Why limit ourselves to classic American preparations for pumpkin? This simple recipe uses spicy Thai red curry to balance and highlight the natural sweetness of pumpkin. You can control the spiciness by using more or less curry paste.
2 tablespoons canola oil
2-3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste, or less to taste
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
4 Kaffir lime leaves
3 cups coconut milk
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt, if needed
3 cups fresh pumpkin, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 pounds sirloin, cut into thin strips
1 red pepper, cut into thin strips
Cilantro leaves, to garnish
[Chef’s Note: If you can’t find Kaffir lime leaves, you may substitute with the zest of one or two limes, cut in wide strips so you can remove them easily at the end.]
Heat a wok over high heat until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and stir fry the beef until well browned. You may want to do this in two batches so as not to crowd the wok. Remove the beef from the wok and reserve in a bowl along with any accumulated juices.
Return the wok to high heat and add another tablespoon of oil, frying the curry paste briefly and mixing well. Add 2/3 of the coconut milk a little at a time and blend well to fully dissolve the curry paste, reserving the rest to finish the dish. Add the fish sauce, brown sugar, Kaffir lime leaves and salt, to taste. Simmer the curry sauce for 2 minutes.
Add the cubed pumpkin and simmer until crisp-tender, about 10-15 minutes. Add the sliced red pepper, cooking for an additional 2 minutes, then return the beef to the mixture and cook until tender. Remove the lime leaves and finish with the remaining coconut milk.
[Chef’s Note: Reserving some of the coconut milk until the end of cooking helps to give the finished dish additional creaminess, as the longer it boils, the more watery coconut milk becomes.]
Serve over steamed jasmine rice and garnish with cilantro leaves, if desired.
You may also add sliced red onions or pineapple cubes, or substitute butternut squash for the pumpkin.
Recipe and photo by Mark Tafoya