Thai Coconut Curry Pairs Well with Hall Napa Valley Merlot

Today I thought I’d cook something a bit different from my usual fare (curry). It’s something light and healthy (in preparation of the gorging I plan to participate in starting tomorrow).

I also thought I’d cook something my friend Helen might like. Because you see I have a plan! Between FoodBuzz Project Food Blog, the holidays, FoodBuzz Festival and all my regular duties both here and at home, I have been as busy as I have ever been in my entire life. Now I know I tend toward broad, all-encompassing statements. But really. Things have just been madness lately. I need a bit of help around here.

So, by cooking something that Helen might like– I figured she might be just the friend I need to lighten my editorial load just a tad. Because I know Helen, so I know that whatever Helen eats she prefers to pick the wine to go with it too. I have a wine fridge full of wines waiting to be tasted and evaluated. See where I am going with this? With Helen on the wine, that’s one less thing for me to do.

She rummaged around and chose 2006 Hall Napa Valley Merlot. It’s a bottle that’s been in my wine fridge for a few months, waiting for its moment to come forward. I was given this wine at an event benefiting Gulf Restoration, called LA Helps LA (Los Angeles Helps Louisiana). Hosted by Gisele Perez of Small Pleasures Catering. I tasted it at the event and was very impressed. So I knew it was a bottle that would appeal to Helen.

Now in case you don’t know Hall Napa Valley, it’s a great Napa label. They are California’s first LEED Gold Certified Winery, and they practice sustainable organic farming. But they are serious winemakers with a growing list of wines with ratings at 90+. Including the 94 rated 2006 HALL Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Which James Laube of the Wine Spectator Insider called, “A rich, dense, concentrated style, this is full-bodied, focused and pure, with hints of mocha and black licorice rounding out the core currant, plum, and black cherry flavors. Focused and persistent, with a long finish.”

Hmmm. I have some of that wine too. But like I said, Helen was choosing– and she’s much more of a Merlot girl. A very discriminating Merlot girl. So rid your mind of any of the stereotypes you think define Merlot. Because when Helen talks about the wines she loves, you can’t help but pay attention. She has a certain style…

Hall Napa Valley Merlot

This is a serious wine.  It has balance, structure, and sophistication a million miles removed from the “Sideways” stigma. Ms. Merlot Hall has taken off her glasses, let down her hair and declared herself every bit as sexy as Lady Pinot. 

Take a walk to the wild edge of a country garden; pass the gently rained on woodpile, inhale the violets, find the dark fruit dripping from the brambles and dive into its vibrant red/purple hues. Bright red fruit flavors add a zesty note of interest to the rich taste of black forest gateau.

Enjoy with Penne Eggplant Mozzarella in a Rich Tomato Sauce, Coconut Milk Veggie Curries, a Veggie Burrito with Rice, Beans & Roasted Corn, or a side of Guacamole. What? I am a vegetarian!- HELEN MELVILLE

It’s true she’s a vegetarian. So not only did I let her pick the wine, but I followed her cues on the food as well. So today I have just the thing to make her happy. It’s a Vegetarian Coconut Curry with Tofu. It was designed to compliment the Hall Napa Valley Merlot. But it has other advantages that I knew would appeal to Helen as well. Because this coconut curry recipe is very delicious plus simple to make. In my opinion, a lot of vegetarian curries tend to be rather bland and tasteless, but not this one! Made with tofu and lots of fresh vegetables. Besides being delicious, this dish is vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free (if you choose your soy sauce well)– great for anyone who wants to eat something healthy and nutritious without sacrificing taste.

So pour the Merlot and have some curry. It may seem like an unusual pairing, and you might want to take a light hand on the chili. But you gotta admit, it’s fun… This is the last vegan meal you’ll see from Sup! until the new year commences! Break out the holiday food. Yippee!

Vegetarian Coconut Curry with Tofu serves 6 CLICK here for a printable recipe


  • 1⁄4 c dry shredded baking-type coconut, unsweetened
  • 2 c firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
  • 2 c vegetable stock
  • 1 1⁄2 c canned coconut milk
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 small onion, cut into 1/4‑inch dice
  • 4 clv garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 t Thai style chili paste, or to taste
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • 1 3‑inch piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 t brown sugar
  • 1 small sweet potato or yam, peeled and cubed into 3/4‑inch pieces
  • 2 c cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 c mushrooms, sliced or left whole if small
  • 1 red bell pepper, de-seeded and sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, de-seeded and sliced
  • 1 c snow peas, left whole or cut in half
  • cilantro leaves to taste as garnish
  • peanut oil, as needed for wok

coconut curryHeat a large wok over medium heat. Place shredded coconut in the dry wok. Stir continuously until the coconut is nicely toasted. Tip toasted coconut into a bowl to cool.

Return the wok to the stove. Raise the temperature to medium-high. Add 2 Tbsp. peanut oil plus the onion, ginger, and garlic. Stir-fry 1–2 minutes, or until onion begins to soften and the garlic is fragrant.

Turn the heat to high. Add stock plus kaffir lime leaves, chili sauce, and most of the toasted coconut (reserve 1 to 1+1/2 Tbsp. for garnish). Stir everything together.

Add the sweet potato (or yam) and cauliflower. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer 8–10 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the mushrooms, and tofu, stirring to incorporate. Cover and simmer 2 more minutes.

Add the bell pepper and snow peas, simmer 2–3 minutes, or until snow peas have softened but are still bright green.

Turn heat down to low and add the coconut milk plus the soy sauce, stirring to dissolve. Add the coconut milk to taste, depending on how creamy or how much sauce you want with your curry.

Remove from heat and do a taste-test for salt and spice, adding more chili paste, soy sauce or salt as needed.

To serve: scoop the curry onto individual plates or into serving bowls. Top with fresh cilantro and a sprinkling of the reserved toasted coconut. Serve jasmine or brown rice on the side.