Where you live deeply impact how you think, dress, and feel, how you relate to others, and especially, how you eat. Every place around the world where I have lived have shaped all these things for me in both subtle and overt ways.
When I first moved to Cambodia, I had no interest in curry. It always seemed to be meat in the curry dishes I came across (so it wasn’t an option for me).
Curry is an everyday dish in Cambodia–if you go to any local market you can find it for sale. People eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is eaten on top of rice noodles with a side of rice (never on top of rice) or with a side of white bread.
As I began to explore the Cambodian food markets, I became more familiar with the spices and varieties. It sparked my curiosity and I began to want to make my own curry and serve it in my home.
Over time, I’ve developed a plant-based alternative for this recipe and perfected the process. My goal was to make a curry without meat, one that tasted lighter with more vegetables. I’ve served this dish for many Shabbats here, and my guests always praise it.
I wanted to showcase this dish on pottery being made today using traditional Khmer motifs. Similar to India, Khmer decorative elements often arise from nature, especially flowers.
The first photograph above on the blue pottery shows the curry dish as it’s ready to serve, and the second photograph on the left with the red pottery shows what the curry looks like after all the ingredients are blended, before it’s cooked.
I’ve also included a photo below of the spices and herbs in the curry in case you are not familiar with them and need a visual guide before you go shopping. (I certainly didn’t know what these spices were before living in Southeast Asia!)
This curry is:
- Large soup pot
- Large bowl
- Small frying pan
- Blender or food processor
- Two small bowls
- Large serving platter (to serve the rice)
- Large serving bowl (to serve the curry)
- 4 ½ cups chopped eggplant, peeled and cut into 3-inch cubes (from about 2 medium eggplants)
- 1 cup green beans, destemmed and cut into 3 sections
- 2 cups chopped onion (from 2 medium onions)
- 7 cups chopped potatoes (from about 5 medium potatoes)
- 3 1/4 cups chopped carrots, (from 4 large carrots)
- 7 cups fresh pumpkin, cut into large cubes (or any other squash that you have available)
- 4 cups rice milk
- 5 cups water
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 4 kaffir lime leaves
- 4 shallots, halved
- 8 cloves garlic. halved
- 2 star anise, broken into pieces by hand
- 6 dried California chilies (or other dried mild chilies available in your area)
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup lemongrass*, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp. peeled and chopped galangal root*
- 2 tsp. peeled and chopped turmeric root*
- 2 tbsp. unsalted roasted peanuts
- Place ½ tsp. salt and 4 cups of water into a large soup pot, and set aside.
- Place eggplant into salty water (this step keeps them all from turning an unattractive color when cooked), and set aside for at least 10 min (or up to one hour).
- Chop and place all other prepared vegetables in a large bowl, and set aside.
- Soak the dried California chilies in warm water for 5-10 minutes (to soften them before blending).
- Saute the curry aromatics: Gently fry the garlic, cloves, shallots, and star anise over medium heat in a small frying pan, stirring constantly until brown, but not burnt. (This should take about five minutes, and you should smell the aroma of spice when it is ready. This is done without any liquid so that the ingredients create a fragrance.) Set this mixture aside.
- Make the chili paste base: Using either the blender or food processor, blend the chilies with ¼ cup water until they form a paste.
- Finish the curry paste: Add the prepped galangal, lemongrass, turmeric, peanuts, and aromatic shallot and garlic mixture to the red chili paste in your blender or food processor, and continue to blend until very smooth.
- Drain the salty juices that have collected from the eggplant, and rinse the cubes with cold water.
- In the large soup pot, slowly bring ½ cup of the rice milk to a boil on medium heat.
- Once boiling, turn down the heat to medium and add the curry paste and the whole kaffir lime leaves.
- Stir well to incorporate the paste.
- Add the prepared potatoes, pumpkin, onion, carrot, and combine well.
- Simmer the mixture for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add 5 cups water and 4 cups rice milk.
- Season the curry with the salt and sugar, and allow to simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.
- Add the eggplant.
- Cook over medium heat until the potato is cooked through, approximately 20 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and add the green beans.
- Cover until you are ready to serve.
*Check your local Asian grocery store or organic market for these items.
Click here to download a print-friendly version.
This meal is best eaten out of bowls. The curry can be served alongside rice or rice noodles, or with whole grain bread. The bread is especially good for sopping up any leftover curry at the bottom of the bowl at the end of the meal.
On the table, you can place a bed of cooked rice, rice noodles, or a basket of fresh bread on a large serving platter and the warmed curry in a separate serving bowl.
Good luck making this recipe! I hope it pleases you and whomever is blessed to share a meal with you at your table.
If you love this recipe, you’ll love The Jewish Food Hero Cookbook: 50 Simple Plant Based Recipes For Your Holiday Meals