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Spice Island: Vegetables in Spicy Coconut Milk (Sayor Loday)

The tiny Southeast Asian island-country of Singapore owes much of its history and ethnically diverse cuisine to piquant spices and herbs.

| October/ November 2002

Vegetables in Spicy Coconut Milk (Sayor Loday) 


Vegetables and tofu drenched in a spicy coconut gravy make this a Malay-inspired favorite. You may be able to buy shrimp paste at your local Asian market. If it’s not available, eliminate it from the recipe and add an extra dash of salt to replace the salty shrimp flavor. This dish is adapted from the recipe of Singaporean cook Violet Oon.

• 1/4 cup vegetable oil
• 4 three-inch cakes of firm tofu cut diagonally into triangles
• 4 to 10 dried Thai chiles, soaked 1 1/2 hours in warm water to soften (2 to 4 fresh chiles may be substituted)
• 20 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
• 2 teaspoons shrimp paste (optional)
• 1 1/2 ounces galangal, peeled and finely chopped (ginger may be substituted)
• 1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped
• 1 1/2 cups canned light coconut milk
• 6 cups water
• 12 ounces jicama, peeled and julienned
• 12 ounces green beans, cut diagonally about 2 inches long
• 12 ounces cabbage, cut into bite-sized pieces
• 2 green bell peppers, cut into 1-inch squares
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar

1. Heat a wok until smoking, then slowly add oil.
2. Deep-fry the tofu triangles until golden, then remove the tofu and drain all but 1 tablespoon of the oil from the wok.
3. Chop the chiles until fine and add to the wok, cooking until fragrant. Set aside.
4. In a food processor, puree the shallots, shrimp paste, galangal, and lemongrass.
5. Mix 1/2 cup of the coconut milk with the water to form a very thin milk.
6. Pour the thinned milk into a saucepan on high heat. Add the pureed mixture.
7. When the mix is boiling, add the jicama, beans, cabbage, and bell pepper.
8. When the vegetables are soft, add the tofu, the rest of the thick coconut milk, and the chile/oil mixture.
9. Add the salt and sugar.
10. Boil for another 10 minutes and serve with steamed jasmine rice. 

 Laurel Kallenbach writes from her Boulder, Colorado, home about travel, herbal medicine, and holistic health.

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