I’ve been trying to nail down a great curry noodle “in a jar” situation for months. My first attempt was late last year when we took the Airstream out to the desert south of Palm Springs. I’ve worked through five or six revisions in the months since, and learned some important lessons along the way. Once you have the core ingredients in a jar (or bag), all you need is water and a splash of coconut milk. You end up with a dynamic and feisty broth bolstered with cayenne, ginger, cinnamon, dried mushrooms and turmeric. It’s incredibly fragrant and delicious. The broth envelops tangles of egg noodles and whatever seasonal vegetables you have on hand to toss in at the last minute. I tend to use shredded cabbage and some tofu, and broccoli florets if I have them. So easy, so good!
I think I finally cracked the code on the coconut curry noodles last week while parked at a stunning stretch of California coastline near Santa Barbara, but there have been some real fails in the attempts all winter. Getting the feisty broth to a place I loved was a breeze, it was getting the noodles right that gave me the most trouble. Turned out, the trick is using just the right noodles for a one-pot cooking approach. You need noodles that are happy to simmer along with all the other ingredients without getting overly goopy, or without making the broth too thick and starchy. I’ll get into the specifics down below.
The “Meals In Jars” Series:
If you’re just stumbling on this I’ll back up a bit. I’ve done a few of these types of meals in jars lately. I love to keep them on hand for fast weeknight meals and take them out on road trips and camping as well. I keep the base recipes pretty strict and my general rule of thumb is to aim for “just add water.” Or, in this case a bit of coconut milk. With the Italian Barley Soup and the Tortellini Soup it’s just water and canned tomatoes. The idea is that if all you have is the content of the jar, water, and perhaps a pantry-friendly ingredient or two, you have all you need for a really good meal.
Let’s Talk about The Mushrooms
Let’s get into some detail related to the ingredients in these curry noodles. I call for chopped dried porcini mushrooms in this recipe. They lend a really great earthy counter-balance to the spicy cayenne and ginger notes in the broth. They’re worth sourcing and using, and I’m calling them out here because I know a bunch of you are going to want to skip them (lol). I just want to encourage you not to. If you have another dried mushroom in your pantry, one you love, yes, you can absolutely substitute, but don’t skip the dried mushrooms altogether.
Coconut Milk Alternatives?
Use full-fat coconut milk here and not low-fat. If you want a more creamy curry by all means add more to the broth, and simply re-season to your liking. Also, if you’re looking for a coconut milk alternative, I’ve had a lot of success using homemade cashew milk with these curry noodles. I blend 1 cup soaked cashews with 1 cup of water as the ratio using a high-speed blender until creamy smooth. Any leftover coconut milk or cashew milk freezes nicely, so tend to save any into baggies for later use, and both work nicely here.
What Kind of Noodles to Use?
I ran through a lot of noodles before landing on Italian-style egg pasta nests as the best choice for this recipe. Here’s what makes the noodle choice tricky. This is a one-pot meal. That is the whole point. You’d have a lot more noodle options if you wanted to boil your noodles in a separate pot, and then add them, fully cooked, to your curry pot at the perfect moment. But that isn’t what we’re going for here.
I tried rice noodles of various thickness but they were never happy, and wanted to be cooked separately. Thinking through other quick cooking pastas, I tested angel hair pasta, and that was a hard no. I tried breaking spaghetti into segments, and that wasn’t right either. But these tagliatelle egg nests, the kind you can pick up in an Italian deli, and many other grocery stores were great! Adding them after you’ve let the broth simmer a bit, they cooked into slurpy perfection.
An Outdoor Coconut Curry Noodle Pot
This is a brothy situation with turmeric involved. I’ve cooked it a number of times in the Airstream, but because the cooking space is cramped, this is definitely a meal I prefer to cook and eat outside. My little Iwatani burner paired with a donabe is a great light-weight, easy to set up combo. I love the donabe because the clay really holds the heat and keeps the curry warm in case you’re up for seconds. For anyone worried about traveling with a clay pot, I keep it in the box it was shipped in to keep it safe while driving. You can see the set-up below.
Here’s a snapshot of the recipe in my notebook below (the final version is typed up below). I like to write up recipes in pencil, and then erase to make changes and evolve the recipe over time. I always have a line for “next time” and that is where I leave notes to self about what to do when attempting the recipe again. Leaving little notes about what has worked and what hasn’t so I don’t repeat past fails is also an important part of my template. And if I’m working and testing recipes for a book I take a slightly different approach. If I know a recipe is going to go into a book I type it up and move a printout to a binder, filing versions and changes there, and maintaining digital files. I did a series of posts about my Making a Cookbook process years ago (2015!) related to Near & Far – it might be helpful if you think you might want to write a cookbook someday but are overwhelmed by the process. A bit of a tangent, but that’s how it typically goes down on the recipe front over here.
What if I’m Cooking for 2?
One last note related to the recipe, a lot of camping saucepans are small, and this recipe calls for 7 1/2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of coconut milk. So, a good amount of liquid. You’re going to want to use a sizable pot. If your pot is smaller, or maybe you’re cooking for less than 4, here’s the plan. As long as your pot can hold 6 cups of water comfortably (knowing you’ll also be adding pasta and vegetables), you’re fine. Use all the spices, etc. as written, and scale back the pasta nests by one or two, and proceed with recipe. Your broth with be a bit stronger (in a good way).
Other favorite Meals in Jars:
I hope you all enjoy this one as much as I do! I love it as a camping meal, especially if it is cold out. If you’re looking for more ideas along these lines I’ll just highlight this Italian Barley Soup and the Tortellini Soup again as well, or browse all the soup recipes. Keep your pantry stocked with a few of these for quick, low-lift homemade meals.