One of the dishes I’ll miss this holiday season is Mom’s beef and potato curry. She’s the oldest of seven siblings, (if you think that’s a lot, Dad is one of nine) and holiday gatherings are always a huge multi-generational affair. My aunt Connie always makes the Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham, and if not my mom, one of my aunts or uncles always makes a big pot of beef curry. Instead of serving it at the buffet table, they usually leave the pot on the stove. When you get to the end of the buffet line, one of them will lead you into the kitchen, “Come, come, have some beef stew.” I look forward to it every year, but since we’re social distancing, I’ve just started making my own.
Mom doesn’t keep an extensive spice collection. The cabinet above her stove is mostly empty (she’s only 5”-1” you see) except for salt, pepper, msg, dried shrimp and three or four unmarked spices in re-purposed jelly jars. Next to the stove she keeps rice wine, fish sauce, light soy, mushroom soy and dark soy sauce. Her curry is a mild stew of tender beef, and potatoes falling apart in a thick sauce flavored with garlic, ginger, garam masala, and turmeric.
Bison Curry with Daikon
2 lbs. bison stew meat
1 heaping Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
In a large dutch oven, on medium heat, lightly fry:
3-inch piece peeled ginger cut in matchsticks
with 1/4 cup canola or grapeseed oil
Add and sautée on medium low heat until soft:
2 stalks lemongrass cut in 2″ pieces
2 cups diced onion, about 2 medium
1-1/2 oz. minced garlic, 6 to 9 cloves
Add the marinated meat to the pot with:
2 thai chiles fresh or dry (or 1 Serrano)
2 bay leaves
4 curry leaves (optional)
1 Tbsp. fish sauce or minced anchovy
3 to 4 cups rich bone broth
Simmer for 1-1/2 hours until the meat is tender, then add:
3 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. garam masala
1 lb. peeled daikon cut in 1-inch chunks
Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the daikon is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Rest the stew for another 20-30 minutes off the heat. Serve with:
fresh chopped cilantro and mint, and yogurt to garnish
Sometimes Mom makes her curry using daikon instead of potato. Potato gives the curry a more muted flavor, acting like a sponge, absorbing it all. I found that daikon adds its own subtle flavor to the stew, and it doesn’t crumble like the potato, so it melts in your mouth when you bite into it. DP really isn’t supposed to have beef or potato, so I settled on a version that uses bison and daikon, and I add curry leaves because I love their almost smoky yet herbaceous flavor and aroma. I also tried the Burma Superstar recipe, which isn’t quite like Mom’s, but there are elements I like – the addition of lemongrass, and thai chiles for a bit of heat – which I adopted. If I don’t have a specific ingredient, there’s usually a good pantry substitute, noted in the recipe.
Like any beef stew, standard cooking time is about 2 to 3 hours, but I’ve also made it in the multicooker. The meat needs only 35-40 minutes to cook at high pressure. Then I add the daikon and simmer for another 20-30 minutes until the daikon is tender. Bison is really lean so it doesn’t have the same oily sheen as the beef curry, but we don’t mind that. I serve it with turmeric and red lentil rice, and a creamy cucumber salad with cilantro, mint and yogurt. This recipe is also fantastic for making braised short ribs.
Easy Turmeric & Red Lentil Rice
Rinse and pick through 1/3 cup of red lentils. Rinse 1 cup jasmine rice and drain both well. Combine rice and lentils with 2-1/2 to 3 cups stock or broth, 1 teaspoon ground turmeric and a pinch of salt. Simmer covered for 18 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving. If you don’t have any broth, use water and 1 teaspoon bouillon, and omit the salt. Makes 5 cups.