Tag Archives: curry

Red-lentil dal with apples: 55 cents/serving

I don’t cook a lot of Indian food (no particular reason why; I just don’t find myself drawn to it), but when I do, it’s usually some variation of dal, a simple, usually vegan lentil stew that can be made using whatever vegetables or lentils one happens to have on hand. This red-lentil version was born to use up half a can of whole tomatoes I had languishing in the freezer, as well as some of the 4 lbs. of Granny Smiths we bought this weekend at Winco; the apples add a sweet tang that goes perfectly with the earthiness of the lentils. It’s quick, warming and healthy—perfect for a rainy weeknight. (Yes, I know the Pacific Northwest is probably the only place in the country right now where it’s still raining and 55 degrees, but just humor me.)

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Weeknight Thai curry: 71 cents/serving

As I’m sure is apparent, I’m not a big advocate for prepackaged processed foods. This includes everything from canned beans to pre-ground spice mixes and sauces. But there is something I’m willing to make an exception for: the little 89-cent tins of curry paste you can find in Asian markets. Have you ever tried to buy curry paste at the supermarket? Because I have, and it’s not pretty: $4.25 or more for teeny tiny jar containing a white-person approximation of the real thing, which is so watered down you have to use almost the entire jar for one meal. These little tins may not be available in your area, but they’re easily found online (at Amazon.com they’re $1.25 or so, and if you spend $25 you get free shipping). They might not be 89 cents, but they’re still cheaper than $4.25. Plus, not only do you get more paste, it’s stronger stuff, so you only have to use a tablespoon or two. Once you open a can you can put the contents into a plastic bag, freeze it, and carve chunks off of it whenever you need some. Usually I can get about 3-4 meals out of a single can, bringing the average cost per meal to about 26 cents. This, believe it or not, is cheaper than making it yourself. I know, because I’ve done it, and not only was the homemade stuff more expensive, it had weird textural issues from the coriander seeds and lemongrass that no amount of blending or processing seemed to be able to fix.

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Curried root vegetable stew with currant dumplings: $1.17/serving

To be honest, the only reason I even wanted to try this stew was because, unlike the similar root vegetable cobbler I made back in November, it called for my three favorite root vegetables of all time: sweet potatoes, parsnips, and celery root. Unfortunately, momentary amnesia precluded me from remembering where we shop, because of course our grocery store doesn’t have celery root. Did you know this very store that I complain about at least once a week was actually featured a few years back in a somewhat famous photograph, held up across the Internet as an example of All That Is Wrong With This Country? What it lacks in things like porcini, mint (seriously, this store DOES NOT EVEN CARRY MINT), and celery root, it makes up for in six different kinds of Cheez-Its and half an aisle devoted to artificially flavored pudding. So, in a moment of duress and frustration, I grabbed a rutabaga.

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Northern Thai noodle curry with beef (khao soi): $2.27/serving

Making khao soi from scratch at home is not particularly easy, but boy is it worth it. It’s a great company or dinner-party dish, especially if you serve all the toppings and condiments on the side, and it hits pretty much every flavor and texture note in the book: sweet, salty, sour, spicy, creamy, crunchy, dry, juicy, astringent, vegetal. It very well could be the most satisfying bowl of noodles you’ve ever eaten. Unless, of course, you’ve been to Chiang Mai and had the real thing, in which case you’ve probably already sought out a favorite version at a restaurant or food cart somewhere in your own area. However, it probably didn’t cost $2.27, so to you, I say it’s high time to try making it at home.

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Malaysian beef curry: $2.11/serving

A word of warning: This dish (adapted from one in Bon Appetit) calls for a slow-cooker. Normally, I’m not a slow-cooker kinda gal. I bought a cheap-ish one a couple years ago to keep mashed potatoes warm during the frantic, stove-cluttering prep of Thanksgiving, and I’ll occasionally use it for stock if I’m in a hurry, but otherwise I find it pretty useless.

Back in Ye Olden Days of slow-cookers you could throw some stuff in the pot before you left for work, turn it to low, come home, and, eight or nine hours later, the original contents would be perfectly cooked. With my slow-cooker, the contents are boiling—BOILING!—within about three or four hours on low. An Internet search confirmed this is an extremely common problem, as most slow-cookers nowadays—if not all—aren’t really “slow” cookers at all thanks to FDA intervention over potentially unsafe food temperatures. It pretty much defeats the purpose of using one at all, especially for anything more delicate than huge chunks of beef. Thankfully, this dish involves huge chunks of beef, but the cooker still had to be plugged in at noon and unplugged promptly at 5 pm.

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Curried pork noodles: 58 cents/serving

Noodles and pork in a sweet, salty, garlicky, spicy sauce: What’s not to love? It makes a ton, it only takes 10 minutes, and curry-haters (I don’t personally know of any, but like Bigfoot, they’re probably out there somewhere) may not even know there’s curry in it. It may be the dominant color, but it’s far from the dominant flavor.

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