As I mentioned in one of my early posts “A Taste for Thai Food”, I began experimenting with making Thai Curry Pastes when we lived in Argentina due to the lack of availability of tasty Thai food. Thai Curry Paste is a blend of aromatic herbs, spices and chilies that are pureed to a fine paste which you then fry in oil and whisk in coconut milk to make a sauce. The coconut milk tames the heat of the chilies, so even if you don’t care for things too spicy, you can tone it down to accommodate your palate. The addition of protein such as chicken, beef, pork, tofu or fish along with vegetables finishes the “curry” which is then served over rice to make a complete, tasty meal. The pastes are also key ingredients to other sauces and soups such as Tom Yum Goong (Hot & Sour Shrimp Soup) and Tom Kha Gai (Coconut Chicken Soup).

Clockwise from top left: Coriander seeds, Cumin seeds, Green Chilies (Jalapeno, Serrano and Thai “bird” chilies), Garlic, Red Chilies (Fresno & Thai “bird” chilies), Lemongrass, Galangal & Kaffir Lime Leaves.

Now that I’m in Chicago, I can certainly simply buy curry paste in a jar, but I find that making it from scratch is really worth the time and effort, as the taste is so much fresher. While my local Whole Foods usually has fresh lemongrass, chilies and sometimes even galangal, a trip to the Asian markets just a few miles to the north usually provides me everything I need at a fraction of the cost. When we were at the Cape for the summer, I couldn’t find lemongrass, galangal or Kaffir lime leaves anywhere, so I ended up ordering online and was able to get what I needed within 2 days through Etsy. As I had to improvise when we lived in Argentina and some ingredients were not reliably available, so too did I have to pivot when I learned a friend is allergic to shrimp and I would not be able to serve the curry due to the shrimp paste that is typically included. I found that anchovy paste was a perfect substitute, with no discernible difference in the taste, and now I use it all the time so that I don’t have to be concerned about a shellfish allergy when menu planning.

THAI CURRY PASTES

ktinakelleher
These pastes are the basis for Green Curry, which I typically make with chicken and Red Curry, which I usually prepare with pork, beef or seafood. The Green is a bit more herbacious due to the additional Coriander seed and the absence of dried chilies. The process is the same for both, with the addition of the soaked dried red chilies for the Red.
While this may seem tedious to try to source the ingredients, it is so much better and fresher tasting than most store bought curry pastes that have preservatives to extend their shelf life. These make about 2 cups of each, so I divide them into small containers store some in the refrigerator for use within 2-3 weeks, share some with foodie friends and freeze the rest. You can also freeze it in individual portions (about 2 TBSP) in plastic bags.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Thai
Servings 2 Cups of Paste

Equipment

  • Food Processor
  • Spice. Grinder, Coffee Grinder or Mortar & Pestle

Ingredients
  

GREEN CURRY PASTE

  • 1 1/2 TBSP Coriander Seeds whole
  • 2 TBSP Cumin Seeds whole
  • 1/2 tsp Black Peppercorns whole
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt Mortons
  • 4 stalks fresh Lemongrass tender purple section only, about 4"
  • 4 slices fresh Galangal about 1/2" slices
  • 8-10 fresh Jalapeno peppers, stems removed use 8 if using Serranos
  • 2 fresh Serrano peppers, stems removed
  • 20 Green Thai "bird" chilies, stems removed
  • 6 Cloves Garlic, peeled
  • 2 Large Shallots, peeled
  • 1 bunch fresh Cilantro, Roots & Stems only conserve leaves for another purpose
  • 4 fresh Kaffir Lime Leaves, spines removed
  • 1 TBSP Anchovy Paste (1/2 tube) OR 1 tsp Shrimp Paste

RED CURRY PASTE

  • 1 TBSP Coriander Seeds whole
  • 2 tsp Cumin Seeds whole
  • 1/2 tsp Black Peppercorns whole
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt Morton's
  • 5 stalks fresh Lemongrass tender midsection only, about 4"
  • 4 slices fresh Galangal about 1/2" slices
  • 8 fresh Fresno Chilies fresh, stems removed
  • 12 dried long red Chilies, such as New Mexico Hatch soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, stems removed
  • 20 Red Thai "bird" Chilies stems removed
  • 6 cloves Garlic peeled
  • 2 large Shallots peeled
  • 4 fresh Kaffir Lime Leaves spines removed
  • 1 bunch fresh Cilanto, Stems & Roots only conserve leaves for another purpose
  • 1 TBSP Anchovy Paste (1/2 tube) OR 1 tsp Shrimp Paste

Instructions
 

  • In a small saute pan, toast the Coriander, Cumin, Salt and Peppercorns over medium-high heat until fragrant. Toss or stir frequently to make sure the seeds don't burn.
  • Transfer the toasted spices to a spice grinder or coffee grinder and process to a fine powder.
  • Place the lemongrass and galangal in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse to chop. Galangal is quite coarse, so it may help to cut your slices into smaller pieces.
  • Add all of the chilies, spices and remaining ingredients and process until a fairly smooth paste forms, scraping down the sides occasionally.
  • Transfer to airtight container(s) and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks or freeze.

