I wish I could have given this a more creative name but my work has been so busy recently, my mind just hasn’t had the space! The night we made this dish, we originally wanted to make Laksa but we didn’t have the energy to make a rempa (chili paste) and Chris wanted to save his sambal (chili sauce) for a rainy day. So we ended up using some frozen homemade Thai red curry paste instead. I realize not everyone will have curry paste or the makings for it, so one hack is to just use your favorite Asian chili sauce- something like a sambal or even Sriracha- in its place. You just need to up the amount of certain fresh ingredients like herbs, ginger or some kind of citrus to mimic the aromatic qualities of a curry paste. I’ll make some suggestions on how to brighten up your flavours if you are lacking ingredients.
As for the noodles, since we’ve been quarantined we’ve been needing to get more creative with our ingredients and even though we had already starting making our own noodles ages ago, NOW we’re doing them almost every week. But this recipe is for a specific dish, not for how to make your own noodles. I use Olia Hercules’ noodle recipe from her Khingal dish which I will find a link for and post here asap. But if you don’t have flour (bc people are stockpiling tsk tsk) you can easily use ramen noodles, udon noodles, instant noodles or even pasta. Honestly, use whatever noodles you want. It will be delicious for sure!
This curry noodle dish is rich, creamy, aromatic and oh so cozy. Add more herbs and vegetables (raw or steamed) on top to make it a proper meal. I cooked mushrooms into the curry too bc we fancied it, not because it needed it. You could basically add any of your favourite vegetables to this curry but keep it simple so as not to overcrowd the noodles. Again, you will end up topping the curry with crunchy raw or steamed veggies and herbs anyway. For example, we added steamed broccoli, raw fava bean flowers & cilantro that night.
Note: I realize coining something as generally Southeast Asian can be problematic. I base the inspiration for this dish off my experience of having lived in Singapore for 3 years and having worked in Singapore, Malaysia & Thailand for 6. During this time, I had the privilege of eating the food of many talented cooks and chefs who were kind enough to teach me a few things about their heritage cuisine. I do not claim this dish to be authentic, but merely a humble homage to a region of Asia in which I have lived and still hold so dear to my heart.
Southeast Asian Inspired Curry Noodles
Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as a side
*Substitutions at the end of recipe
1-2T Thai Red Curry Paste (give or take based on your tolerance for heat)
1 can/400ml Coconut Milk
Half an Onion, sliced or chopped
1 knob Ginger, peeled and minced
3-4 cloves Garlic, peeled and minced
1 can Straw Mushrooms or 1-2 handfuls of small mushrooms (or large mushrooms cut into smaller pieces) NOTE: You can even add meat here or in place of the mushrooms.
2-3T Fish Sauce (give or take, make sure you taste as you go)
1-2T Lime Juice (or any tart citrus)
2-4 Lime wedges (or any tart citrus)
1-2 large handfuls of aromatic herbs such as Cilantro, Basil, Mint, etc (I challenge you to try western herbs too!)- chopped or left whole!
2 servings of Noodles (ramen, udon, spaghetti, saifun, anything in that vein of thin and long)- enough for 2 as a full meal or 4 as a side.
A small selection of vegetables like steamed broccoli, raw cucumber slices, mung bean sprouts, edible flowers etc- to be added to the curry on top. Whatever you fancy!
Have your noodles and extra vegetables prepared and ready and have them set aside. The curry will not take long to make. If you’re worried about everything getting cold, feel free to multitask everything at the same time but the curry will be super hot when you serve and will be enough to warm everything through.
Heat a few globs of cooking oil in a bottom heavy sauce pan or wok on Medium-high heat. Throw in your ginger and garlic and sautee for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add your onion and cook 2-3 minutes. Next add your curry paste and fry it for 1-2 minutes, keeping it moving so you don’t burn it.
Next pour in your coconut milk, fill the can with water or measure out 400ml of water and add that too, blending the two together. Bring it to just before a boil and simmer gently for a few minutes. If it reduces, too much, add some more water. It is meant to be more liquidy (that’s not a word, is it?) than you are expecting.
Throw in your mushrooms and stir in. Add your fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and stir it in. Make sure you give it a taste. Add more of whatever you want. If its too rich or thick, again, add a little more water. Just keep taste testing. Let it simmer gently for another few minutes then take off the heat.
Portion out noodles into 2 bowls for 2 full meals or 4 small bowls for 4 sides. Pour the curry evenly over the portioned out noodles. Layer small handfuls of herbs and the vegetables you prepared on top of the curry noodles with a wedge of lime and enjoy!
This recipe idea was created during the COVID-19 outbreak and is easy to make with some of the most basic of ingredients. Of course, somethings can’t be replicated but I do my best.
Curry paste: Substitute with your favorite Asian chili sauce such as sambal or even Sriracha. Portions will depends on your threshold for spice. You also do not need to fry it as long before adding the coconut milk. If your sauce is more liquidy (again, not a word), don’t fry it too long or it will evaporate too much. You basically want to heat it up enough to activate the flavors so it can properly infuse the coconut milk. If you think you may not have added enough, you can just add more chili sauce after the fact. If you’ve added too much, add a bit more sugar and citrus. The key is to taste test through each stage so you can ensure the right flavours. Hacking your favorite dish takes time but is so easy to do with practice.
Aromatics: If you have to go the chili sauce route as described above, you’ll need to add more aromatic ingredients to make up for the lack of the curry paste. At least double the amount of garlic and ginger. You may also find you need to add more seasoning like fish sauce, lime juice or sugar. Again, keep taste testing! If you’ve got lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves, use those too. Although if you’ve got those in your fridge, you probably don’t need this recipe at all!
Fish Sauce: Sorry, there are VERY few substitutes for fish sauce. I have a vegan fish sauce recipe using kombu seaweed but I haven’t written it out yet. If you are a vegan follower of mine, I’ll promise Ill post it sometime soon. Sorry work is so busy at the mo!
Coconut Milk: You may not have it. That’s ok. Don’t panic. One of our best friends in Kuala Lumpur says you can get away with using regular dairy milk, soy milk or even goat milk. It just depends on how creative you want to get….or how desperate you are! If you do use a coconut milk substitute, remember to up all those aromatic ingredients and use coconut oil instead of whatever cooking oil you were going to use. You may even decide to add a bit more coconut oil after you’ve taste tested. Also, instead of the extra cup of water, just double the amount of milk. These substitutions do work, just be prepared for the flavour to be different than what you would get in a normal curry. We can’t have it all!
Citrus: You can use lemon if you don’t have lime. It’s totally fine, just remember lemons tend to be sweeter than limes so you may need to add a bit less sugar. But you’ll be fine if you TASTE TEST! You can also use the grated zest of your citrus to intensify the citrusy(?) flavour to your liking. So many non-words, sorry.
These are the best substitutions I can think of for when times are tough or things just aren’t available. Cooking is meant to be a creative process. Have fun trying new things out! If you follow a general flavor format- and actually TASTE AS YOU GO- it will always come out delicious.
Enjoy! btw I’m so hungry now haha