A couple of years ago, I was browsing Whole Foods while trying to decide what to make for dinner. I knew I had some frozen salmon at home, but I needed something to go with it — something filling, satisfying and flavorful. A package of soba noodles and a jar of prepared curry sauce later and I had one of my new go-to meals: salmon with curry noodles.
Fast forward to today: My apartment complex is doing a fall recipe contest, and I was wondering if I had something that I could submit. I knew there would be a lot of pumpkin breads and chili, so I wanted to do something unique. My boyfriend suggested my salmon curry noodles, but I wasn’t sure if it was “autumn” enough.
… but maybe it could be.
Squash and curry is a classic combination, so why not pumpkin? Combined with a warm, earthy curry blend like garam masala, it might just evoke the same comforting flavors as a pumpkin spice treat.
The curry sauce in this recipe borrows elements from some of my favorite curry dishes: rich coconut milk, warm flavorful spices that aren’t too hot, and a satisfying depth of flavor. The pumpkin adds a wonderful creamy texture to the sauce without having to rely on actual cream — or full-fat coconut milk. Light coconut milk works just fine! Toasting some of the spices in the oil while cooking the onion helps build that depth of flavor. The dash of fish sauce works similar to salt, except it draws out the more savory notes of the sauce. Don’t worry, your sauce won’t taste like fish! (If you need proof, just ask my boyfriend. I didn’t tell him I added fish sauce, and he didn’t make any comments about fishy sauce. Shh don’t tell him~)
A garnish of pumpkin seeds helps add texture along with little pops of salty, curry goodness. Use more cayenne if you want some bite in those pops.
Pumpkin Coconut Curry
with Crispy Salmon
I’m fond of Penzey’s Sweet Curry Powder, Garam Masala and Tandoori spice — but feel free to substitute your favorite spice blends. This recipe would also work great with a pan-seared, skin-on chicken breast.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30-45 minutes
For the pumpkin seed garnish:
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tsp sweet curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
For the pumpkin coconut curry sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, small dice
2 tsp sweet curry powder, divided
3 tsp garam masala, divided
2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk (light or full-fat)
1 cup water
1 tsp fish sauce
salt and pepper
For the salmon and noodles:
1/2 pound soba noodles, or whole wheat spaghetti
1 tsp olive oil
4 salmon filets, about 1/4 pound each
1 tsp tandoori spice (optional)
salt and pepper
a few sprigs of cilantro (optional)
1. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add olive oil and swirl to coat pan. Add pumpkin seeds and stir until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add curry powder and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir thoroughly so that the seeds get an even coating of spices, then transfer to a bowl.
2. In the same skillet, heat olive oil and add onion. Stir to coat with the oil, then add 1 tsp sweet curry powder and 1 tsp garam masala. Cook onion until softened, about 3 minutes. Add sliced carrot and cook for 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally until tender. Add chickpeas, garlic and ginger, stir to combine.
3. Add pumpkin puree, coconut milk and water. Stir to combine. (Be patient! The pumpkin takes a while to combine with the coconut milk and water, but it will come together.) Add fish sauce, remaining curry powder and remaining garam masala, then simmer for 5 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. While the sauce simmers, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook noodles per package directions. Drain thoroughly. When sauce has finished simmering, add noodles and toss gently to coat. Keep warm on low heat.
5. Season salmon on both sides with salt and pepper. Season skin side with tandoori spice, if using. Heat a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. When hot, add oil and then place salmon skin-side down in pan. Cook for 4 minutes or until skin is crispy. Flip salmon over and cook for 2-3 minutes longer or until salmon is light pink throughout and flakes easily with a fork.
6. Split noodles and curry sauce evenly between four bowls. Top with salmon, skin-side up. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds and cilantro as desired. Serve with a lime wedge to squeeze over salmon and noodles at the table. Enjoy!