No pumpkinuts were harmed in the making of this dish.

Sometimes, I want something autumn-inspired yet exotic and fresh at the same time. I would never have thought to put pumpkin in a coconut curry until we went to Cambodia. Khmer food is similar to Thai food yet distinctive in its own right. It’s not quite as spicy, for one thing, but still uses the wonderful curry pastes that are synonymous with Southeast Asia. They may not have been the first to put pumpkin in a coconut curry, but they do it dang well.

elk curry

When I decided to make a pumpkin curry, I thought about using chunks of pumpkin. That’s what the Cambodians do, after all. Then I thought about peeling and chopping a pumpkin. Ugh. Every time I cut open a large squash (or cut carrots, for that matter), I think, “This is it. I will always remember this as the day I chopped off my finger.”

Today, I didn’t want to lose a finger. I’m busy. I’ve got better things to do than learn how to do life with only 9 digits. Enter: the can of pumpkin purée. Yes, folks, I got lazy. Really damn lazy. You know what, though? Using canned pumpkin actually works out. It melts right into the coconut milk, creating a nice creamy gravy full of pumpkin flavor. I mean pumpkin and curry flavor, naturally. And you know what else? I still have 10 fingers.

elk curry

Concerning venison, it’s a pretty tough sell to use stew meat in a coconut curry because the dish cooks so fast. In other words, you don’t stew it. Unless you’re okay throwing tenderloin in there, I used round steak that I tenderized to kingdom come. I sliced it thin so that when it cooks up it turns into those flat pieces meat kind of like you get in a beef and broccoli dish. Plus, even if it’s still tough, if you slice it thin it hides that a little bit.

Cambodian Pumpkin Curry


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil
  • 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (Or the suggested amount on the jar)
  • 1.5lb Elk (stew meat, or round steak that's been tenderized and sliced thin)
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 can plain pumpkin puree
  • 2 Large potatoes (or 3 small, I like red ones but any will do, diced)
  • 1 Large red onion (cubed)
  • 1 can coconut milk (give or take)
  • 2 Large tomatoes (chopped in large wedges)
  • steamed rice (for serving)
  • cilantro (for garnish)
  • lemon or lime wedges (for garnish)


  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (or soy sauce)


Step 1
Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or deep edged pan. Add the curry paste and lightly fry until it's fragrant. Add the meat and brown it in the paste until it's brown all over and mostly cooked through. Throw in the garlic and continue to cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Step 2
Add the can of pumpkin in addition to about 1/2 cup water to break it up a little bit. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until the meat is starting to get tender, about 10-15 minutes. Add the potatoes and continue to simmer until they are tender, about another 10 minutes. Add the onions and cook another 5 minutes until just starting to get tender.
Step 3
Once everything is tender but not mushy, remove from the heat and add the coconut milk, fish sauce, tomatoes and more water if the curry needs to loosen up a bit (you shouldn't need more than a 1/2 cup). Stir well and let sit for a minute as the tomatoes warm through. Serve warm over jasmine rice.

Non-game substitution: Use beef! You could do chicken too.

Vegatrian substitution: Leave out the meat and add more vegetables. Do check the label on your curry paste for fish sauce.

Posted in Venison
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