Yellow curry frequents my cravings about every other month which simultaneously satiates my palate and the health nut in me. The fact is that the rich and thick soup base is comprised mainly of coconut milk. Although coconut milk is known to have many benefits, there’s usually another side to the coin.
Coconut milk is not to be confused with the lower-calorie coconut water; it is made from a brew of water and coconut meat. Rich and thick and more like heavy cream, coconut milk packs a whopping 445 calories and 48 grams of fat (43 grams saturated) per cup. It’s high in saturated fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which are both easily burned as fuel for the body. MCTs are beneficial in that they don’t require bile acids for digestion, and they’re directly passed to the liver through the portal vein. Moreover, although coconut milk is fattening, it doesn’t contain cholesterol. It comes in the form of medium-chain triglycerides (or MCTs) which differ from types of fat consumed from both plant and animal sources, long-chain triglycerides (or LCTs).
“MCTs are easily digested, absorbed, and utilized in the body because their molecules are smaller than those from LCTs. This means that unlike other fats, they require less energy and fewer enzymes to break them down for digestion. They are an excellent choice of fat for active people and athletes as MCTs digest immediately to produce energy and stimulate metabolism. They are also ideal for those who suffer from digestive disorders and are often given in hospitals to provide nourishment for critically ill people who have trouble digesting fat.“ -Sarah Britton
Attempting to use light coconut milk seemed to compromise the rich flavor. I’ve come to the conclusion that full fat coconut milk is what the recipe calls for in order to create full addicting flavor that initially attracted me to it.
Coconut milk aside, there are other healthy aspects to the recipe. It contains turmeric. Ingesting turmeric helps make the skin glow and beautiful. In addition, there are interesting tidbits to the primary active ingredient in turmeric which is called curcumin. It is being evaluated in clinical trials for treating cancer (UT, MD Anderson Cancer Center). Researchers at the UCLA are investigating whether the spice may have benefits for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. The anti-cancer potential of curcumin is also being investigated intensively at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. Turmeric is also a potent antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties. Medicinal properties of turmeric have been recognized for millennia in the traditional Indian and Chinese medical systems. Statistical studies suggest that populations that consume approximately 500 mg of turmeric daily have reduced incidences of colon cancer (Molecular Nutrition & Food Research 2008, Volume 52, issue 9).
“It is evident from these facts that making turmeric an integral part of the daily American diet will have a tremendous positive impact on the health of our citizens.
Turmeric and Curcumin have anti-aging and detoxifying properties. The role of Turmeric in preserving youthfulness and beauty has been a part of the Indian culture for thousands of years. Curcumin and other components in Turmeric arrest cellular aging by capturing free radicals that cause DNA damage. Turmeric works on numerous biochemical pathways that beneficial to maintaining youthfulness, Curcumin chelates (binds) toxic metal ions; it is also a powerful ant-inflammatory agent.”
For more information on the health benefits of turmeric, check out http://www.spreadhealthfoods.com/.
Another dominant ingredient in this curry is kabocha squash, my favorite squash. It is a low carb alternative to butternut squash. A single cup of kabocha squash has only forty calories per cup compared to butternut squash, which has sixty calories, and it has less than half the carbs of butternut squash (7 grams vs. 16 grams) per one cup serving.
Despite its lower calorie and carb count, kabocha squash is an excellent source of beta-carotene, which can be converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important for healthy white blood cells, for good immunity and for healthy night vision. In fact, a serving of kabocha squash provides 70% of the day’s recommended requirements. It also helps to keep skin and hair healthy. Also, beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and is a good source of iron, vitamin C and some B vitamins. It also contains fiber, and to boost the fiber content even more, cook it with the edible skin still on.
Now that I’ve disclosed some pros and cons, I hope you realize there are more benefits to feasting on yellow curry. A good trick to make this even more flavorful is to make it in advance. This curry tastes so much better the next day. If you have time to make this in advance, I suggest making it one day ahead– store it in the refrigerator overnight, and enjoy it the next day. Overnight, the flavors marry so well– it’s really beautiful and delicious. There are so many levels of flavor in this dish. I love it.
I hope you try it and love it, too!
Time: 30 minutes
Brief: A good trick to make this even more flavorful is to make it in advance. This curry tastes so much better the next day. If you have time to make this in advance, I suggest making it one day ahead– store it in the refrigerator overnight, and enjoy it the next day. Overnight, the flavors marry so well.
Diet: V, GF, GFV, DF, SF, SRF, NF
2 large shallots or 1/3 cup red onion, chopped
2-inch piece of ginger or galangal, grated
5 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 red Thai, serrano, or jalapeno chilies or 1/2 to 1 tsp. dried crushed red chili flakes, adjust to your preferred spiciness
1 tsp ground coriander
2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp ground turmeric
2 pinches of cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2-3 cups kabocha squash or sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 red jacket potatoes, cubed
1 handful of green beans, sliced
1 handful mushrooms, (crimini and or oyster), sliced
1 – 14 ounce can full fat coconut milk
3 Tbsp coconut aminos (or Tamari or Bragg’s liquid aminos)
1 stalk lemongrass, minced (or 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice)
2 Tbsp coconut palm sugar
2 Tbsp ketchup or tomato paste
1 tsp ume plum vinegar, optional
1/4 cup fresh Thai basil (or sweet basil)
1 Tbsp coconut oil or grapeseed or sunflower oil
Note: It’s easier to mince lemon grass in a food processor
1. Heat a medium-large saucepan over medium-high heat. Drizzle in oil and swirl around. Add shallots, ginger, garlic and chili. Cook and stir for 3 minutes. Add the dry spices: coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne and bay leaves and cook for another minute while stirring.
2. Add the vegetable stock, carrot, squash, potatoes, and mushrooms, stirring well. Add the coconut milk and bring it to a gentle boil.
3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes (for a thicker curry, do not cover). While simmering, combine the coconut aminos, lime juice (or lemongrass), coconut palm sugar, and ketchup in a bowl and add it to the saucepan. Stir well. Continue simmering until the vegetables are cooked to your liking.
4. Taste the curry and adjust to taste. Add more coconut aminos if you prefer it saltier/more flavorful. If it’s too salty or sweet for your liking, add more lime juice. Add more coconut sugar if you find it too sour. More chili or cayenne pepper can be added for more heat. Although, I enjoy this more overnight, you can eat it right away.
5. Transfer to a serving dish and top with plenty of fresh basil. Serve with quinoa, brown jasmine or black rice, or over a mixture of quinoa and brown rice.