You have two options when you don’t have your usual ingredients for a dish: 1. Go to the grocery store. 2. Work with what you have at home. Due partly to laziness (and horror after seeing my grocery bill for the week), I decided upon the second option tonight. Besides, creativity thrives when you don’t plan ahead and just roll with your intuition.
Back to the curry: I was going to make pineapple coconut curry but realized that I didn’t have any pineapple. I also had some fennel stalks in need of being used and I thought perhaps they would mimic the licorice flavor in Thai basil, which never seems strong enough no matter how much I use. To make up for the pineapple, I decided to try granny smith apples, the best apple to cook with in my experience. They won’t turn into mush and have a nice tart flavor, not just straight up sweet.
The results: a great variation on a dish that never gets old. Curry is one of those dishes that has so many ingredients in it that it’s never the same dish each time you make it. And I love its flexibility. You can easily add or alter ingredients–what peppers you use, extra vegetables, choice of protein–and it will likely retain its core flavors of sweet, tangy, spicy, and nutty. The main struggle I have is making sure there’s enough coconut flavor. Even with a garnish of coconut chips, I find that the broth lacks the level of coconut flavor I usually taste in curries from Thai restaurants. Perhaps I should go easier on the spices so they don’t drown out the coconut milk, or use more, or just not worry about it because otherwise it’s a pretty damn good dish. Regardless, I learned that fennel is a good addition to curry and if you don’t have pineapple, ordinary apple is likely to be an okay substitute. I think I still like pineapple better, however.