After I posted my new 12-part series, "A World of Curries" to the Fiery Foods & Barbecue SuperSite, here, I had an obsessive craving to taste some of them. But making curries from scratch is almost as challenging as preparing mole sauces, so I had second thoughts about spending that much time. Our friend Geetha had given us a jar of Eswatini Curry Sauce Hot, made in Swaziland, a tiny country literally surrounded by South Africa. So I thought, why not experiment with that and two other prepared curries?
So I went to Ta Lin Market and wandered the aisles until I found Shan Chicken Curry Mix (made in Pakistan), a dried mix to be added to cooked chicken and yogurt and Madam Pum Instant Green Curry with Coconut Milk (made in Thailand). I bought an eggplant, carrots, and some inexpensive lamb and came home ready for some fun cooking.
I browned the lamb in olive oil and added it to the Green Curry sauce with a little more coconut milk, covered it and started simmering it, knowing that this curry would take the most amount of time because even very small lamb chunks take time to get tender. The Chicken Curry was easy because Mary Jane had cooked chicken left over from making chicken stock. I sliced the carrots thinly and the eggplant in little cubes and sauteed them with garlic paste in olive oil, then added the Eswatini Curry sauce (made with tomatoes, peaches, apples, oil, vinegar, and spices). While the curries cooked I made a Coconut Rice Pilaf to serve them over.
All of this took about an hour, plus 45 minutes for baking the rice, so it wasn't actually instant. But hey, I argued to myself, I'm making three curries and enough rice for at least six servings and the leftovers will be great.
Not so fast, Emeril-face. The kitchen was filled with the wonderful aromas of the curries and it was time to serve them. I made an attractive presentation of the rice garnished with a leaf of Italian parsley, surrounded by the curries.
First, the chicken curry (center): inedible because of an incredible salt level. Next, the lamb with green curry (right): even more salty and impossible to eat--my mouth felt like it had sodium burns. Finally, the Eswatini vegetable curry (left): delicious, so at least we had one curry for a full meal.
"Did you read the labels before you bought those curry mixes?" asked Mary Jane.
Of course I hadn't. I couldn't have imagined in my wildest culinary nightmares that the Shan Chicken Curry Mix would have 27 percent of my daily sodium needs and the Madame Pum Green Curry would have 42 percent! What were Mr. Shan and Madame Pum thinking? The net weight of the Chicken Curry Mix was 50 grams. The salt in it weighed .65 grams, so the salt constituted a mere 1.3 percent of the mix. That doesn't seem like all that much, but our tongues don't lie. The Green Curry sauce had a net weight of 200 grams with .528 grams of salt, or way less than one percent. The Eswatini Curry Sauce's net weight was 300 grams with half a gram of salt, or about half what the Green Curry contained. And it didn't taste salty at all despite providing about 20 percent of my daily sodium requirement. Or maybe after all the salt in the first two curries, we couldn't detect the salt in it.
Anyway, I've learned my lesson: read the labels before buying unfamiliar products. Here's a suggestion: make your favorite curry from scratch from"A World of Curries," then serve it over this wonderful rice, which can also be baked as a pilaf if you brown the rice first in butter or ghee.
Coconut Milk Rice
Here is the most popular rice dish on the east coast of Malaysia. It is served in coffee shops and roadside stands, wrapped in a banana leaf and garnished with a sambal, peanuts, egg, and cucumber slices. It is a perfect side dish with any of the curries in this series. Thin the coconut milk with an equal amount of water for a less pronounced coconut flavor in the rice.
2 cups long grain rice, washed and drained
3 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon butter
2 whole cloves
2 pandan leaves (screwpine), tied in a knot (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover the pot, and cook until the rice is done and fluffy, about 35 to40 minutes.
Remove the cloves and screwpine leaves before serving.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings