge. Just something to consider the next time you are in charge of these starches next Thanksgiving.
Finally, don’t forget to thoroughly wash your vegetables before peeling and chopping. Remember, you can collect the clean scraps in a large bowl in the freezer to make into homemade veggie stock later on. 🙂 On to the curry!
FORMULA BASE: VEGGIE CURRY
- 2 cups grains + 4 cups cooking liquid –> I’m using short grain brown rice, which I’m cooking in my homemade veggie stock.
- 2 cups cooked beans –> I’m using garbanzo beans (AKA chickpeas).
- 1 cup raw nuts –> I’m using cashews.
- 5-6 cups chopped vegetables –> I’m using 1 medium sweet potato, 2 small carrots, 1 medium zucchini, ½ cup each corn and peas, and ½ of a small yellow onion.
- 2 cups plant milk –> I’m using 1 cup each of coconut and almond milk. (Although I’ve never sampled a curry where I could actually taste the coconut flavor, which I don’t like, I always still err on the side of caution and mix plant milks. :))
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 3 tbsp curry powder –> The premixed stuff is too spicy for me, so I combine 1 tbsp garam masala, ½ tbsp each of cumin and turmeric, ¼ tsp of ground nutmeg, and ½ tsp of pink Himalayan sea salt and adjust while cooking as my taste buds see fit. If you like it spicy, use a premixed curry powder (beware of added salt) which will likely already carry some heat and add cayenne pepper to taste.
- ½ tbsp agave syrup (optional) –> I’m using it. I may consider using more if I weren’t included a sweet potato in the mix.
- 1 tbsp oil (to prevent cooking vegetables from sticking to the pan) –> I’m using coconut oil.
Rinse your grains and place in a rice cooker or stove top pot with their cooking liquid. Set to medium low heat and cover, stirring occasionally. The grains are done when all of the liquid has been absorbed. Cooking times will vary. Brown rice takes 25-35 minutes, depending on the variety and whether or not it is cooking in a rice cooker or on the stove.
Dry toast the nuts in a large sauté pan over medium high heat for 3-5 minutes, or until lightly golden, tossing frequently.
The nuts will darken in color throughout the entire cooking process. While you’re waiting for the nuts to brown, chop up your longest-cooking veggie(s). For me, these are the sweet potato and the carrots, which I am peeling before chopping.
When the nuts have browned slightly, add your oil to the pan, along with your longest-cooking veggie(s). Sauté for about 5 minutes before adding your milk, garlic, agave syrup, and spices. Turn the heat down to medium to reduce the milk for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, continue to chop all of your veggies. After the 15 minutes, add them to the mix from longest cook time to shortest; my last addition will be the garbanzo beans (rinse and drain if necessary) and frozen peas and corn since they simply need to heat through. Stir your vegetables often to ensure they aren’t sticking to the bottom of your sauté pan, but are still being exposed to the heat.
Cook times will vary depending on the vegetables selected. This version of my curry formula takes just under an hour. When your veggies are all cooked through or to your liking (I prefer them al dente), serve the curry over rice. Enjoy!