Thai Red Curry with Plantains and Bok Choy

Thai Red Curry with Plantains and Bok Choy, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

If you have not tried plantains before, now is your time to give them a try. Plantains look like bananas – perhaps slightly bigger than average bananas. But, they are not usually paletable without cooking and are thus often referred to as “cooking bananas“. This starchy fruit is used in number of different dishes all over the tropical world where these plants are cultivated and grown.

Although you can eat plantains when they are still green, it is best to wait for them to get quite ripe. And for plantains that means really quite brown – think bananas that are two days beyond their “use to make a banana bread” date. Most of the time the plantains you find in the store need more ripening and the best way to do this is to leave them in a paper bag for another week or two.

Once they are nice and mostly brown, it’s time to make them into something delicious. You could grill them, boil them, fry them, roast them – and with the right spice combination plantains will not disappoint. I prefer to double cook them. First, I roast them without peeling and then I use them in different applications. For example, this chili was a great combination of beans and plantains, and worked really well.

For the curry recipe below, the plantains were roasted first then diced. In general, roasting brings out flavors that are sometimes hard to get any other way. In the case of plantains, this extra step is definitely worth it since ripe plantains still tend to be pretty tough.

The curry itself is really super easy – it takes only one pot and about 30 minutes to get to a fragrant and rich red curry with a subtle level of heat. If you are looking to increase the heat, you can consider adding some finely chopped red Thai chili peppers, which punch some serious heat!

The basis of the flavor here is the combination of lemongrass and ginger, further fortified by the red curry paste (I used store bought but you can make your own – see below for the link to a great recipe). If you are buying your red chili paste in a store, do check the ingredients to make sure that there is no fish or oyster sauce in there.

Other than the flavor agents and plantains, you will also need bok choy, and if that is hard for you to find where you live, Napa cabbage, spinach, or even kale will work. The final flavors are going to be slightly different but the cooking times and the rest of the recipe will be about the same.

Finally, you can’t make a great curry without some coconut milk. You can use either full fat or low fat versions, just note that the curry with low fat coconut milk may need more simmering to remove access liquid. You may also need to adjust the amount of vegetable broth in that case as well. The final curry should be rich and thick, and goes really well over some simple boiled brown rice!

Thai Red Curry with Plantains and Bok Choy

Thai Red Curry with Plantains and Bok Choy

What you’ll need:

4 super-ripe plantains
1 lemongrass, thinly sliced
2 inch ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons red curry paste (store bought or homemade)
3 pieces of bok choy, cut into bite size pieces
2 cups vegetable broth
1 can (15 oz) coconut milk (full fat or lite)
1 tablespoon cooking oil (canola or vegetable)

Rice or quinoa for serving

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C). Roast the super-ripe (almost brown) unpeeled plantains in a parchment paper covered roasting pan for 45 to 60 minutes. You can do this a day ahead – plantains’ skin will be completely black and the plantains themselves will be softened but not mushy.
  2. Let the plantains cool completely before handling further. Peel the cold, roasted plantains and slice into bite size slices. Set aside.
  3. Wash bok choy, shake off the excess water, then and slice into bite size pieces and set aside.
  4. Place a large pan over medium heat, add the oil and thinly sliced lemongrass and ginger. Let the flavors develop for 1-2 minutes then add the red curry paste. Mix and let combine for another 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add the diced plantains, and let them brown for 5-8 minutes.
  6. Mix in the vegetable stock and the coconut milk, increase the heat and bring to boil.
  7. When the curry is boiling, add box chop, lower the heat down and let simmer for 20 minutes or so. The longer you simmer the thicker the curry. Turn the heat off, and let the curry cool just slightly. As it cools the consistency will thicken further and be perfect for serving over rice or quinoa!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019

Plantains and Beans Chili

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Plantains and Beans Chili, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Plantains are those weird looking, giant bananas that look either too green or way past their prime, and usually not very appetizing. But, they are a staple of certain cuisines and I’ve had them while I lived in Ghana, almost exclusively deep fried. Unfortunately, deep fried plantains were not quite to my taste and I stayed away from them until very recently.

I was inspired by a Puerto Rican “lasagna” recipe that used plantains instead of noodles and was happy with the results. Here, I wanted to do something slightly different. I started from really ripe plantains and roasted them without peeling. Then, I made mashed plantains and combined them with plain, white beans (navy beans), and a handful of spices to create a rich and dense chili. Why does this chili work? First of all, plantains are full of starch and relatively sweet, adding lots of great flavor almost as if you were adding molasses. The spices and flavor agents, tomato paste, Chile Lime seasoning bland, and paprika helped the taste along. Lastly, the navy beans worked well here because they added smoothness and creaminess. Sprinkling some fresh cilantro complements the ensemble, and you could also spoon some dairy-free sour cream on top or some plant-based yogurt.

Plantain and Bean Chili

What you’ll need:

4 very ripe plantains, roasted

1/2 lbs (225 g) white beans, cooked or from the can

1 onion, diced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon Chile Lime seasoning bland (this is a product from Trader Joe’s but you can make your own with some chili powder, salt, and lime zest)

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Cooking spray

1/4 cups fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

What you’ll do:

  1. Get ripe plantains – those that have quite a few black areas on them – wash them and place them on a baking sheet without peeling. Roast the plantains at 425 F (220 C) for an hour. Their skins will turn black and they should soften inside.
  2. Let the plantains cool then peel them and mash with a potato masher. You could also put them into a food processor and pulse until fine.
  3. Heat a cast iron pan over the medium high heat. Add the cooking spray, spices, tomato paste, and the diced onion and let everything caramelize well, which could take up to 15 minutes.
  4. Add the plantains and let the bottom start to brown. Mix well and cook for 5 to 8 minutes.
  5. Add the cooked beans – I cook mine in a pressure cooker after soaking them overnight – and let the dish simmer for 10 minutes or so.
  6. Serve with a dash of fresh cilantro, or other types of topping you prefer to use on your chili.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018