Curried Eggplant & Okra (Vegan)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Give me some fresh veggies, a good coconut curry sauce and sticky brown rice, and I'm a happy girl. It doesn't really get any easier than this to make a ridiculously easy - yet impressive - vegan dish. This is a red curry sauce utilizing the fresh red curry paste from my previous post, however you could use your favorite store-bought paste. Just know you're breaking my kitchenista heart. Kidding...kidding. All jokes aside, make sure you are getting a vegan red curry paste, as many have fish sauce as an ingredient. I use Golden Mountain Sauce as a substitute in my curry paste, available in most Asian markets.

I often write about my attempt to branch out and use new ingredients as much as I can, so this time it was okra. They looked so green and fresh at the farmer's market, I couldn't resist picking up a carton. For $2, it was well worth taking a chance. Before you scrunch up your face in protest, I too am leery of the okra slime factor. I have only had non-slimy okra a couple times but it was fried beyond recognition in a thick breading, which is such a terrible way to treat vegetables isn't it? So to make sure I was going to like it, my first trial of okra cooking involved a very simple roast w/ just a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Perfection. I could have eaten the whole carton just like that. I figured something similar would work in a curry dish, so I decided on a quick pan fry to yield crispy skin minus the slime factor.  Did you know that a cup of okra has just 30 calories and comes packed with fiber, calcium, and Vitamin K? I'm telling you - get on board with okra!

Because eggplant taste best when they are cooked just long enough get crispy on the outside and creamy inside, I also pan fried them prior to simmering in the curry sauce. I find Chinese eggplants to be an easier shape to work with and just a tad bit sweeter than other varieties, so they are my preference in stir fries and curries. The end result was crisp tender veggies that retained their flavor and texture in the sauce. Okra and eggplant have surprisingly similar tastes, so they worked well together in the curry. I was happy with this dish. Spicy but not overwhelming, rich in flavor and nutritional value. Once you get used to eating like this, Meatless Mondays quickly become a dinner night worth looking forward to!

Curried Eggplant & Okra (Vegan)

2 Chinese eggplants, sliced on a bias
2 c. okra, stems sliced off
1 medium white onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1 - 2 tbsp red curry paste
1/2 c. coconut milk
1/4 c. organic vegetable broth
Juice of 1/2 lime
Chopped cilantro
Sea salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste
2 tbsp coconut oil, separated

Servings: 2
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 15 min
Equipment Needed: Large skillet or wok

Much like cooking stir fry dishes, it's important to have all of your ingredients and equipment prepped and ready to go before you start cooking, as the process moves rather quickly. In French this is known as "mise en place" and is in my opinion one of the most important aspects of cooking, regardless of cuisine.

Over medium high heat, melt a tablespoon of coconut oil. I use a wok for much more than stir fry, so you'll see that a lot in my recipes. They're great for large rice and pasta dishes too. 

Add the okra and cook until crispy and just beginning to brown, 2 - 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain the oil and set aside.

Pan fry the eggplant until it just begins to turn golden brown, 3 - 4 minutes. Remove from the wok and set aside.

If necessary, add a little more coconut oil to the pan. Eggplant tends to absorb it all. Saute ginger and garlic until fragrant and add the sliced onions. Cook until onions soften, 1 - 2 minutes. 

Add the red curry paste and cook until the onions are well coated. Use your best judgement on how much to use as the spiciness of red curry pastes varies widely, even in using my homemade recipe.

Add the red bell peppers and cook until crisp tender, 1 - 2 minutes. 

Slowly pour in the coconut milk, vegetable broth and lime juice. Gently scrape up any browned bits in the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce heat to low.

Return the okra and eggplant to the wok. Gently toss in the curry sauce and simmer for 1 -2 minutes. Serve hot over cooked brown rice.

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