This is my streamlined riff on the chickpea curry at Cassia in Santa Monica. It’s simple to prepare, comforting, and restoring—the type of dinner I like to turn to after a long day.
A few notes:
--the lemongrass and Makrut lime leaves add a lovely flavor and fragrance to the dish, but if you don’t have them, there’s no need to make a special trip to the store. I make the dish with and without them, and it’s wonderful either way.
--for serving, I like to follow Cassia's lead and serve the curry with lots of warm naan bread. Another option is white or brown rice. —EmilyC
In the bowl of a small food processor or blender, process shallot, ginger, and garlic to a fine paste. Alternating, finely mince and smear everything together with the back of a knife until a paste forms, or use a mortar and pestle.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the shallot paste. Sauté for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. (Turn down the heat if the paste starts to brown or crisp.) Add curry powder and sauté a few minutes longer to deepen its flavor; stir frequently.
In the same bowl of your food processor or blender, process the fresh tomato (or canned) into a purée; you should have 3/4 cup to 1 cup. (Reserve any amount over 1 cup for another use.) Add the tomato purée to the pan and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, or until starting to reduce and thicken. Add a few pinches of salt.
Add coconut milk, chickpeas, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves (if using), fish sauce, and 2 tablespoons water. Stir to incorporate. Bring the mixture to a low boil, reduce heat, and gently simmer until the sauce has reduced and thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 20 minutes. (Don't rush this step; the flavor and texture benefit from this simmering time.) Taste and adjust salt. Add a few pinches of brown sugar, if needed, to balance the tangy sourness of the fish sauce. Add chile flakes if you want more kick.
When ready to serve, remove and discard kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. Garnish with cilantro and serve with warm naan bread.