An ode to the Maine-made curries getting one Down East editor through self-isolation.
By Will Grunewald Photographed by Mark Fleming Composite by Derek Bissonnette
Grocery shoppers need, in this moment of crisis, finely honed priorities. Their lists must be ample enough to maximally forestall the next supply run, lean enough to minimize time spent among narrow aisles and fellow humans.
This particular two-person household has stockpiled a few Maine essentials to limit the scope of our subsequent shopping trips almost to a point of tolerability. Bypassing the store entirely, via curbside pickup at Oxbow’s Newcastle brewery, we acquire beer in a quantity we’ve taken to calling “an apocalypse’s worth” (which never holds out as long as expected). Our freezer is chock-full of bags of Wyman’s wild blueberries, because pancakes and smoothies are the only ways a person needs to ingest fruit. And we’ve come to rely on Watcharee’s, a Maine-made brand of Thai sauces that inject variety into a dinner rotation otherwise comprising tacos, pasta, and pizza.
In 2012, Watcharee Limanon immigrated to Maine from Bangkok, where she had been an environmental lawyer. After settling on Cousins Island, in Yarmouth, she started offering Thai cooking classes, and soon she was selling green, yellow, and massaman curries and peanut and pad-thai sauces. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, we usually kept a jar or two stashed away — maybe a pad thai for stir-fry, or a peanut for dipping grilled chicken and veggies. Now, our collection has outgrown the pantry and taken over a display shelf by our wedding photos.
In a time of necessarily streamlined grocery shopping, we’re loath to fumble through shelves for ingredients that might not be there anyway — galangal, kaffir lime, tamarind concentrate, lemongrass — and it’s not like we’re all that ambitious under normal circumstances. Pandemic or no, why attempt a curry from scratch when we can just drop a protein and a vegetable into Watcharee’s massaman curry and set the stovetop to simmer?
Watcharee Limanon’s pad-thai sauce, here being Pollock-ed by massaman and yellow curries, is available with the rest of her lineup at Hannaford locations and specialty grocers throughout Maine, in stores across the country, and online at watcharee.com.