Cambodian Curry – With Tempeh and Potatoes
We’re now back in Asia to veganise a traditional yellow Cambodian curry, known as Kari sach moan – or chicken curry. We’re hijacking two principles here: using tempeh, which is Indonesian, and implanting it in favour of chicken.
Tempeh comes from Java, and is fermented soya beans! The beans are allowed to grow a yeast, that knits the beans together forming a cake-like block. Tempeh is easy to make, and the instructions for making this will appear on this site very soon! So come back!!
This curry really is a celebration of turmeric and lemongrass, with lots of fragrant spices that will make your kitchen smell divine! You’ll have people passing by wishing they were eating in your home when they catch that scent!
This recipe comes from two sources, again – Mr Atul Kochhar’s cookbook Atul’s Curries of the World (Absolute Press), but also from another source I found buried deep into the internet, written by an anonymous author on EdiblyAsian. Both recipes are almost identical.
Curry Powder and Paste
Again, we’ll be needing our trusted pestal and mortar to get the most out of this recipe! I made it with fresh turmeric as there is a grocer near me who sells it! You can, of course, just as well use ground dried turmeric – it’s certainly less messy! And by that I mean, turmeric stains your fingers and finger nails unless you use gloves.
We will be making both a curry powder and a curry paste – so lots of punchy flavours here. It is mild, but there’s nothing stopping you from sneaking in a few more chillis to give it a bit more pow! I’m a chilli fan, and usually do add extra chilli if I’m not cooking for someone else.
Shrimp paste is traditional in these recipes, and most vegans and vegetarians would simply leave it out (which you can of course!), but I use substitutes and in this case, I’ve gone for fermented yellow bean paste.
As always, don’t be limited by the vegetables I’ve put in this dish – use whatever vegetables you want. Eliminate the tempeh if you prefer, although I would hope you’d use another protein source, such as beans, lentils, tofu or grains.
- 2-3 Lemongrass stalks
- 2-3 Dried Red Chillis Deseeded and Presoaked
- 1 small (1cm or so) Galangal root Thinly sliced, or use ginger root if you can't get galangal or galangal paste
- 1 tbsp Turmeric Thinly sliced, or 2 tsp ground turmeric powder (but the latter, put into the curry powder)
- 1 Shallot Thinly sliced, or a small onion or 2-3 spring onions(scallions)
- 3-4 cloves garlic Peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 Kaffir lime leaves thinly sliced (or use the rind of one lime)
- 1 small handful Coriander roots and stalks In Asia, they use the roots of the coriander plant, but they're not so easy to get hold of. Using the stalks is fine, use the leaves for garnish later.
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 Green cardamon pods remove the seeds and use those, discard the husks
- 10 Black peppercorns
- .5 tsp Coriander seeds
- 0.5 tsp Fennel seeds
- 400 g Tempeh Cut into cubes
- 100 g Spinach leaves Roughly torn
- 400 g coconut milk About one can
- 5cm Stick Cinnamon
- 2-3 Star anise
- 1 Large White potato Cubed
- 1 Large Sweet potato Cubed
- 1 tbsp cooking oil Such as vegetable or groundnut oil
- 1 Medium onion Sliced
- 2 tbsp Fermented bean paste Optional (replaces shrimp paste)
- 4 tsp palm sugar or 2 tsp of demerara sugar (and taste to adjust)
First, make the curry powder by grinding the whole spices until a fine powder.
Next make the paste by pounding the wet spices in the mortar (or cheat with a food blender if you prefer.
Heat the oil in a pan and add the wet spice paste and curry powder - don't let it burn, allow it to cook for a few minutes, releasing the aromas. After about 5 minutes, add around half of the coconut milk, turn the heat down and let reduce.
Once the paste is shiny and the oils have started to separate, the milk should have reduced by quite a bit. Now add the potatoes and onion and stir well to combine.
Add the rest of the coconut milk, the fermented bean paste, sugar, the cinnamon stick (giving it a crack first) and the star anise. Add the tempeh and allow to simmer until the potatoes are softened. Add additional water if required, and taste for seasoning.
About 5 minute before the end of cooking, add the spinach.
Serve with Jasmine rice
Seb is a nutritionist registered with the Association for Nutrition and a writer specialising in plant-based nutrition and men’s health. He graduated from Chester University with a masters degree in human nutrition and loves discovering new and vibrant plant-based recipes.