Mentawai Yellow Curry August 06 2018 by Simone Denny

On a recent trip to the Mentawai Islands, I fell in love with this traditional yellow curry, made for us by a lovely local man from Sumatra called Ian. What I like about this curry is you can make whatever variation you choose. I made t vegetarian option with tofu but you can also make with chicken or fish, depending on your preference. 

What I realise about trying to recreate recipes from Asia, Sri Lanka or even Italy, is that part of the reason food tastes so good on holiday is that they grow all the ingredients themselves and these ingredients are native to those parts of the world. Plus they make everything from scratch! In both the Mentawais and Sri Lanka they make their own coconut milk directly from the coconut - that in itself is hard to compare to the good old canned coconut milk we use in the west. Even with that in mind, the yellow curry of Ian's I made at home was still pretty yummy!
Mentawai Yellow Curry
For the paste:

  • 1 generous finger of ginger (about 4cms) cut in rough slices
  • 3 cm of galangal – (if you cannot source galangal use fresh ginger)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic 
  • 1 large stem of lemongrass (or 2 small)
  • ½ cup of diced shallots 
  • 1 red chili (roughly chopped)
  • 1 finger of fresh turmeric – peeled and roughly chopped (if you cannot source use 1 large teaspoon of turmeric powder)
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander powder (you can add a tablespoon of water if it is a bit dry)
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or olive oil
  • 2 small onions
  • 2 cups of good quality coconut milk (I like ayum)
  • 2 -3 medium golden sweet potatoes (chopped) or 2 cups of chopped pumpkin
  • 3 carrots (optional)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of salt
  • ½ a cauliflower (florets)
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 150 gms of green beans
  • Coriander to garnish 
Optional Extras

For a vegetarian option add 1 packed of pan-fried tofu (optional) for vegetarian – add at the end
For a fish option – add a firm fish (i.e. ling) at the very end with beans etc.
For a chicken curry – add chicken pieces or chopped breast when you add the onion at the beginning

  1. Add all the ingredients for the paste in the small bowl of the food processor). Blend until it forms a smooth paste. You may need to add a tablespoon of water. Set aside. 
  2. Add oil to a large pot and add onion, gentle fry over medium heat (if using chicken add it at this point) 
  3. Add the paste and let it cook for a minute or two. 
  4. Add coconut milk and sweet potato or pumpkin (and carrots if using)
  5. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked through 
  6. Add beans, tomatoes and cauliflower (or fish or tofu if using) and simmer just for a few minutes, these vegetables should be cooked but slightly crunchy. 
  7. Serve with rice and chopped coriander sprinkled on top.