Cooking Methods: Indian and Thai Curries

In another post I described the main differences between Indian and Thai curries. In this one, I'm sharing the differences between the preparation methods for each. Thai curries have fewer steps and cook up in less than 30 minutes, including prep. Indian curries, with dried spices instead of fresh herbs and often with more ingredients than Thai curries, usually require simmering time for the spices to reach peak effect and the flavors to blend. 

These preparation methods are not set in stone. You can find many variations. But having perused hundreds of recipes, studied descriptions, and watched videos, I drafted and revised these many times to come up with the clearest and most straightforward approaches I could. I know these work because I've used them a lot. 

Top Efficiency Tips

Here are additional tips that facilitate efficient and successful curry cooking. 

  • Line up your ingredients in the order they’ll be used in the recipe
  • Dried spices
    • For any recipe you’ll repeat a lot, create a large mixture of the dried spices to use now and later
    • Use uniform-size, alphabetized spice containers to avoid going crazy looking for spices
  • Freezing
    • Freeze extra curry, kaffir lime, and thai basil leaves
    • Freeze chopped onion, minced ginger, and minced garlic
    • If you make Thai curry paste from scratch, make extra and freeze
    • Make a curry sauce (e.g., Jamie Oliver’s Cracking Curry Sauce), use what you need with vegetables for a meal or two, then freeze the rest of the sauce for later
  • Use canned tomatoes and chopped frozen spinach instead of fresh unless you have the time and inclination to use fresh

Thai Curry Cooking Method

  1. Prep:  If using baked tofu, cut into cubes or strips. Get other ingredients ready. Create coconut milk sauce by mixing coconut milk with vegetable stock, soy sauce, sugar. Stir until sugar dissolved.
  2. Heat some coconut cream in pan:  take a few Tablespoons of cream from the top of a can of coconut milk and melt it in a large skillet or Dutch oven on medium heat.
  3. Sauté the Thai curry paste: cook about 3 minutes; the paste should start to separate from the oil and sit on top of it.
  4. Add and sauté chopped onion, minced garlic, and ginger until the onion is transparent (5 minutes).
  5. Add in the coconut milk sauce: bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes
  6. Add vegetables, tofu, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil leaves, cover and cook until just tender (about 8-10 minutes).
  7. Add slivers of red chili pepper, if using.  Boil the mixture one more time (about 2 minutes). 
  8. Remove kaffir lime leaves and serve with jasmine rice with a garnish of fresh cilantro.

Indian Curry Cooking Method

  1. Prep:  Precook main-ingredient vegetables, if needed. Get other ingredients ready.
  2. Heat oil in pan:  warm a Tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven on medium heat. 
  3. Toss in any aromatic seeds, like coriander, cumin, or mustard, until they begin to crackle (1 minute).
  4. Add chopped onion and cook until transparent (5 minutes).
  5. Add minced garlic and ginger and stir for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add ground spices and stir for 1-2 minutes.
  7. Add any fresh chilies and stir for 1-2 minutes.
  8. Add liquid and your main-ingredient vegetables, proteins, and/or red lentils. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes (depends on recipe).
  9. Add your thickening agent, if using. Add and cook for another 10 minutes or until curry reaches your desired thickness.
  10. Serve with rice and/or Indian bread with a garnish of coriander, crushed nuts, and/or lemon juice. 
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