It’s not your ordinary side of peas, carrots and potatoes, but they go together just as well as always. Here, instead of your standard frozen peas, are a cache of just-in-season sugarsnap peas, with their edible, crunchy pods. Something about their shape, especially once split open, reminded me of an oblong shellfish, like mussels. I love mussels in a coconut green curry-infused broth. So why not fresh snap peas, in all their green sweetness, for something like that instead?
It did not hurt one bit to try it out. I was craving something light and refreshing, but not just a salad, this rainy Monday. Thankfully, the sugarsnap peas collected from a beautifully sunny Saturday in Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket were sitting in the fridge. The New Jersey-based Kernan Farms had baskets of them, so I piled up for the week. I always preferred snap peas a little bit cooked, such as sauteed with simple seasonings, over raw. But the rawness was really irresistible this time, thanks to juicy, crisp pods and perfectly round little peas.
So thinking of a compromise, to satisfy a craving for savory, I cooked some potatoes and carrots also found at the Greenmarket until rather soft. You can add any vegetables to this simple curry dish, such as cauliflower, or chunks of bell pepper cooked lightly as well. But to keep things simple, and to fill up on this as a meal, I stuck with very basic ingredients for curry (although more Indian-themed than Thai) with potatoes and carrots. These would play background to the snap peas.
With a jar of good Thai green curry paste, making a reliably tasty coconut curry is a cinch. That, and a can of natural coconut milk. Combined, these two elements create a creamy, spicy and complex broth to cook vegetables in. Look out for green curry pastes with Thai writing on them; ingredients should include chilies, cilantro, galangal (a Thai ginger relative), garlic, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. You could also hunt down these fresh ingredients separately to pound together, and keep sealed up in a jar yourself. I chose not to add any sugar to this dish, as some recipes for coconut green curries do; the sugarsnap peas are pretty sweet alone. And I like adding a little extra fresh ginger to mine, too.
Once the potatoes and carrots were cooked in this tasty sauce, I merely scattered the split sugarsnap peas around in it and spooned a little more sauce on top. (The pods would collect small wells of sauce, like shell pasta, as I ate it up.) Some chopped fresh scallions and chiffonades of basil were scattered on top; some fresh cilantro would be nice instead or in addition here, too. My taste for freshness, sweetness, savoriness and spice all sated in one simple dish, I can’t wait to try it out again as more vegetables make their way to their market, like sweet corn.
Coconut Green Curry Sugarsnap Peas
(makes 3-4 servings)
1 lb small potatoes (any type), cut to 1″ wedges
1/4 lb carrots, sliced to 1/8-1/4″ pieces
3-4 slices peeled ginger root
1/2 lb sugarsnap peas, fibrous strands peeled off while trimming off ends
2-3 teaspoons Thai green curry paste (or to taste)
12 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
2 scallions, both white and green parts, thinly sliced
handful fresh basil and/or cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan with a lid or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and the ginger slices. Add the potatoes, a pinch of salt and pepper, and stir about 1 minute. Add the green curry paste and toss to coat the potatoes evenly, stirring another minute or so. Add the coconut milk, bring just to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook covered for 10 minutes, or until potatoes are just tender. Add the carrots and cook another 3-5 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding extra salt, pepper or curry paste to the sauce. Add the lime juice and remove from heat.
Split the snap peas in halves (keeping some hanging together). Arrange in serving bowls and pour the curry mixture over each serving. Garnish each with the fresh herbs and scallions and serve immediately.
(for 3-4 servings)
1 lb potatoes: $1.00
1/4 lb carrots: $0.25
1/2 lb sugarsnap peas: $2.00
2 scallions (at $2/bunch): $0.60
1 can coconut milk: $1.99
3 teaspoons green curry paste: $0.80
3-4 slices ginger: $0.20
1 Tb fresh lime juice: $0.15
2 Tb olive oil, salt and pepper: $0.25
Four brownie points: This is why Thai people don’t get fat. Yes, coconut milk has a scary amount of saturated fats, but it’s got a host of other benefits, such as helping maintain blood sugar and boosting your immune. This dish is purely plant-based, too, with a minimal portion of olive oil and lots of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, fiber and protein from the peas.
Six maple leaves: The imported coconut milk and curry paste gives exotic flair to the local vegetables used, and are again plant-based ingredients with a relatively low-impact to produce (if not transport).