Thai Curry has become something of a staple food in our house and this Sweet Potato and Tofu Red Curry is one of my favourites. It's healthy, bursting with flavour and relatively easy to make. Each bowl is warming, hearty and packed with a variety of savoury, tangy and sweet tastes. It's such a wonderful way to end a day and not at all difficult or time consuming to make. If you try this recipe, I urge you to make more than you need because it tastes great the next day and also freezes well. I love to have a few portions of Thai Curry ready to come to my rescue at the end of a bad day.
This recipe uses store-bought curry paste. I was in the habit of making my own paste for a number of years until a Thai neighbour told me that she used store-bought varieties. She dismissed the ones found in normal supermarkets but praised some of the more authentic Thai pastes found in Asian grocery stores. The first time I made Thai curry with one of these Authentic Thai pastes my husband assumed I had made it. Now it's rare that I make pastes from scratch and I save a lot of time.
Roast sweet potato, tofu, red pepper, and pineapple are the key ingredients in this recipe. I love how the sweetness of the pineapple and sweet potato contrasts the other tangy and savoury flavours in the dish. This is a nutritious and satisfying dish for vegans and vegetarians. It's also great for omnivores who are looking to add more meat-free meals into their weeks. My meat-loving husband gives it the thumbs up and his approval isn't won easily for dishes without meat.
Key ingredients and possible alternatives
Veggies and fruit:
- Sweet potatoes - these are roasted first and added to the cooked curry at the end of the cooking process. Baking the sweet potato chunks in the oven gives them a velvety caramel sweetness that cannot be achieved by simmering them in the curry sauce.
- Red peppers - are good at absorbing the flavour of the curry sauce and are full of vitamins and fibre. You can swap them for green or yellow peppers or try another vegetable if you prefer.
- Pineapple - adds a sweetness that contrasts the savoury and sour flavours in the curry. Try to use fresh pineapple if you can, but tinned/canned will also do the job.
Protein & carbs
- Rice - Jasmine rice is the traditional option. Its slightly nutty and floral taste complements the flavours of the Thai red curry. You could use a different type of rice if you prefer such as basmati or brown rice. Quinoa is another good option if you want something a little healthier. Note, that the cooking times in this recipe are for jasmine rice and that the cooking times for other types of rice or grain are likely to vary. Read the packet instructions to confirm. A packet of microwaveable pre-cooked rice a good option if you are short on time.
- Tofu - this is fried for a few minutes at a high heat at the start of the cooking process to get it crisp. Firm or extra firm tofu is best for this.
Sauce and seasoning
- Red curry paste - I recommend taking a trip to an Asian grocery store to pick up a Thai brand of red curry paste. Thai brands like Mae Ploy and Maesri are much more flavourful and authentic tasting than the western brands you will find in the local store/supermarket. If you are vegetarian or vegan check the ingredients as some brands contain fish sauce. Mae ploy contains fish sauce but Maesri does not. Thai brands of curry paste also tend to be spicier. You might want to go with a western brand if you are sensitive to spice.
- Coconut milk - brings a creamy richness to the curry. You can use full fat or half fat if you want to make the dish healthier. I often cook with low fat during the week and don't notice a huge difference.
- Fresh ginger, lime juice and kaffir lime leaves - all add zesty freshness to the curry sauce. Dried kaffir lime leaves tend to be easy to get hold of in a normal grocery store, whereas fresh kaffir lime leaves are harder to come by. You can use either in this recipe.
- Chopped fresh coriander - this is added to the cooked curry when it is served to bring a tart and zesty freshness. You cannot swap this for ground coriander.
How to make Sweet Potato and Tofu Red Curry
1. Roast the sweet potato
Heat your oven to 200C or 400F. Place the peeled and chopped sweet potato chunks into a baking dish, add salt and olive oil and mix with your hands until incorporated. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, turning halfway.
2. Fry the tofu
Place the pan that you will use to cook the curry on a high heat and add groundnut or vegetable oil. When the oil is hot add the tofu pieces and fry for a couple of minutes on each side until slightly brown and crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside when they are done.
3. Make the sauce
Reduce the heat of the pan to medium and fry the garlic and ginger for 1-2 minutes until fragrant, adding more oil if necessary. Then add the paste and fry for two more minute before adding the coconut milk. Bring to simmer and stir until the paste and coconut milk are incorporated. Add the fish sauce, sugar, kaffir lime leaves and red peppers and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Add the tofu, pineapple and sweet potato
Add the cooked tofu, roast sweet potato and pineapple to the curry and simmer for a further five minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lime juice and serve the curry with rice and top with fresh coriander.
Tools and Equipment
This Thai Red Curry is a simple dish that does not require any elaborate equipment or appliances. Here are 3 key items.
- Dutch oven, large frying pan or wok - select a pan that is large enough to hold the curry, suitable for frying and simmering and holds its temperature well. A dutch oven, large frying pan or wok are all good options.
- Saucepan - this is required if you will be cooking the rice on the stove.
- Baking dish - I use a ceramic 26 x 16cm (or 10 x 6 inch) baking dish to cook the sweet potato.
- Sharp knife - particularly important if you are going to chop a whole pineapple.
Top tips for a perfect Sweet Potato and Tofu Thai Red Curry
- Roast the sweet potato - if you're tempted to simmer the sweet potato in the curry sauce instead of roasting I urge you not to. Roasted sweet potato has a much better sweetness and texture than boiled sweet potato. You can roast the sweet potato while you cook the rest of the curry so it shouldn't add on any cooking time.
- Fry the tofu before you cook the curry - this makes it nice and crisp and improves its texture. Do not skip this step.
- Avoid over-simmering the sauce - this recipe includes just the right amount of coconut milk to form a sauce so it does not need to be simmered for a long time to reduce it. Avoid simmering the curry beyond the time stated in the recipe. If you find the sauce has reduced too much add a little stock.
The curry will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Just place it in an airtight container and refrigerate when it is cool. Reheat it on the stove or in the microwave. Try to store the leftover curry separately from any leftover rice. Rice should be eaten within 24 hours and thoroughly reheated first.
The curry can be frozen for up to 3 months. Portion it out, add it to freezer bags or containers and place it in the freezer once it has cooled. Remove it from the freezer 24 hours before you plan to eat it and defrost it slowly in the refrigerator. Reheat on the stove or in the microwave. Do not freeze leftover rice.
Yes, there is a definite warmth that you will really enjoy if you like spicy food. If you are more sensitive to spice you could try using a Western brand of Thai Curry paste as they tend to be milder than the authentic Thai varieties. You can also try adding more coconut milk or less paste. If you are very sensitive to spice this might not be the dish for you.
Some varieties are but some contain fish sauce. Read the ingredients before you purchase. Maesri is vegetarian/vegan.