This Malaysian-styled vegetable curry dish is the BEST recipe to enjoy a variety of vegetables in one bowl – Yes!
If there is one vegetable dish that I missed the most from home, it’s definitely this colorful curry vegetable bowl. I love mine with lots of tofu puffs or fu juk (fried tofu skin or yuba). My mom often makes this with either homemade or store-bought curry paste. She calls it ‘ga li chap choi’ which translates to curry mixed veggies.
This dish is also a common option in Malaysia at many hawker stalls that sells mixed rice. The rainbow color vegetables and spicy curry always whet my appetite despite the warm weather at home.
Since there are a lot more spring and summer vegetables at the store, I decided to create this tasty bowl at home. This recipe uses a simple chile paste similar to my Easy Sambal recipe.
It’s made from fresh red jalapeños, shallot, garlic, lemongrass, and galangal that are blended into a paste. The most important step is to stir-fry this paste until the chiles turn a darker red. It is then simmered along with tomatoes, eggplant, cabbage, tofu puffs, and okra. (Note: The okra comes in at the end to prevent a slimy consistency.)
What I love about this dish is how flexible the pairing ingredients are. So, give this delicious meal a try today with the easy step-by-step below. Don’t forget to check the Cooking Tips and FAQs section below.
How to Make Malaysian-styled Vegetable Curry
Step 1: Cook the eggplant and okra
There are a few ways to prepare the eggplant; fried, steamed, pan-fried, or baked. I fried mine in hot oil for about 1-2 minutes. Then, transfer to a plate with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
To cook the okra, you’ll simply blanch the sliced okra in hot water and set aside.
Step 2: Make the chile paste (sambal)
The chile paste is the soul of this curry and it’s totally worth it to make from scratch.
Place the chile, lemongrass, shallots, galangal, garlic, and oil in a blender then pulse into a paste. The oil is added so it’s easier to blend the ingredients into a paste. Alternatively, you can use mortar and pestle in this step.
To cook the chile paste, heat a large wok or dutch oven, then add the oil. Once the oil is heated through, turn the heat to low and slowly pour in the blended chile.
Using a spatula, stir occasionally to prevent burning the chile. Cook until the paste turns a darker red.
Then, add the spices, and stir to combine. You can either season it now and store it for later or move to the next step.
Step 3: Put everything together
Once the chile paste is ready, add the vegetable stock, pandan leaves, and tofu puffs. My tofu puffs came in big size so I halved mine. Adding tofu puffs early will allow them to slowly absorb the flavor. For smaller tofu puffs, I prefer to add them later in the step.
Cover the dutch oven with a lid and simmer for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, uncover the pot and add cabbage, tomato, eggplant, curry leaves, and lime leaves. Season accordingly.
Once the cabbage is cooked to crisp-tender, add the okra and coconut milk. I added okra last to prevent the curry from turning too slimy.
Simmer the curry for another 2-3 minutes. Finally, add a swirl of lime juice and taste test. Remove the pandan leaves before serving. The curry is best served with a bowl of rice.
Cooking Tips and FAQs
1. Use enough oil to cook the paste – The chile paste needs oil to fully cooked through to turn into sambal. It’s ready when:
- The oil starts to separate from the chile
- The paste turns darker red but not burnt
- It should release a sweet chile aroma
2. Use medium-low heat to cook the paste and stir occasionally – This is to prevent the chile from burning.
3. Curry leaves or lime leaves? The former is more common but I love the tangy and fragrant taste of the latter, so I added both. You can also temper the curry leaves to make them more aromatic.
4. Why pandan leaf? I learned this from a local seller in Malaysia. It adds an amazing sweet aroma to the curry.
5. Coconut milk alternative – Feel free to use other unsweetened plant-milk if you can’t have coconut milk. The curry will be lighter and thinner without coconut milk.
6. Other vegetable variations – Some other substitutes include long beans, winged beans, low moisture mushrooms, potatoes, fu juk (fried tofu skin), and squashes.
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Why You Need this Malaysian-styled Vegetable Curry
- It’s a delightful meal – just look at the colors
- Easily customizable – check the above Cooking Tips for other vegetable options
- Super appetizing meal for any season
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Malaysian-styled Vegetable Curry
- 1 ¼ cups neutral oil divided
- 2 small eggplants cut into 2-inch long matchsticks
- 4 ounces okra tips removed and sliced
- 8 ounces red jalapeños roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 shallot roughly chopped
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 stalks lemongrass white parts roughly chopped (green parts discarded)
- 5 slices galangal
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 6-7 cups vegetable stock
- 10 pieces of fried tofu puffs rinsed in hot water and halved
- 3 pandan leaves tied into knot
- 3 cups cabbage roughly chopped
- 2 tomatoes cut into wedges
- 5 lime leaves stems removed and thinly sliced
- 5 curry leaves plus more as desired
- 1 ½ palm sugar rounds about 22 grams, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon vegetable bouillon or mushrooms seasoning plus more to taste
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice or tamarind juice plus more to taste
- In a 1 ½–quart saucepan, heat 1 cup of the oil to 350°F. Fry the eggplant sticks, in small batches, for about 1 to 2 minutes or until the skin turns slightly darker. Using a pair of tongs, transfer to paper towels to drain.
- Fill another saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Blanch the okra for 1 minute. Drain and set aside.
- Make the chile paste: Place the jalapeños, shallot, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, and 2 tablespoons of oil in a food processor. Blend into a fine paste. (Alternatively, you can also use a mortar and pestle to pound the ingredients.)
- Heat a 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-low heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, then sauté the chile paste, stirring often, until the chile turns a darker shade of red, 20 to 30 minutes. Add more oil if the pan starts to look dry along the way.
- Add the cumin, coriander, and turmeric, and continue to sauté for a few more seconds until fragrant.
- Add the vegetable stock, tofu puffs, pandan knots, and bring it to a boil. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes over medium-low heat.
- After 10 minutes, uncover the pot. While the broth is simmering, add the cabbage, tomatoes, eggplant, lime leaves, and curry leaves. Use the back of the spatula to immerse the vegetables in the broth if needed.
- Season with palm sugar, salt, and mushrooms seasoning. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
- Once the cabbage is as crisp-tender as you like, add the okra and coconut milk, then simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes.
- Swirl in the lime juice, taste, and adjust the seasoning if needed. Remove the pandan leaves before serving.
- The sambal recipe is similar to my Easy Vegan Sambal recipe.
- Sub palm sugar with other sweeteners and start with 1 tablespoon instead. Palm sugar is usually milder compared to table sugar. The palm sugar used is about 22grams or 1 1/2 tablespoons.
- For the vegetable stock, you can also use water and mix it with an umami seasoning or mushroom powder. For the umami seasoning made from leek, please check out Yondu.