Culture Shock Curry

Every few weeks, you will see my son and I walking through downtown Würzburg.

I am alert, peeking into the yarn shop and forcing myself to swiftly move past the stores that sell running gear, while chanting, “I don’t need more running gear. I don’t need more running gear.”

My son, on the other hand, walks briskly and silently, trying not to collide into people on his way to what he calls “the perfect combination of psychological and physical torture,” known to those of us without braces as the “orthodontist.”

He will thank me someday, as he wheels me in to get my dentures.

I enjoy our outings to Würzburg. Maybe it’s because of the guy we saw with the purple mohawk and purple tights, with a purple balloon tied to his waist, carrying an old-style boom box on his shoulder; or maybe it’s the way I have to hold my breath when I go down the stairwell of the parking garage; but whatever the reason, Würzburg certainly has a more cosmopolitan ambiance than my lovely little village, where the oddest sights often include farm machinery.

As is our custom, I let my son have Pizza Hut after his orthodontist appointment, and yes, I DO realize there is some irony in this. I am a Health Nut Mom, but let me tell you, Pizza Hut is a rarity in my neck of the woods, so I indulge the young man, though it is probably clogging his arteries and contributing to a host of diseases he will have to combat in the future–but it’s his choice. [End of Mom Rant].

While I usually consume an organic nut bar and a smoothie while he eats, this time I was hungry for hot food. We still had a lot of errands to run, so I thought I might be able to find a safe-ish sort of Asian food place. I’ve gone before to the one just around the corner from Pizza Hut, known by the ambiguous name ‘China Wok.’

As I approached, a sign a little further down the alley with the interesting name “Himalaya,” caught my eye. But in case the onlooker was put off by the “Himalaya” part, they had also added “China” and “Thai,” making me briefly question the geographical integrity of the owners.

Since I am constantly on a quest for good Pad Thai here in Germany, I decided to be bold and try this place, even though it was filled with angry-looking guys drinking beer (at noon), a group of chatty girls, and a lone Asian tourist, looking very out-of-place (like us). However, I took it as a good sign that every seat was filled, though the place was no bigger than my living room, and the kitchen was right there behind the cash register, where my TV would be.

Having perused the menu intensely (and not finding a single strand of Pad Thai noodles), I decided on number 151, a Chickpea dish for vegetarians. And wow! I’m glad I did! It was an absolutely fabulous curry, and the best part is that I could watch the guy make it, and I tried to remember what he put in it–though maybe next time I’ll secretly video tape him with my iPhone.

Thus, tonight I experimented, added mushrooms plus a bit of this and that and a new favorite was born.

All through dinner, I heard (through mouthfuls of food) “Yum! This is SO good Mom!” And “Can you make this again?” And “This is better than steak! Plus it won’t kill me!”

I was so excited about the results, I felt the need to share this right away, while I could still remember what I put in it. So, inspired by a trip to the orthodontist and a quirky Himalayan Chinese Thai German restaurant, I present:

Culture Shock Curry

The Raw Materials

1 large yellow onion (thinly sliced)

2-3 cups white button mushrooms (sliced)

1 cup green onion (chopped)

2 gloves garlic (pressed)

2 tbsp ginger root (freshly grated)

4 cans of chickpeas (for a family of 6…adjust according to your family size)

2 cans unsweetened coconut milk

1 tbsp freshly ground coriander (use a mortar & pestle–it’s great AND relieves stress)

*2-3 tbsp Thailand Sunset Dream Curry Powder: Okay, so I found this at an organic market (yes, in Würzburg) so you may not have this exact spice in your area. But mine contains paprika, cumin, coriander, mustard powder, chili powder, garlic powder and something called bockshornklee, whatever that is. So experiment, if you don’t have this, I would recommend playing around with some curry powder, chili powder, red pepper and cumin until you get the spiciness that you like.

6-8 cups cooked rice (again, depending on your family size)

The Method

Set your rice cooking in a rice cooker. If you do not own a rice cooker, you should, as they are wonderful.

Rub down your cast iron wok with wok oil then heat up the puppy on med-high till it sizzles. Toss in your large onion and water sauté until onion is brown and your eyes are watering. Add the ginger, garlic and freshly ground coriander, and cook 1-2 minutes, until aromatic.

Add your mushrooms, and sauté 3-4 minutes, or until the mushrooms begin to soften and brown. Continue adding small doses of water to keep the stuff from welding itself to the bottom of the wok. Push the mushroom mixture to the outer ring of the wok, turn your heat to high and add the chickpeas and green onion.

Mix everything together for 4-5 minutes, then add coconut milk and remainder of curry spices.

Simmer 3-4 minutes and serve piping hot over brown rice.

Prepare to be a hero.

(One who has a minor addiction to cooking with coconut milk–it’s just SO creamy!)

Guten Appetit! 

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