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Recipes: Three curry dishes easy enough for workweek dinners

How to layer flavors for big impact without needing long cooking times or a pantry full of spices.

Chicken curry with coconut and tomatoes.Connie Miller of CB Creatives

These recipes are part of a partnership between Christopher Kimball and the cooks at Milk Street and the Globe Magazine’s Cooking column.

Boldly spiced curries can intimidate some home cooks with their lengthy ingredient lists. But at Milk Street, we’ve found ways to layer flavors for big impact without long cooking times or numerous spices. Amok trey, a classic Cambodian fish curry, inspired our weeknight version of a dish that relies on coconut milk, turmeric, and curry powder. From southern India, the acidity of grated tomatoes balances the richness of our take on chicken Chettinad. And wheat noodles and flank steak form the base of a savory curry from Tibet, where the cuisine borrows heavily from the flavors of India and Nepal.


Chicken Curry With Coconut and Tomatoes

Makes 4 servings

This robustly spiced curry from southern India is made with chilies, poppy seeds, and coconut. To grate the tomatoes, first cut them in half. Place the cut side of each half against the large holes of a box grater and grate until you’re left with just the skin; discard the skin. If you like, garnish the dish with cilantro and serve with lemon wedges and basmati rice or naan.

Don’t forget to finely chop the shredded coconut; if not, its texture can be tough and fibrous.

½      cup unsweetened shredded coconut, finely chopped

2        tablespoons poppy seeds

2        teaspoons ground fennel seeds

2        teaspoons ground coriander

1         teaspoon ground cardamom

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2        tablespoons coconut oil

1½    pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1½ -inch pieces

1         medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2        Fresno chilies, stemmed, halved, and thinly sliced

1         tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

2        pounds firm plum tomatoes, grated (see note)

In a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, combine the coconut, poppy seeds, fennel seeds, coriander, cardamom, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Toast, stirring, until the coconut is golden and the mixture is fragrant, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.


Set the skillet over medium-high heat, add the coconut oil, and heat until shimmering. Add the chicken in an even layer and cook, without stirring, until light golden brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Add the onion and 1½  teaspoons salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the chilies, ginger, ½ cup water, 1 3/4 cups of the tomatoes, and the coconut-spice mixture, scraping up any browned bits. Cover and cook over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is no longer pink when cut into with a knife, about 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining tomatoes, then taste and season with salt and pepper.

Tibetan Curried Noodles With Beef and Cabbage

Makes 4 servings

Tibetan curried noodles with beef and cabbage. Connie Miller of CB Creatives

Use dried Asian noodles about 1/8 inch in diameter, as the noodles must have enough heft to stand up to the beef and cabbage. Japanese udon is a good, widely available option, but don’t use Italian pasta — it doesn’t give the right texture for the dish.

To use your time efficiently, season the steak first and let it stand while prepping the rest of the ingredients.

Don’t forget to rinse the cooked and drained noodles under cold running water. This stops the cooking, preventing the noodles from turning mushy, and washes away excess starch.


3        tablespoons soy sauce, divided

2        tablespoons white sugar, divided

12-ounce flank steak

6        ounces dried medium-thick Asian wheat noodles (see note)

2        tablespoons grape-seed or other neutral oil, divided

8        scallions, whites finely chopped, greens sliced into 1-inch pieces on bias, reserved separately

8        medium garlic cloves, minced

1         tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1         tablespoon curry powder

1½    pounds napa cabbage, cut lengthwise into 3-inch wedges, then crosswise into thin strips (about 7 cups)

Kosher salt

Lime wedges, to serve

In a medium bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Cut the steak in half with grain, then cut each piece across the grain into ¼-inch slices. Add the steak to the soy mixture and toss to coat. Marinate at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.

In a large pot bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until tender. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool. Set aside.

Set a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, and heat until shimmering. Add the steak and any accumulated juices and cook, stirring constantly, until no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.

To the same skillet, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and heat over medium until shimmering. Add the scallion whites, garlic, ginger, and curry powder. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the cabbage, the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce, the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, until the thick rib pieces of the cabbage are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.


Add the noodles and toss. Add the steak and any accumulated juices and toss again. Off heat, taste and season with salt, then stir in the scallion greens. Serve with lime wedges.

Coconut Curry-Braised Fish

Makes 4 servings

Coconut curry-braised fish. Connie Miller of CB Creatives

Any thick, firm white fish, such as cod or Chilean sea bass, will work for this easy dish inspired by chef Edward Lee. Avoid thin fillets, such as sole or tilapia, which cook too quickly and fall apart.

Don’t use light coconut milk, which may separate as the vegetables cook. Full-fat coconut milk is the best choice here; it’s more stable and gives the dish a full, rich flavor as well a lightly creamy consistency.

Low-sodium chicken broth provides better control over the dish’s final seasoning. Serve the curry with steamed rice.

14-ounce can coconut milk

2        medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into ½-inch pieces

1         medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

6        medium garlic cloves, finely grated

2        teaspoons ground turmeric

2        teaspoons curry powder

½      teaspoon red pepper flakes

1         cup low-sodium chicken broth

1½    pounds skinless, firm white fish fillets, cut into 2-inch chunks

Kosher salt and ground white pepper

Lime wedges, to serve

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, combine the coconut milk, carrots, onion, garlic, turmeric, curry powder, and pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer, then reduce to medium and cook uncovered while stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender and the liquid has thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, about 10 minutes.


Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Season the fish with salt and white pepper, then place in the pot and stir gently. Cover, reduce to low, and cook until the fish flakes easily when poked with a fork, 7 to 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with lime wedges.

Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.