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I had a curry dish on a restaurant, can't remember the name of the dish, but it was something in the lines of "vegetarian pepper curry".

It consisted almost entirely of loosely chopped (3cm pieces) bell peppers of various colours, in curry (coconut milk + spices) sauce.

Nothing special about the dish, except for the tenderness of the peppers. They were soft in a way you could spread them over bread, except for the skins holding them together. But in the curry, they held their shape perfectly.

Every time I cook peppers for any extended period of time, they separate from the skins and melt into the sauce (tomato/curry).

How can this soft texture be achieved without breaking up the peppers?

Is it just technique? (i.e. not stirring or something, maybe the timing of putting them in the curry)

  • If it were me, I'd roast them to the correct doneness, and stir it in just before serving. (although the flavors wouldn't meld then) – Joe Aug 5 '16 at 15:27
  • @Joe couldn't you roast some while also cooking others into the curry? – thrig Aug 5 '16 at 20:27
  • @thing : sure, but you might want to peel them first, just in case they turn to mush. – Joe Aug 5 '16 at 20:33
  • I had another thought -- cooking some vegetables in an acidic solution will prevent them from turning to mush as easily. I know it's true for onions & potatoes ... I don't know about peppers. ... and I suspect that's not how they'd to it for a coconut milk based curry. (a tomato curry, maybe). – Joe Aug 5 '16 at 20:35
  • @Joe and that's exactly where OP gets mush. But my first thought was also "acid". Alas, wrong here. – Stephie Aug 5 '16 at 20:39
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I'm not sure that this is how the restaurant did it, but perhaps that kind of texture could be achieved by blanching and freezing the pepper pieces, then reheating them in a microwave just prior to adding them to the sauce and serving. Blanching would ensure that they don't taste completely raw, and freezing would make them "mushier" without ruining the shape by extended cooking.

I haven't tried this myself, so no guarantees.

  • I'm leaning towards something like this. I'll try it and see if I can get similar results! – JoséNunoFerreira Sep 2 '16 at 15:16
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Blanch them, drop them into cheesecloth and then give them a quick (5 second) dunk in an ice bath about 15 minutes before you want to serve the curry. Pull them out and pat them dry. The peppers essentially become a garnish that adds to the dish. You can't cook bell peppers from the start in a curry without them separating from the skin and becoming mush (or, in any other sauce that cooks for a while). Put them back in when you're close to finishing, about 10 - 15 minutes. The timing depends on how much heat you're working with.

But there's some behind-the-scenes magic going on too. You need that flavor to permeate the sauce a bit. For that, roast one pepper over flame (just like you would roast any other pepper), let it steam in a bag, peel the skin and puree it. Add a tablespoon (or two) of that puree to your curry paste so you get the flavor of the pepper being cooked in the curry the whole time. This step is really important because it's one of the sweet parts that offsets the heat, depending on how hot you like your curry, and how long you cook out your paste.

Whenever you change your paste, be sure to taste for salt at the end.

Optionally, thinly slice (lengthwise) some spring onions and dunk them in the ice bath for a minute or two and you've got a nice curly garnish with some onion goodness to go along with the dish (and some other use of the ice bath).

  • This works for tomato based sauces, too. You can also just saute the bell peppers, but that's another pan to watch as you're close to finishing. – Tim Post Aug 13 '16 at 19:35
  • Do you have to do anything special to the peppers other than blanching them and cooking them for 10-15 min in the curry? I haven't tested it, but I'm not sure where the spot where they go from firm, perfect softness or mush...have to try it! Do you freeze them or something, like @user48147 ? – JoséNunoFerreira Sep 2 '16 at 15:20

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