Chickpea Coconut Curry
This is my version of the chickpea curry dish at my favorite restaurant in Santa Monica, Cassia. The restaurant serves Southeast Asian cuisine in an open building surrounded by white marble and high ceilings. Cassia is my go-to spot for date nights with my husband Aaron. The restaurant has occupied the same location for the five years we have lived up the street in Santa Monica. It’s our “old faithful” restaurant. There have been plenty of times that we had a reservation at another restaurant and rather than branching out and trying someplace new we instead went with our comfort spot – the place where we have tried every dish on the menu. I love sitting outside on the patio, things are quieter out there. We get a chance to catch up and talk, already knowing what we are going to order.
In this recipe chickpeas are stewed in a creamy coconut sauce made from a homemade curry paste base. The dish is served with a side of naan and fragrant herbs like Thai basil and cilantro. I like to squeeze a little bit of lime juice onto the bread before scooping up the curry. For some added vegetables try stirring in some sautéed spinach as well.
Fresno chilies can be difficult to find sometimes, they are in peak season in late summer through early fall. While the flavor of jalapeños are similar, making the swap can change the color of the dish. I would recommend substituting fresno or red chili paste (look for one with no other added ingredients) it can be found in grocery stores in a tube located with the fresh spices.
For the curry paste:
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons grated ginger
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 fresno chilies (or red jalapeños), deseeded and chopped
2 tablespoons madras curry powder
2 tablespoons palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 medium Roma tomatoes, cored and diced
3 (13.5-ounce) cans coconut milk
1 lemongrass stalk, halved lengthwise and smashed
3 keffir lime leaves (optional)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 (15.5-ounce) cans chickpeas
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Thai basil leaves (optional)
Lime wedges, for serving
Naan, for serving
For the curry paste:
Add the onion, ginger, garlic, chilies, curry powder and sugar to a blender or food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Puree until the mixture is smooth. The mixture can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days ahead of time.
Heat a large heavy bottomed-pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the vegetable oil and heat through. Add the curry paste and fry, stirring frequently to prevent from burning, until the curry paste darkens in color slightly, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes then add the coconut milk, lemongrass and lime leaves (if using). Bring the mixture to a boil then lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until the broth thickens slightly, about 30 minutes.
Season with salt then add the chickpeas, and cook until the chickpeas are tender, about an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the lemongrass stalk and lime leaves and discard (if using) then stir in the lime zest.
Divide chickpea curry among bowls and garnish with the cilantro. Serve with the Thai basil (optional), lime wedges and naan.