Vegetarian Penang curry with mushroom and tofu

Penang curry, named after an area on the northwest coast of Malaysia, is a rich, fragrant and creamy Thai curry. The main players in this recipe – nutty chestnut mushrooms and fried tofu – are the perfect ingredients to soak up all of the sensational spices in the penang sauce.

Penang curry is without a doubt my curry of the moment. I can’t express how much I love it. I can’t stop eating it. I don’t want to stop eating it. It’s so tasty.

The aromatic flavours of ginger, red chilli, coriander and lemongrass work well with creamy peanut butter and coconut milk. It’s milder than Thai green or red curries and more of a comforting choice with the creaminess from the nut butter.

There’s a street food stall on Lower Marsh Market in Waterloo, London, that serves the best tofu penang curry I’ve ever tried. I’m addicted to it. I try to limit myself to eating it once a week as the portions are huge (and I don’t like to waste food).

To feed my addiction and cut back on pricey lunchtime treats, I wanted to have a go at making it myself. A lot of the recipes I browsed online use ready made Thai red curry paste, but I prefer to make sauces from scratch where I can, to avoid extra unnecessary sugar and additives, so I decided to make my own paste.

I found About Food’s red curry paste recipe a great base for inspiration, making a few tweaks along the way. There are quite a lot of ingredients involved in making the paste, but it’s totally worth it. It only takes five minutes to put together. It’s so fresh and aromatic.

Serve this curry with your choice of rice (I always use brown rice), a sprinkle of fresh, chopped coriander and a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce on the side for a bit of extra kick.


  • 200g tofu (I used Cauldron)
  • 200g chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red onion (½ thinly sliced to add to the curry and hold ½ back for the paste)
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 400g can light coconut milk

For the curry paste

  • 3 tbsp light coconut milk (from the same can mentioned above)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ remaining red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh or ground coriander
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp frozen red chilli (or use fresh chilli)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime juice (I used bottled lime juice, but from the fruit is fine)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Serves 2


  1. Drain the tofu. I find the best way to do this is to place it on a plate and carefully balance a heavy object(s) on top – I usually opt for a chopping board and big saucepan. Leave it for 15 minutes or longer if you can be bothered to wait, to get as much water out of the tofu as possible.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the paste. Put all of the paste ingredients into a measuring jug or high-edged piece of tupperware and whizz everything up with a hand blender until smoothish.
  3. At this point, if you’ve opted to cook brown rice, put it on to boil now as it takes 25-30 minutes to cook. If you’re using an alternative, follow the pack instructions.
  4. Next, put a large frying pan on a medium heat and pour in the oil.
  5. While the oil is heating up, remove the tofu from its makeshift clamp and chop it into small cubes. Add it to the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes, turning regularly till it’s golden. Remove from the pan with a fish slice or similar utensil, so the oil remains in the pan.
  6. Pop the onion and mushroom into the pan and cook for a further 5-7 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the tofu back to the pan.
  7. Transfer the curry paste into the pan and stir in with the veggies and tofu. Cook for a minute or so and then pour in the coconut milk. Bring to the boil, stirring frequently so the coconut milk and curry paste blend in together. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce has turned a rich light red colour.
  8. Season the curry well and serve with the rice, sweet chilli sauce and fresh coriander.

Adapted from the Picky Eater Blog’s recipe.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s