Red Curry with Tofu and Mushrooms

Date Prepared: March 13, 2023

We try to have meatless dinners at least once a week and for me a nice meat alternative is tofu (which, I’m well aware, elicits howls of protest among many) – as long as it is crispy and is served in a nice sauce. This NY Times recipe also has mushrooms which adds that umami (savory) taste so we went for it.

In addition to the tofu we have a bunch of mostly fresh ingredients.

Ingredients (sans tofu) for Red Curry with Tofu and Mushrooms

The Maesri curry paste is a great option if you don’t want to make your own. In addition to the red, you can also pick up yellow and green. We try to keep a few cans in the pantry.

Press some moisture out of the tofu and cube it. Look at this post for details on pressing liquid out of tofu and cutting it. Cut and measure everything else.

Mis en place for Red Curry with Tofu and Mushrooms

I coated the tofu in corn starch and olive oil then roasted in a hot oven prior to putting together the “stir fry”.

Tofu has been coated with oil and corn starch then roasted.

Although not billed as a stir fry, it definitely helps to organize your ingredients like it is. That means all the prep is done before you start cooking. Trying to prep one ingredient while another group of ingredients are cooking won’t work.

Everything ready to cook

I thought it might be interesting to watch the dish unfold while cooking. First we sauté the shallot with the chili pepper, garlic, and ginger.

Sauté shallot, serrano chili, garlic and ginger in some peanut oil.

Then add the mushrooms and cook them down a bit

Add the mushrooms

Add the curry paste

Add the curry paste

Then add the coconut milk and fish sauce and simmer.

In go the liquids: coconut milk and fish sauce

Finally, add the tofu and snow peas (though these may be sugar snap peas) to finish the dish

Last step: add the snow peas (or sugar snap peas)

Dinner is served

Dinner is served: Coconut red curry with tofu.

Rating: ★★★★ 4 Stars. Good for company (if they can get past the idea of tofu). When I make this next time, I’ll add some chicken stock to add more flavor to the rice.

The recipe picture in the article made the dish look fantastic. Compare my serving picture above with the picture from the Times (credits to photographer Julia Gartland and food stylist Monica Pierni)

NY Times Photo (see link above). Photo credit to photographer Julia Gartland and food stylist Monica Pierni.

Look at that translucent pool of red sauce. My effort was delicious but as you can plainly see it’s nothing like the original. How do they get that effect? Coconut milk is opaque and the recipe doesn’t call for nearly enough liquid for the dish in the NY Times photo. This is a perfect example of the difference of what a dish looks like in the source recipe and what it looks like when a normal human cooks it. (Well, my friends wouldn’t call me normal, but I am definitely, probably, maybe normal-adjacent). I don’t think it’s just me; there is a whole Instagram feed of recipe vs reality. Now, I realize I don’t have anywhere near the skill of a professional chef, photographer or food stylist. I looked into some food stylist classes one time, but decided my added value (if any) is in showing how a recipe goes when cooked by a somewhat normal person.

And don’t get me started on the prep and cooking times in published recipes. Okay, that’s enough ranting. I’m not angry; I just thought this was a perfect example of the phenomena. Recipe pictures are nice but I don’t depend on them when deciding whether to cook a dish.

Let me know what you think of this recipe, tofu in general, or recipe vs reality in the comments.

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