CAUTION: Don’t make this curry when you’re in a hurry. If you’ve got half a day to kill, then a trip to to the groceries and a couple of hours in the kitchen might be fun.
At the groceries: grab 3-4 plump potatoes, 2-3 red yams/sweet potatoes, carrots, mushroom, yellow fried tofu, fresh gluten meat, 1 can of coconut milk. The fresh gluten meat is white, slightly layered, with a wet, bouncy texture, usually sold in packages of 2-4 blocks. Do not get the canned kind, or the kind that looks like bread. If fresh gluten meat is nowhere to be found (as happened to me at 99 Ranch Market), “vegan chicken” might substitute.
At the sink: peel all potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Cut them into big chunks (at least a finger digit thick) so that they won’t just dissolve in the curry later. Cut the fried tofu and gluten meat into similarly thick chunks.
STEP 1: Fry everything (except the mushroom) separately. This is the time consuming part, since you have to oil the pan, heat the pan, fry the potatoes until one side is brownish golden, flip to the other side and do the same, take out the potato, and do it again for 4 more ingredients. Frying helps firming the surface of the chunks (again, to prevent dissolving) and adds flavor to the curry. Remember to use vegetable oil only, since this is vegan.
STEP 2: Sauté diced garlic in a pot until golden. Turn off the heat. Put the fried ingredients and mushroom into a big pot. And I mean a really big pot. It’s amazing how just a few tuberous roots, chunks of tofu, and a small box of mushroom can fill up the whole pot.
STEP 3: Seasoning. Add sugar, salt, and curry powder into the pot. My mom’s recipe calls for the salt:sugar ratio of 1tsp:4tbs, that means for a pot like this you’ll need about 2.5 teaspoons of salt and 10 tablespoons of sugar. Add curry powder to your liking, 1 tsp is enough for coloring, 3 tsp should be enough for flavoring. I used the curry powder that has garlic, ginger, clove, fennel, and cumin.
Side note: you don’t need to get the exact seasoning formula at this stage. You can always add more salt, sugar, and curry when it’s done cooking. It’s easier to taste everything then.
STEP 4: Add 1 can of coconut milk into the pot. Yes, the whole can. Add water until everything is just submerged in liquid.
STEP 5: Cook uncovered on medium heat until boil. Then keep cooking for another 15 minutes. Check to see if the potatoes are cooked by inserting a chopstick (or anything similar) into a chunk of potato, if the chopstick goes through easily, then it’s done.
Side note: Stirring is not necessary while cooking. You can stir if you want, but then you’d risk turning the sweet potatoes and/or the “vegan chicken” into mush (like me :P). Fresh gluten meat wouldn’t turn mushy, so if you can get it you’re in good shape.