How Do You Make Thai Green Curry Vegetarian?

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When it comes to trying different types of food from around the world, there’s a good chance that you will get to the parts of the world where curry is a staple.

In many ways, curry is a wonderfully versatile dish that can be used in all sorts of different ways to create a variety of dinners. On the other hand, curry isn’t always the best option when you are planning to go on a vegetarian diet. Something you may not realize at first is that there are actually quite a few different types of curry out there, depending on where you look.

For instance, in Thailand, where curry is a common meal, there are three main types of curry to choose from: red curries, yellow curries, and green curries. Some of these are easier to adapt to a vegetarian diet than others. If you are looking for a Thai curry that is vegetarian friendly, or at least is easier to adapt to a vegetarian diet, then you should look no farther than green curry.

However, before you can begin to learn more about green curry and what kind of curry it is, you should understand a little bit more about Thailand’s various curry types. This will help you gain a better understanding of what exactly green curry is and what you can do to best preserve the flavor and profile that this curry type brings to the table. When all is said and done, green curry is one of the best curries to consider for a vegetarian diet.

Understanding the Different Types of Thai Curry

There are three main types of curry in Thailand that you will want to know the differences between. Of course, there are other unique curry types within the country, but these three main types are the most important to understand when you are learning about Thai curry in particular. There is red curry, which is characterized by its ruddy hue. There is yellow curry, which can be set apart because of its dull, yellow appearance. Finally, there is green curry, which can be off-putting at first due to its bright green color.

These curries gain their names from their colors, but it is the natural ingredients inside of the curries that give them their color. Red curry is commonly made with chili powder as a main ingredient, and this is well known for turning most foods with a sizeable amount of power in them a deep red color. Yellow curry, on the other hand, has turmeric as its main ingredient. Turmeric, which is a part of the ginger family, has a yellow chemical in it known as curcumin. This chemical is what gives turmeric its characteristic yellow appearance.

As you can imagine, green curry also has a special ingredient in it that gives it its distinct color. Green curry utilizes cilantro, kaffir limes, lime leaves, and basil. All of these ingredients are bright green in color, and in turn, green curry is also a bright green color.

What Exactly Is Green Curry?

In some ways, green curry has become one of the central curries of Thailand. Not only is it easy to make and relatively popular throughout the country, its vivid appearance also makes it popular among both locals and tourists alike. In fact, the translation for green curry in Thai is “sweet green curry.” Keep in mind that the “sweet” in this curry’s name only refers to the particular shade of green that this curry commonly is, as this curry can often be somewhat spicy due to the green chilies used in it. In addition to the other ingredients listed above, traditional Thai green curry will also utilize coconut milk as its base. This curry came to be between 1908 and 1926, although it is not certain when exactly within these years it was brought to light.

When eating green curry, most people typically serve it with rice as a part of a large course of meals. If you want to eat it in its own, smaller dish, it may be served with a specific type of round rice noodle known as khanom chin. Other variations of green curry are usually served with simmered beef or Indian flatbread.

Thankfully, because of the plethora of vegetables used in the creation of green curry, this dish is easy to turn into a vegetarian meal. However, to do that, it is first important to understand what a typical recipe for green curry looks like so that you can have a good idea of what you are replacing and substituting.

What Does Green Curry Normally Contain?

For the most part, green curry is almost a vegetarian meal. It contains a number of different spices and vegetables that give it its distinctive green color. The vegetables in this dish will usually include green chilies, cilantro roots (or stems, if you prefer), garlic, shallots, either galangal or ginger, and kaffir limes and leaves.

As for the spices included, you will be using lemongrass and coriander. While this isn’t a spice or vegetable, many traditional recipes utilize shrimp paste to help create a base texture for the curry. This is everything that is used to create the curry paste, or the step before it becomes the curry you know and love. For vegetarians, the shrimp paste may be off-putting at first, but there are ways around this.

You will also want to find Thai basil leaves, coconut milk, fish sauce, red chilies, and Thai eggplants. If the basil leaves and eggplants aren’t available where you are, you can often use regular basil leaves and you can attempt to find some bamboo shoots to replace the Thai eggplants with. You may have to settle for bamboo shoots, as Thai eggplants are not commercially available in some countries.

For a vegetarian recipe, there are a couple different ways that you can tailor the recipe to fit your needs.

How Do You Make a Vegetarian Variant of Green Curry?

The main part of making Thai green curry vegetarian is trying to find a good green curry paste that doesn’t utilize fish or shrimp in it. If you are planning to make the paste from scratch as well, this is much easier than trying to find a store-bought version, but it will also take more time and resources to do it yourself.

Thankfully, finding a vegetarian-friendly curry paste isn’t too difficult, especially when you are working with the vegetable-filled green curry. Chances are that with a close look at the ingredient list, you will easily be able to find a vegetarian version of green curry paste in the Asian food section of your local grocery store. If you are making this dish yourself from scratch and creating your own curry paste, rather than using fish sauce, you can consider using soy sauce instead, as it has similar properties.

The biggest problem you will come across is finding recipes that are able to give the right amount of kick that fish sauce traditionally gives. One thing that you can consider doing is replacing the fish sauce with your own mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and some rice vinegar to add that savory and tangy flavor that the fish sauce would have provided in the traditional recipe. You can also consider using simple vegetable oil to get the job done, if you prefer that instead.

In the end, green curry is an incredibly versatile and unique dish that you can easily make to be a vegetarian-friendly meal for you and your whole family. It includes many spices and vegetables, is nutritious, and can easily be just as hearty as other meals that people eat. If you are interested in learning vegetarian recipes around the world, this may be one of the ones that you should start out with.


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