Thai curry pastes galore!

                     
The secret to a good curry, our Thai cooking teachers repeatedly emphasized, is in the curry paste. A curry paste can make or break a curry - which would partially explain why the green chicken curry I'd tried to make at home in the past didn't taste anything like the green curries in Thailand.

So - for curry paste. In class, we made the Massaman curry paste - but I managed to convince them to give me their Penang, Green and Red curry paste recipes too. So, below, everything you need for a good curry.



I will list the ingredients for the different curries one by one, and the instructions (which are essentially the same for all of them) will follow below.


Massaman Curry Paste
8 big dried red chilis (skin only, seeds removed), finely chopped
8 small dried red chilis, cut into pieces, seeds and all (so don't remove the seeds!)
4 slices (of approximately 1 x 2cm) kaffir fruit skin (or 2 tsp, if you can find it as a powder)
4 slices (2 x 2cm) galangal, chopped
4 pieces (total of approximately 8 cm) lemon grass, chopped
4 slices (2 x 2cm) tumeric, chopped (or, alternatively, 1 tsp)
28 black pepper kernels
4 small pieces of cinnamon (or 1 tsp)
4 cloves
4 cardamon pods (they look somewhat like a chick pea)
2 tsp coriander seed
4 small pieces of mace (the skin of a Thai fruit, not the self-defence spray)
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp shrimp paste
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 shallots, chopped


Penang Curry Paste
8 big dried red chilis (skin only, seeds removed)
8 small dried red chilis (seeds and all)
8 thin slices galangal
10 cm lemon grass, thinly sliced
8 cloves garlic
8 shallots
2 tsp kaffir lime fruit skin
8 cm thin slices of coriander root
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 tsp turmeric
28 black pepper kernels
1 tsp salt


Green Curry Paste

4 large green chilis (skin only, seeds removed)
20 small green chilis (seeds and all)
10 cm lemon grass, thinly sliced
8 cloves garlic
8 shallots
8 cm coriander root, thinly sliced
2 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 tsp turmeric
28 green pepper kernels
1 tsp salt


Red Curry Paste

8 large dried red chilis (skin only, seeds removed)
20 small dried red chilis (seeds and all)
8 thin slices galangal
10 cm lemon grass, thinly sliced
8 cloves garlic
8 shallots
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 tsp turmeric
28 black pepper kernels
1 tsp salt

* The Massaman curry paste recipe shows some alternatives for powders and fresh ingredients - the same variations work with the others.

Instructions:

Chop all the choppables (i.e. shallots, garlic, galangal, lemon grass, and chilis) finely by hand. Place in a mortar together with the rest of the ingredients and grind, using a pestle. I admit, the grinding is a bit of work. You want to continue until all the ingredients are completely mashed and you have an even-coloured paste without any bits in it (say - the exact opposite of those Mexican salsas that still have distinguishable pieces of onion, pepper, etc.). I'll warn you now - this may take a good 20 minutes or more, depending on your endurance. Do not attempt to do this with a kitchen machine or blender-like contraption - it WILL NOT work.

On the upside, however, once you're done your curry paste should keep in the fridge for quite a while (doesn't this make the effort much more worth it?)

Good luck and happy grinding!


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