Seitan in peanut sauce curry

Posted: January 30, 2012 in vegan recipes

I’ve been studying for my certification exam, thus the echo on this blog.  One of the other things I wanted to do with seitan is re-crack my 20 year old Thai cookbook, by Jennifer Brennan.  When I ate meat twenty years ago, I made many experiments out of that book.  I lived in Chicago and had two Chinatowns to choose from….I got uncommon vegetables and spices relatively fresh, easy, and cheap.  Since I can now make seitan at home easily, I wanted to try one of the recipes I used to make.  I’ve had that in the back of my mind for months.

I had three problems:  1)  Every single recipe uses nam pla….fish sauce.  I solved this problem with Bragg’s Liquid Aminos.  I can’t say it has anything in common with real nam pla….it seems like soy sauce plus something I can’t identify.  But a vegan pan-Asian cookbook I have swears by it, so why not.

2)  Shrimp flakes.  More than anything, in Thai cooking, this is mostly sugar.  Still, I found one of my recipes without it.  I’m hoping to just drop that entirely.

3)  Curry paste.  I’m ruined forever by real Chinatown curry pastes.  I’ve never seen them in any grocery store where the labels are predominantly in English.  And I pay attention to this stuff.  I absolutely could NOT make anything out of this cookbook until I found a curry paste…curry swirls in coconut milk is the heart of the dish.  Bex and I recently found ourselves in Savory Spice Shop a few doors down from our coffeehouse.  Their curry powders smelled divine, but I was dubious.  The staff assured me that one part oil, one part water, and one part water would make curry paste.  I reasoned that their curry powders are just herbs and roots, like the curry paste I know.  I was willing to try.

I will type the original, and my changes.

source:  Jennifer Brennan’s The Original Thai Cookbook  (and I think she’s right in asserting that she’s the first to publish Thai recipes for home cooks)

vegan, gluten +++ (but this recipe is originally a chicken dish, so use that instead of seitan and you’re good)

  • 1″ piece ginger, chopped (or not)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped (or not)
  • 1 tsp curry paste (I used Savory’s Vietnamese Sweet Lemon curry 1tsp powder, 1tsp oil, 1tsp water)
  • 1/4 c coconut “cream” (happened to have 1/2c leftover coconut milk that had separated in the fridge…I drew off some of the water and used the denser cream.  I’m sure plain coconut milk is totally fine.)
  • 3 whole chicken breasts or two seitan loaves (I made 4 fresh today, but used up one I’d had frozen first)
  • 1/2 lb broccoli (I had a bell pepper that was wilting, and I threw that in too)
  • 3 green onions including tops, cut into 2″ lengths
  • 2 tbs vegetable or peanut oil (I went with grapeseed)
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried red chili powder (cayenne)
  • 3 tbsp chunky peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp fish sauce or Liquid Aminos
  • 3/4 c “thick” coconut milk (it’s a pain to have partial coconut milk in the fridge…I used one can of lite milk…if you only have one can of coconut milk for the whole recipe, you’re good)

In a food processor, process ginger, garlic and curry paste until smooth.  (Which is why you shouldn’t bother chopping up your garlic and ginger first.)  Add coconut “cream” and give the blade a few more turns.  Place your meat thing in a bowl.  Pour curry mix over it and marinade a half hour or so.

In a saucepan (or your wok), boil broccoli and green onions (and any other veggie you threw in) until your broccoli is that yummy bright green color.  Drain and set aside.  The recipe says, “Drain well and place on a heated platter.” Dry wok (I did this by setting it back on the burner for a moment), and heat oil in it, then fry onion until soft and golden.  Add meat thing and marinade and stir fry until golden.  This is easy to do, as I remember, with chicken.  Seitan doesn’t brown in the same way, but it does get a little crispy.  Add remaining ingredients, stir to coat the meat thing well and continue until a thick sauce has formed and the meat thing is tender.

The recipe says, “Lift the chicken pieces and lay on the warmed bed of greens.  Pour the sauce over and serve.”  I dumped my veggies into the wok and coated them a little with the sauce.  Then I put my curry over joe basic rice.

First, I will tell you that the recipe was successful.  Seitan works beautifully in this curry, and the texture of the sauce came out great.  The ratio of vegetables to meat thing was good, and just the right amount of sauce to flavor but not drench everything.

And now I will tell you that the Savory Spice people lied.  This curry is flavorful, but my heart and taste buds cry out for a real pop-you-in-the-mouth-with-flavor curry.  It’s not about heat, it’s about intensity of flavor.  I want to taste lemongrass and galangal and more ginger and chili and maybe tamarind dangit.  There’s no chili oils beading in little places in my coconut milk, and this makes me sad.  Yes, it was a mild powder I tried, but it’s barely there.  Maybe I need three to five times what the recipe calls for.  The powder alone is an echo of pop-you-in-the-mouth flavor, though, and I went with one of the more intense curry powders they had.

It’s like curry for Wisconsinites.  *sigh*  It’s got a nice flavor.  And it’s utterly tame.  I’m drinking OZV Old Vine Zin, and my wine needs something stronger to stand with it.

This is a very tasty currylike meal.   It really is nice, and I’d try it for people who like mild curries.

I think I’ll have to find an internet source for curry paste.  Alternately, my vegan pan-Asian cookbook has recipes for curry paste.  That’s a possibility, too.  I’ll let you guys know what I end up with.  (Possibly in a few weeks after the exam is over…..)


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