Cooking In College: Yellow curry perfect for winter nights

Photos by J. Almendarez

Ever have a dish you love to order in restaurants but think is impossible to make? For me, that dish is extra spicy yellow curry with fried tofu.

A combination of a love for the dish and a lack of knowledge about Thai cuisine has always made me feel like I’d be out of my league trying to make it.

But cooking it is very easy, and all the first-timers should be able to manage it.

The only inconvenient thing about the recipe was finding an Asian market to shop at for some of the specialty items. But make the effort to do so. Otherwise, you’ll just be stuck walking up and down the grocery aisles looking for ingredients you won’t likely find in a typical store.

It’s also a worthwhile effort to enjoy the experience of browsing for food most people aren’t familiar with. For instance, I tried mochi for the first time and not only did it go well with the curry, but I am in love with the dessert.

After the ingredients are gathered, cooking yellow curry is easy.

Pour one can of coconut milk into a large, deep saute pan along with the yellow curry paste, and bring it to a boil.

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The yellow curry paste essentially controls how spicy the dish will be, so add or reduce the amount of paste necessary for the desired flavor.

Tasting the milk-paste combo as each tablespoon is added is the best way to season the curry to taste. I eventually settled for 5.5 tablespoons because spicy curry is my preference.

After the mixture is brought to a boil, add the second can of coconut milk and simmer.

While the mix is heating, it’s a good time to prepare some ingredients. I chose to use fried tofu as the main filler, but chicken, beef or shrimp can be added instead. However, adding meat will increase the saturated fat in the dish, which is already high in saturated fat because of the coconut milk.

Luckily, I found pre-fried tofu at the Asian market and did not have to fry the tofu on my own. This was a convenient find, because I didn’t even know it was possible to buy pre-fried tofu.

After I sliced two packages of the tofu into moderately sized squares, I added it to the pan and let it all simmer for about 7 minutes.

During the wait, I cut carrots and opened cans of pineapple and bamboo shoots.

By the time I was done with the prep, the tofu was heated enough for me to throw in the carrots and cook until they were tender. Then I added the peas, pineapple and bamboo shoots.

I sprinkled the top of the dish with basil and let it all simmer for about another 10 minutes.

A word of advice here: You can and should consider adding any vegetables you want to this dish. In retrospect, I would have loved to add broccoli, bell peppers and onions. I felt very bound to the recipe and didn’t want to deviate too far from it, but next time I’ll be more creative.

While the main meal is on the stove, cook the rice. The recipe called for steamed jasmine rice. I substituted brown rice for that because it seemed like a healthier choice.

When everything is heated in the curry mix, put the rice on a plate and pour the curry over it.

While at the market, I also picked up Sambal Oelek, a spicy chili sauce I’d seen in restaurants, to top off the meal.

Then I pigged out on food that was surprisingly amazing.

The only downside to the meal is the calorie count. At about 1,585 calories per serving, one could feel tempted to make this dish a special treat as opposed to a weekly tradition.

But some Internet searches revealed a trick that just might make this recipe feasible for frequent consumption.

Apparently, if coconut milk is poured into a bowl and left in the refrigerator overnight, the fat will float to the top. It can be scooped off and, according to several cooking forums, all that’s left is reduced fat coconut milk.

I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it seems harmless to try.

Overall, this recipe led to the single greatest meal I have cooked in my entire life.

I will be eating this food weekly, whether I can get the fat out of the coconut milk or not.




16 ounces of fried tofu

2 (13.5 ounce) cans of coconut milk

yellow curry paste, to taste

1/2 cup bamboo shoot, drained

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup pineapple drained

1/2 cup chopped carrot

1 cup water

Basil, to taste

chopped cashews (optional)

4 -6 cups steamed jasmine rice


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