My Mom is a pretty amazing lady. She’s a pint sized bundle of energy; I guarantee you won’t meet anyone with more joie de vivre. She is a world traveller (along with my Dad), she’s an avid runner (she’s run full marathons!), she volunteers almost daily, and she’s an amazing cook. She’s a magician in the kitchen, with a natural and intuitive understanding of all things kitchen related like spice profiles, melding and mixing flavours, nutrition, and more. She also rarely takes shortcuts. Because she has been a pure vegetarian her whole life she is always a little incredulous of packaged sauces or mixes as they can contain hidden meat ingredients.
This recipe is based on one of her special dishes, a spicy Thai/Indian fusion pepper curry. True to who my Mom is this recipe does not involve the use of premixed Thai Curry paste or sauce. Instead it uses a combination of Indian spices and Thai ingredients, and the result is spectacular. One day I had a hankering for some and harassed her via text message to send me the recipe. A few hours later, I got a picture of her handwritten recipe sent in response. It was funny because she had written out the ingredients but barely anything had amounts to go with it, a true Mom recipe! After a phone call, and some minor adjustments and tweaks, I came up with this final recipe, a Mother/Daughter fusion of sorts.
This dish is spicy. Like extremely spicy therefore not really kid
friendly. It would be hard to make it less spicy as that would affect the overall delicious flavour but it could be done if you wanted it to be a family meal.
I took the time to fry each ingredient separately so that none of the ingredients would get overcooked in the final sauce. If you wanted to make a quick version of this recipe you could also just cook all the vegetables together; it might not be as texturally refined but the outcome would still be delicious.
This recipe calls for sambar powder, a South Indian spice blend of coriander, cumin, red chillies, fenugreek, black pepper, chana and urad dal, curry leaves, mustard seeds, asafoetida, and turmeric. I’m lucky to have access to a steady supply of homemade version of this from India. My mom has coined it “powdered gold”, it truly adds a special flavor to whatever it’s added to. A lot of Indian grocery stores now carry Sambar powder on their shelves, but if yours doesn’t or you don’t have access to an Indian store, no worries. You could make some yourself using any one of the many recipes found online, or you could substitute the Sambar Powder for a regular curry powder. Though the flavor will still be delicious, it will be different.
I usually serve this meal over rice, but I think it would be delicious served over chewy rice noodles too. Enjoy!
- 3 large beefsteak tomatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
- 2 yellow bell peppers, cut into thin strips
- 2 green bell peppers, cut into thin strips
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
- 1 Japanese eggplant, cut into sticks
- 1 medium zucchini, cut into sticks
- 2 medium onions, sliced
- 1 small red thai chili, sliced thinly
- ¼ inch ginger, peeled and shredded
- 1 can coconut milk (full fat is preferable)
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp sambar powder
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 ½ tsp cumin seeds, slightly crushed
- 1 ½ tsp fennel seeds, slightly crushed
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- Salt, to taste
- In a large pan, heat 1 tsp of a neutral tasting oil (avocado oil, grapeseed oil, or vegetable oil). When the oil is hot, fry the peppers for a few minutes. Lightly sprinle them with salt. You want them to be slightly cooked but still crispy. Set aside on a cookie sheet. Do the same for the eggplant, and zucchini.
- In the same pan, heat 2 tsp of oil. When the oil is hot, fry the onions, ginger, and chili until they are fragrant and softened.
- Add the spices (sambar powder, garam masala, cumin and fennel seeds, and turmeric powder) to the onion mixture. Cook for a few minutes to ensure the spices don’t impart a raw flavor. If the mixture gets too thick, add a little bit of extra oil.
- Add the peeled tomatoes* with whatever juices they released. Cook until the tomatoes have softened thoroughly and have created a sauce.
- Add the fried vegetables back to the pan, along with any juices they have released.
- Add the coconut milk to the vegetables and stir to combine. Bring back to a low simmer. Let the vegetables cook in the sauce for a few minutes but don’t let the vegetables get overcooked. Taste and season with salt as necessary.
- If the sauce is too thin, remove a quarter cup of the liquid, whisk in the cornstarch to this liquid, and add back to the pan. Heat thoroughly.
- Serve hot over warm rice or rice noodles.
- Garnish with cilantro, crispy tofu, chopped peanuts or cashews.