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Dining In 2 minutes 25 March 2020

Recipe: Thai Red Curry Paste

Some of the best Thai dishes start with a solid homemade curry paste. The chef of MICHELIN-starred Ruean Panya in Bangkok breaks down its components.

Recipe Thai

Thai curry paste (prik gaeng) lies at the heart of many memorable Thai dishes, making up the fiery base for all-time favourites such as gaeng kiew waan (green curry) or gaeng ped (red curry). For visitors to Thailand hooked on the powerhouse of spices, these dishes can easily be recreated from the comforts of their own kitchen as the ingredients are readily available at most grocery stores in canned or sealed versions. But even non-purists would agree that nothing compares to making the curry paste from scratch using only fresh ingredients that promise to tantalise the taste buds. So, are you ready to take the scenic route? Grab a mortar and pestle and let’s get some elbow grease action going!

A mortar and pestle are the only tools you will need to make your own curry paste.
A mortar and pestle are the only tools you will need to make your own curry paste.

There are many types of curry paste but one of most popular is red curry paste (prik gaeng daeng). Recipes will indeed vary from kitchen to kitchen, but the essential components always comprise dried chillies, coriander roots, garlic, lemongrass, shallots, galangal, kaffir lime and krill paste. To make green curry paste (prik gaeng kiew waan) fresh green spur chillies are used instead of dried ones.

“The secret lies in using fresh ingredients,” says Panee Kanidthanaka, the chef-owner one-MICHELIN-starred Ruean Panya in Bangkok. She has helmed the family-run restaurant for over 20 years, imbuing a personal touch to all her cooking, her attention to detail and the complexity of flavours making her dishes worth the wait.

“We always make our own red curry paste here and order fresh chillies from Phetburi Province, as they are of best quality. You’ll be able to taste them in our gaeng nua (beef in red curry paste), gaeng gai (chicken in red curry paste), or choo chee pla nua on (sheatfish in choochee curry). Using a mortar and pestle will bring out the flavours of all the ingredients if you’re cooking for a small group, but if you’ve got kilos of chillies to pound like me, then using a blender is an acceptable option. Another tip: when pounding the dry ingredients, adding salt to the mixture will make life easier for the elbow.”

Grounding with a mortar and pestle is an ancient Thai tradition and brings out the flavours from the fresh ingredients. (Picture licensed under Creative Commons Public Domain. Photo source: www.pxhere.com)
Grounding with a mortar and pestle is an ancient Thai tradition and brings out the flavours from the fresh ingredients. (Picture licensed under Creative Commons Public Domain. Photo source: www.pxhere.com)

Thai Red Curry Paste

Fresh ingredients:
2 coriander roots
10 cloves Thai garlic
2 sliced lemongrass
2 sliced shallots
1 small galangal
1/2 teaspoon kaffir lime peel
1 tbs krill paste (kapi)

Dry ingredients:
10 dried red spur chillies (dried prik chee fah)
A handful of bird’s eye chilli (optional)
10 Daeng Jinda chilli 10 (optional)
10 white peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon salt

Method

1. In a mortar, start by crushing the peppercorns to make sure they’re finely grounded, then add coriander seeds and cumin powder. Set aside in a bowl.
2. Next, cut up the dried chillies, removing the seeds (optional). Soak in water for about 10 minutes to soften them and cut into small pieces.
3. Add the chillies and salt in the mortar and grind with pestle until you get a paste.
4. Add coriander roots, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime peel, shallots, and garlic. Pound for about 15 minutes until you get a fine paste before adding krill paste.
5. Add the dried ingredients reserved earlier. Keep pounding until you get a thick, smooth texture.


Author: Takeaway. Picture licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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