I remember when I flew out to Texas to look for a house to rent last spring. I was feeling apprehensive about moving to the suburbs, and afraid of leaving all of the resources of living in densely populated and culturally diverse area behind, i.e. ethnic grocers. I figured moving out of an urban area would mark the end of buying speciality ingredients for ethnic cooking easily and often. I thought I might not see another fresh curry leaf again. So after driving past an abundance of wal-marts, krogers and albertsons that might carry a few things, but not much; I was did a double take when I spied my first ethnic market: International Foodland. A Persian grocery in the middle of Arlington, Texas? What other treasures could this town hold? I felt like throwing my hat up in the air Mary Tyler Moore style and telling myself: You're gonna make it after all. Hope and sunshine radiated me into a perma-grin. I didn't stop smiling for twenty minutes, and then as I continued driving around town, I saw a few more, a vegetarian Indian market (in the city of bbq, no less), two African grocers, a Vietnamese superstore, numerous Mexican markets and a Asian mini-mall, and I'm still counting.
In the midst of my ingredient accessibly nirvana, I was suddenly awed by God's midfullness of me. I had spoken many prayers that Justin would find a job he loved in an area we would love, but felt frivolous praying for a good Indian grocery within 5 miles. And yet, we got all of the above. I'm humored and humbled. And thankful I don't have to take to in the internet to buy whole spices that would cost a fortune if I just bought them in the tiny jars McCormick sells, and all sorts of other hard-to-come-by pantry treasures (like unsweetened shaved dried coconut, epazote, fenugreek seeds and halluomi cheese) I use to make some of our favorite meals.
This Thai-style curry is one of them. A vegetarian friend in San Francisco introduced me to this recipe several years ago. I remember looking at kaffir lime leaves on the ingredient list, wondering where to get those- in San Francisco it wasn't hard. Those leaves are pure magic, elevating this curry to the sublime, and the title of Justin's favorite curry. Then we moved to Baltimore and the Gods smiled down on me when I went to get my sewing machine repaired and their was an tiny-sized Asian grocer next door, with dried kaffir lime leaves. Not nearly as potent as the fresh variety, but who cared? We were back in green curry business. Then one day I took the kids down the pandemonium at Lexington Market (that place is crazy) in Baltimore and across the street there was a Chinese grocery with a kaffir lime tree growing in the front window. I was overjoyed to find them, if fact, I was so giddy, the shopkeeper gave them to me for free. Almost embarrassing, but I guess I know what I like.
|kaffir lime leaves|
In the photo I used baby white eggplants, halved, since my daughter/shopping companion is enchanted with diminutive produce, and I often acquiesce since I want her to be as excited about eggplant and I am. So far, so good. Feel free to swap out the kind of eggplant you like best or can find. I also swap the sweet potato for squash if that is what I have around. And if you can't find those elusive leaves, just up the lime zest, not quite the same, but definitely still worth making.
Green Curry with Eggplant and Sweet Potato
1 T. oil
1 onion, chopped
2 T. green curry paste
1 large eggplant, chopped into 1" cubes (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups or one can of coconut milk
1 cup vegetable stock or water
6 makrut, or kaffir lime leaves
1 large sweet potato, cubed (about 2 cups)
Zest of one lime
Juice of one lime
Juice of one lime
Heat the oil in a large wok or frying pan. Add the onion and green curry paste and cook, stirring, over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add the eggplant and cook for 4-5 minutes or until softened. Sprinkle in 1/2 t. sea salt. Pour in the coconut milk and vegetable stock, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the makrut leaves and sweet potatoes and cook for the 10 minutes, or until eggpplant and sweet potatoes are very tender.
Mix in the lime juice and zest until well combined with the vegetables. Season to taste with salt and serve over jasmine rice.
Are you familiar with ethnic grocers? Are there any where you live? And what are your favorite things to buy there?