Versatile sweet potatoes and veggies meet Thai flavor and in less than an hour, you are sitting down to a big, comforting bowl of Thai sweet potato curry. Sound good?
What's cooking? Curry or stew?
I spend a lot of time looking at recipes online, browsing my cookbook collection and creating my own special dishes. Sometimes, I’ll whip up a pot of something, and in between my tasting, I get stumped as to what exactly I’ve got there. Do I call this curry or stew? To be honest, when I’m eating it, I’m not so bothered. But how do I describe it to others? What is the expectation?
No, I don’t spend sleepless nights worrying about this, but in a few waking moments, when clearly a distraction was on the menu, I decided to check out what the Google machine had to say about it. Curry, is an umbrella term for a lot of dishes originating from the Indian subcontinent. Makes sense. I instinctively know if I’m making something with turmeric, cumin, coriander and ginger or using curry powder or garam masala, it’s curry. So. when I decided create recipes for chickpea cauliflower curry or kidney bean curry, then the word ‘curry’ at the end of the name would have meaning. A bit of further, muddled reading and It initially appears to me that curry versus stew is geography with a bit of spice thrown in.
At least the blanket idea of curry had some spices center the idea. Stew? The Google machine was a bit less centered on that one. “Stew” is all about a big pot of ingredients, slowly cooked. It makes sense with something like oil free Briam which goes into the oven for a long cook, but I make stove-top ‘stews’ like Chilean sweet potato stew. Well then...
Confused? Let’s serve it up
Geography, spices and preparation methods might generally help us anticipate what to expect when we are browsing recipes. However, the global evolution of food has created several melding pots from my perspective making curry and stew (to name one) a bit more difficult to discern. Perhaps we should take another taste and not consider so much what’s in the pot, but what’s alongside it.
With reference to the recipe at hand for Thai sweet potato curry, I’m referring here to the rice, quinoa, bulgur and anything else you might be spooning your curry over. Yes, curry. Maybe you put a grain in your stew, but I for one, rarely (never) ladle it over. So my little wander left me deciding that the difference between curry and stew comes down to our intention of what we’ll see on the plate or in the bowl.
Sweet potato Thai curry
In my simple mind, one reason to differentiate between curry and stew is to deflect from the confounding topic of spices. When we see ‘Thai’ in a recipe title, we can usually guess that it will be a combination of spicy, sweet, sour and salty. Those are the hallmarks of Thai flavor.
The heart of the flavor profile for sweet potato curry is red curry paste. It’s such an essential component of Thai curries and because I’m a bit of an ingredient control freak, I like to make my own red curry paste. That’s not a requirement for this recipe.
If you are taking the time to cook, and you want maximum flavor (and you always should), then do take a moment to consider the curry paste you plan to use. Curry paste is going to do the heavy flavor lifting, so give it a sec.
Start with the obvious on the front of the package - spicy or mild? Have a good look at it. Is it well mixed? Is it oily? Yes, some prepared curry pastes contain added oil. If you are actively trying to avoid this and unnatural added ingredients, then read the label to ensure that as much as possible, you are getting what you want and not what you don’t.
The time-size-liquid continuum
Sweet potato Thai curry is easy to assemble once you have everything prepared. Start by getting your onions, carrots and celery sautéing, adding water a tablespoon at a time if the veg starts to stick. That celery by the way, is helps with the salty part of the Thai flavor we’re going for. Then take a 1-minute pause to mix in the garlic, ginger and coriander. I like to mix in the red curry paste with ½ cup of water to ensure that I get all the spices evenly distribute before adding the broth and sweet potato cubes.
Here’s where that continuum reference comes in. The size of your sweet potato cubes (I went for about 1-inch) will determine how much broth you want to add. This will also determine the cooking time you need. Obviously, smaller sweet potato cubes will cook in less time. They will also break down to create a creamier, thicker curry.
Add 5 cups of broth to start and let it simmer. Then check to the consistency. Mash some of the sweet potato cubes and add more broth if desired. Keep in mind that you’ll be adding the juice of 2 limes which could have a slight impact on the consistency. Finally, this is curry and we decided that it gets to be ladled over rice or another grain. The goal is ingredient harmony in the end.
As far as I’m concerned, the globalization of ingredients and recipes is a wonderful thing. I grew up in a world without curry where rice was a side on its own. It’s become a bit of a melding pot in which traditional dishes are more in the eyes and mouths of individuals. If for one, celebrate the opportunity that I can travel to regions of the world at the dinner table. Even if you are fortunate as I’ve been, to travel to many ‘foreign’ places, there is just too much to see for one lifetime (and bank account). No worries, we can get a taste of a place, even it isn’t in its purest, most traditional form. That should remind all of us that we share much in common – good food. It’s an experience we can all appreciate. Peace.Print
Thai sweet potato curry
Versatile sweet potatoes meet Thai flavor and in less than an hour, you’ll discover a spicy, healthy bowl of comforting veggie curry ready to be devoured.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: Main Course
- Cuisine: Thai
- 2 yellow onions, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 red chilis, minced (remove the seeds if you want to cut down on the heat)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. grated ginger
- 1 tbsp. ground coriander
- 2-3 Tbsp. Thai red curry paste (the amount depends on the spice you like)
- ½ cup water
- 5-6 cups vegetable stock
- 4 large sweet potatoes peeled and cubed ½ inch cubes (8 cups)
- Zest and juice of 2 limes
- ½ cup chopped cilantro, optional for garnish
- Cooked rice to serve with the curry
- In a medium pot, add the onions, carrots and celery. Sauté for 5-8 minutes until the onions start to get translucent and the carrots and celery are soft. Add water a tablespoon at a time if the vegetables start to stick.
- Add the chilis, garlic, ginger, coriander. Stir and cook for another minute.
- Add the curry paste and ½ cup water. Whisk everything together.
- Add 5 cups of vegetable stock and the sweet potato cubes. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender (20-25 minutes). To help the curry thicken, mash some of the sweet potato cubes.
- Stir in lime zest and juice and more broth if you want the curry to be thinner. Stir and cook for another minute or 2.
- Season with salt if desired.
- Serve over rice or grain of your preference.
- Garnish with chopped coriander.
- Be mindful of the time needed to cook your particular type of rice. You may want to start that before cooking the curry. Read your package instructions to determine.
- Add about 20 minutes to the prep time if you want to make your own red curry paste.
- Nutritional information is provided for the curry only. You will want to account for the type of rice or other grain you might be using.
Keywords: Thai sweet potato curry