In my recent Thai Green Curry post, I was ashamed to admit that even though I'm half Thai, I had never attempted to make my own curry paste.
Well I finally did it and now I'm left wondering why I didn't try it earlier. The result was quite spectacular and I'm not sure I'll be able to eat the store-bought paste again.
It wasn't the easiest thing to do however that being said, it also wasn't too laborious. I even used my small mortar and pestle to do the job. As you can see in the photo above there are still some small flecks of chili which didn't grind down but it was fine.
It took me about 40 minutes to make the paste. I had to wear my ski goggles during the pounding so as not to get blinded by the juice of 15 or so chilis. I highly recommend this. Wear sunglasses if you have to.
Ok, let's start with the smell. It was intoxicating. The pulverizing of the Makrut lime skin, lemongrass and galangal with shallots and a mixture of dried and fresh red chilis, released the most incredible, pungent aroma.
Now just to give you a quick run down on some of the ingredients, a Makrut lime is recognisable by its knobbly skin. It has a lovely fragrance, similar to that of a grapefruit. Galangal is a rhizome, similar to ginger, however it has a much sweeter aroma. Asian shallots are small and red with brown skin. For this recipe only the white part of the lemongrass is used as this is the most fragrant and fresh part.
Once all these ingredients, along with the chilis, were pounded into a paste, I added several garlic cloves, a few corinader stems and about a teaspoon of toasted corinader seeds. I continue pounding with the addition of a little water to moisten the mixture until it was smooth.
The final piece was to add a teaspoon of stinky shrimp paste. Stinky but necessary and delicious. Plus, the smell is quickly overpowered by all the other ingredients. And that was it!
Now for the taste. What was most impressive about the curry paste was its natural sweetness. The flavour has more layers and depth than the commercial varieties and none of the acidity which I sometimes taste.
I tested the paste out with some steamed some mussels in a light coconut broth. It was outstanding and I can't wait to use the rest of it! Perhaps in a duck curry...
Red Curry Paste Recipe*
(makes about 1/2 Cup)
*From The Food of Thailand Cookbook
3-4 dried long, red chilis
8-10 small, fresh red chilis
2 lemongrass stalks, white part only, finely sliced
2.5cm piece of galangal, peeled and finely sliced
1 tsp of finely chopped Makrut lime skin*
4 garlic cloves
3 Asian shallots, sliced
6 coriander stems, roughly chopped
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted
1 tbs of water or vegetable oil
- Remove the stems from the dried chilis and slit lengthways with a sharp knife. Discard the seeds and soak the chilis in warm water for about 2 minutes. Drain and roughly chop.
- Using a pestle and mortar or food processor, pound the chilies, lemongrass, galangal, and makrut lime skin into a paste.
- Now add the garlic, Asian shallots, coriander stems and toasted coriander seeds. Keep pounding until you have a relatively smooth paste.
- Add about 1 tbs of water or vegetable oil to help moisten the mixture.
- Add the shrimp paste last and pound for a few more minutes until it's mixed through.
- Store the paste in an airtight jar for up to two weeks.
*To substitute Makrut lime skin, use 3 Kaffir leaves.