I love, love, love the fragrance of lemon. So, it was no surprise that I fell in love with the fresh lemon balm growing at First Agro, when we came across it on our visit to the farm. With our last order of veggies from First Agro, I placed an order for some lemon balm, too, though I had no clue then what I would do with it.
No, lemon balm is not the same as lemongrass, that be all of Thai cuisine. Neither is it a balm that comes in a bottle. 🙂 It is a herb that grows wild in certain parts of the world, and has a gorgeous smell of lemon. The regular consumption of lemon grass has several health benefits, as I later read up on the Internet – including alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression, bringing down increased heart beat due to nervousness, reducing blood pressure, treating sleeplessness, treating Alzheimer’s Disease, relieving menstrual cramps and digestive ailments, headaches and toothaches.
I decided to make a Thai vegetable green curry using lemon balm (instead of the lemon grass that is typically used to make it). The green curry is something I never ventured to make before, because I just assumed it would be a tough, tough job. It so wasn’t tough to make the curry – in fact, I made it in minutes. Beginner’s luck or whatever, it turned out lovely. What amazed me was the fact that I was able to make this super flavourful curry using absolutely zero oil!
I had to make certain substitutions to the ingredients originally used to make the curry, too. For instance, I couldn’t find any galangal, so I used Indian ginger instead. And then, of course, I used lemon balm instead of lemon grass. I used the vegetables that I had on hand. Purists might baulk at this curry, but I would say the taste was beautiful, very, very close to the original Thai vegetable green curry I have had in Thailand. So, yay to that!
Here’s how I made the curry.
Ingredients (about 4 servings):
For the green paste:
- 1 cup fresh lemon balm leaves, stalks removed (loosely pressed)
- Salt, to taste
- A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
- 2 green chillies (or to taste), stems removed and chopped
- 8-10 stalks of fresh coriander, with leaves, chopped
- 5-6 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds (dhania)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 cups of chopped vegetables (I used green peas, baby corn, cauliflower florets, zucchini, capsicum, beans, carrot, and onion)
- Salt, to taste
- A handful of fresh lemon balm leaves, stalks removed
- 1 cup of thick coconut milk (I used an entire Dabur Homemade 200 ml pack)
- A dash of fresh lemon juice
- A few stalks of fresh coriander and leaves, finely chopped
- Grind all the ingredients for the green paste together, in a mixer, using a little water. Make a paste. Keep aside.
- Take the chopped vegetables in a heavy-bottomed pan, along with about a cup of water. Add salt to taste, and mix well. Cook the vegetables, covered, on medium flame till they get tender, about 10 minutes. Stir intermittently. Make sure you do not overcook the vegetables, they should get just cooked but retain their crunch (otherwise, the curry will turn out tasteless).
- Once the vegetables are cooked, add the green paste that you ground earlier, the lemon balm leaves, as well as the coconut milk. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, stirring intermittently, till everything is well combined together. At this stage, if you feel the curry is too thick, add a bit more water and simmer for a couple of minutes.
- Switch off the gas, and add the dash of lemon juice and finely chopped coriander. Mix well.
- Serve warm with basmati rice.
- If you are able to get your hands on galangal, use it to make the curry. If you don’t have any, though, Indian ginger works just fine. Likewise, I used ordinary Indian green chillies to make the curry, but you could use bird’s eye chillies instead, too.
- If you are unable to find any fresh lemon balm, use lemon grass to make this curry instead.
- Broccoli, mushrooms, paneer, tofu, pre-cooked soya chunks, and cucumber would go extremely well in this curry, I think. I didn’t have any of these, so I didn’t use them. Whatever veggies you use, just make sure you chop them all almost the same size (for uniform cooking) and use 3 cups in total.
- If you don’t like the idea of using store-bought coconut milk, you could make your own at home. There are a whole lot of recipes online that teach you how to go about it.
- Basmati rice makes for a wonderful combination with this green curry. You could use ordinary rice instead, but I would advise against that.
- Do not cook the curry too much after you add the coconut milk, otherwise it will curdle. Just simmer it for a few minutes, on low-medium flame.
- If you have kaffir lime leaves, you could add them to the curry too, while you add the veggies. I didn’t have any, so I skipped that, but I think the fresh lemon balm more than made up for it.
- Increase or decrease the quantity of coconut milk you use in the curry, to suit your taste preferences.
You like? I hope you will try this out at home, too!