Curry is known for its vibrant flavors, with colors that span the spectrum from yellow to green to red. But before a recent trip to Singapore, I’d never heard of a white curry. It was at a restaurant called Candlenut Kitchen, that I realized this spicy stew could also be white.
Called YeYe’s Curry, Chef Malcolm Lee cooks up his take on a recipe passed down from his great-grandmother. With tender chunks of chicken enveloped in a rich white curry it was divine. While the rest of the meal was fantastic, something about the delicious improbability of a white curry stuck with me. After making a batch of Beef Rendang last week, I had a bunch of herbs left over and decided to come up with my own take on this deceptively colorless dish.
While neutral in color, this curry will tingle your senses with a full array of light colored aromatics and spices such as garlic, ginger, galangal and lemongrass. It has a similar flavor profile to Thai green curry, but what it lacks in color, it makes up for with a rich velvety texture and creamy flavor.
Kaffir lime leaves, galangal and lemongrass aren’t the easiest to find, but try Googling for a Thai grocery store in your nearest big city. All three keep well in the freezer so I tend to buy a lot and freeze what I don’t use.
I included some peeled eggplant and enoki mushrooms in this curry, but after thinking about it a little more, there are a ton of white vegetables out there like white asparagus, cauliflower, and potatoes. You can also substitute chicken thighs for the pork, which will cut the cooking time in half. Because of the low quantity of fat and collagen in chicken breast meat, it’s not a good choice for stews like this as it will get dry and tough by the time the curry is done.
You might be surprised that this spicy dish actually comes in a third variation besides red and green curry. Food blogger Marc Matsumoto shares how he discovered the idea for this recipe in a full post on the Fresh Tastes blog.
- 2 shallots (about 2 ounces), roughly chopped
- 2-3 medium cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 1” length fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin seed
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 pound pork butt (or chicken thighs), cut into large cubes
- 4 medium kaffir lime leaves
- 1” length of galangal
- 1 stalk of lemongrass, white part only, smashed with a blunt object
- 1-2 green bird chilies, split (optional)
- 1 can coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons palm sugar (you can substitute regular sugar)
- ½ pound small eggplants, peeled then cut into cubes
- 1 pack enoki mushrooms
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Add the shallots, garlic, ginger, salt, coriander, and cumin to a food processor and process until you have a relatively smooth paste that’s free of any chunks.
- Sprinkle a generous amount of salt on the meat. Heat a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil, and then add the meat. Let the meat brown on one side, then turn it over and brown the other side. Transfer the meat to a bowl and repeat if necessary to brown the rest of the meat.
- Add the spice paste to the hot oil, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Once the spice paste is very fragrant (but not browned ), add the lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass and chilies and continue frying until you can smell the lime leaves.
- Add the coconut milk and palm sugar, and then return the meat to the pot. Cover loosely with a lid and gently simmer over medium-low heat until the meat is tender (about 1 hour for chicken, 2 hours for pork).
- Add the enoki mushrooms and eggplant and cook uncovered until the eggplant is tender and the curry has slightly thickened. Remove the lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass, and chilies, and then add the cream. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.