Thai Yellow Pumpkin and Seafood Curry

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

It’s  a good idea to have something up your sleeve that you can cook quickly, and simply, when you’ve got friends coming over to supper midweek after work. This is that something. Don’t let the length of the list of ingredients put you off. You really could go to the supermarket at lunchtime and buy everything you need. What’s more, most of it keeps: salmon, raw shrimp, lime leaves and lemongrass in the freezer (and all but the salmon can be used from frozen); curry paste in the refrigerator; the coconut milk, fish sauce, fish-stock concentrate and turmeric in the cupboard. In other words, one shopping expedition, many curries. Yes, the cilantro you’ll need to buy fresh (though at a push you could buy a box of already chopped frozen stuff), as you will the pumpkin or squash and bok choy and—give or take—lime, but whatever, you have the base here for a number of curries. Once you’ve cooked this and seen both how simple and how divine it is, you’ll see how you can adapt it for different produce. You have to have rice with curry, and the simplest way to cook this is to get an electric rice cooker. The best part of this is that once you’ve put the rice and water in, the rice cooks itself and—with my model at least—stays warm for 12 hours, so you’re not going to have to do any last-minute timing shenanigans. You just stick the rice on when you get in, and it’ll be fine whatever time people bowl up for dinner. With the same idea in mind, you should know that you can cook the curry up till the part where the pumpkin is tender and then leave it, reheating it later to cook (for all of about 3 minutes) the shrimp and salmon. Given that most people are late for dinner when they’re coming after work, this means that you don’t have the dilemma of either leaving something spoiling on the stove or having a frenzied bout of last-minute cooking once they arrive. I’ve said 1–2 tablespoons of curry paste. This is because pastes vary enormously in their strengths and people vary enormously in their tastes. Some like it hot: I like it very hot—and use 2 tablespoonfuls. But it might be wiser to add 1 tablespoonful first and then taste later, once all the liquid’s in, to see if you want to add more. One last bossy note: if you can’t get raw shrimp, don’t use cooked ones; just double the amount of salmon.


Cooking Methodstewing



Total Timeunder 1 hour

One Pot MealYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Mealdinner, lunch


Taste and Texturehot & spicy, savory, umami


  • 14 ounces canned coconut milk (about 1 2/3 cups)
  • 1–2 tablespoons yellow (or red) Thai curry paste
  • 1½ cups fish stock (I use boiling water and concentrated fish bouillon; cubes would do)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 lemongrass stalks, each cut into thirds and bruised with the flat of a knife
  • 3 lime leaves, stalked and cut into strips, optional
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 2¼ pounds pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into large, bite-sized chunks
  • 1 pound 2 ounces salmon fillet, preferably organic, skinned and cut into large, bite-sized chunks
  • 1 pound 2 ounces peeled raw shrimp
  • bok choy or any other green vegetables of your choice
  • juice of ½–1 lime, to taste
  • cilantro, to serve


  1. Skim the thick creamy top off the can of coconut milk and put it, over medium heat, into a large saucepan or casserole with the curry paste. Let it sizzle and, using a fork, whisk or wooden spoon, beat cream and paste together until combined. Still beating gently, add the rest of the coconut milk, fish stock, fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass, lime leaves (if using) and turmeric. Bring to a boil and then add the pumpkin. Cook on a fast simmer until the pumpkin is tender, about 15 minutes, although different sorts of pumpkins can vary enormously in the time they take to cook; some squash take as little as 5 minutes.

  2. As I mentioned, you can cook the curry up till this part in advance, maybe leaving the pumpkin with a tiny bit of bite to it (it will soften and cook as the pan cools). Either way, when you’re about 5 minutes away from wanting to eat, get ready to cook the seafood.

  3. So, to the robustly simmering pan, add the salmon and shrimp (if you’re using frozen shrimp they’ll need to go in before the salmon). When the salmon and shrimp have cooked through, which shouldn’t take more than 3–4 minutes, stir in any green vegetable you’re using—sliced, chopped or shredded as suits—and tamp down with a wooden spoon. When the bok choy is wilted, or other green vegetable is cooked, squeeze in the juice of half a lime, stir and taste and add the juice of the remaining half if you feel it needs it. Take the pan off the heat or decant the curry into a large bowl, and sprinkle over the cilantro; the point is that the cilantro goes in just before serving. Serve with more chopped cilantro for people to add to their own bowls as they eat, and some plain Thai or basmati rice.


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This was really great! The salmon at my fish market didn't look too good, so I used haddock, which unfortunately broke apart, but I also added sea scallops, which absorbed the flavors nicely, and jumbo shrimp. I also used butternut squash. It did make more than it it was supposed to, but that was a good thing. I'd definitely make it again.

Very good. I used butternut squash and chicken instead of seafood just because my family prefers chicken. The only major variation was by mistake. Once I had everything going, I realized I did not have fish stock, or any kind of stock for that matter. In a panic I grabbed a can of diced tomatoes and threw it in. It worked out fine, but I'm sure the stock would have made for more depth of flavor. I added green beans, and other than that followed the recipe. We'll definitely have this again.


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