Curry pastes from Thailand. From left: Red, Green, Yellow, Penang / Penaeng and Mussaman / Massaman.
Thai Red Curry Paste
Red curry paste is one of the five core curry pastes from Thailand that I am going to describe on Cookgypsy. There are innumerable other curries, but for the sake of being able to cross reference recipes for now I am going to include the core groups that most Westerners are familiar with. Red, green, yellow, Penang / Penaeng and mussaman / massaman.
- 17 to 20 (2- to 3-inch-long) prik haeng (dried hot red chiles), halved and seeds discarded
- 4 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 2 fresh lemongrass stalks, 1 or 2 outer leaves discarded (or use reserved bottoms from iced lemongrass tea, page 160)
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 4 teaspoons finely chopped peeled fresh or thawed frozen greater galangal (sometimes called kha)
- 6 (4-inch-long) fresh or frozen Kaffir lime leaves (sometimes called bai makroot), finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro roots or stems
- 5 small shallots, chopped (6 tablespoons)
- 1/4 cup chopped garlic
- 15 to 20 (1-inch-long) red prik kii noo (fresh bird's-eye chiles) or serrano chiles, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons ga-pi (Thai shrimp paste)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Cut dried chiles into 1/4-inch pieces with kitchen shears and soak in warm water until softened, about 20 minutes. Drain well in a sieve.
- While chiles soak, toast coriander in a dry small heavy skillet over moderate heat, shaking skillet, until fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes, then cool. Thinly slice lower 6 inches of lemongrass stalks and finely chop.
- Finely grind coriander and peppercorns with mortar and pestle (or in mini food processor), about 2 minutes, then toss together with lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves, cilantro, shallot, garlic, fresh chiles, and soaked dried chiles in a bowl. Pound mixture in 3 batches with mortar and pestle until a fairly smooth paste is formed, 8 to 10 minutes per batch, transferring to cleaned bowl. (If using food processor, add about 1 1/2 tablespoons water per batch.) Return all of curry paste to mortar, then add shrimp paste and salt and pound (or pulse) until combined well, about 1 minute.
Special equipment: a large (2-cup) mortar and pestle (preferably granite) or a mini food processor. I got my 9 inch Thai mortar and pestle from Import Foods.