Notes

KTINA’S TIPS
  • If you have Asian grocery stores near you, it’s worth heading there as you are likely to find all of the ingredients you need, particularly lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and chilies.  If you don’t have the luxury, or can’t find them, you can source them online through many sources via Amazon and Etsy.
  • Many grocery stores stock fresh jalapenos, serranos and fresno chilies (which look like a red jalapeno, but they are actually different), as well as Thai “bird” chilies.  If you can’t find them easily, you can source them online including at Amazon and Etsy, which serve as go between for small specialty vendors.  I had great luck with Melissa’s Produce (melissas.com) for Fresno chilies when I could not find them anywhere.  
  • I use Hot New Mexico Hatch chilies for the dried red chilies.  They are available at many grocery stores, or readily available from many online sources.  They don’t weigh much, so don’t order the 5 pound bag like I did or you’ll have enough for your lifetime.
  • When soaking your dried chilies, they will float to the top, so I place a small plate or saucepan lid on them to keep them submerged.  Make sure to take off the stems and drain the water.  
  • I use an old coffee grinder that I keep for the sole purpose of grinding spices and it works beautifully.  
 
Keyword Curry, Green Curry, Thai Basil, Thai Curry, Thai Green Curry, Thai Green Curry Paste, Thai Red Curry, Thai Red Curry Paste

GREEN CURRY with CHICKEN

ktinakelleher
Whether using Green or Red Curry Paste, the process is the same as outlined here. I use the vegetables that most frequently turn up in this classic, but feel free to experiment with any protein or vegetables that you like or have on hand.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Thai

Equipment

  • Deep Saute Pan or Wok

Ingredients
  

  • 2 Boneless, skinless Chicken Breast halves cut into 2" pieces
  • 2 TBSP Canola or Peanut Oil
  • 2-3 TBSP Green Curry Paste 2 for less spicy, 3 for more
  • 1 can Coconut Milk
  • 1-2 TBSP Fish Sauce
  • 1-2 TBSP Palm Sugar or Light Brown Sugar
  • 4 fresh Kaffir Lime Leaves, spines removed substitute dried if you can't find fresh
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 2" chunks
  • 1 8 ounce package Button Mushroom, cleaned
  • 1 Cup fresh Green Beans cut into 2-3" pieces
  • 1/4 Cup Cilantro leaves and/or Thai Basil leaves.

Instructions
 

  • Pan sear chicken in a saute pan in a bit of oil over medium high heat until it is lightly browned all over. Remove from the pan and drain. (The chicken does not need to be cooked through, as it will finish in the curry sauce.)
  • If using the same pan, wipe out any juice from the chicken. Add another TBSP of oil and when it is hot, add the curry paste and stir fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  • Whisk in the Coconut milk a little at a time, starting with the cream at the top of the can. Allow to come to a boil before adding more of the milk, whisking constantly.
  • Reduce heat to medium (or medium low) and add the Kaffir Lime Leaves, 1 TBSP Fish Sauce and 1 TBSP Sugar and cook for 2-3 minutes, reducing heat so that it just simmering.
  • Taste the sauce and adjust if it needs a bit more Fish Sauce and/or Sugar.
  • At this point, if you are not ready to eat (or your rice is not ready), cover and turn off the heat until you are ready to eat.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high and add the chicken and mushrooms to the sauce. Cover the pan and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes until the mushrooms have released their liquid, stirring occasionally to ensure the meat doesn't stick to the pan.
  • Then the mushrooms have cooked, add the green beans and cook, covered, for 1 minute then add the peppers. Cook for 2-3 minutes and sprinkle with Cilantro leaves or Thai Basil leaves.
  • Serve immediately with Jasmine or Basmati Rice.

Notes

KTINA’S TIPS
  • Use the same process for Red Curry regardless of what protein you choose.
  • I think it makes a big difference to pan sear your meat, chicken or tofu before adding to the sauce, otherwise the meat will “stew” and it’s juices will water down the curry.
  • The curry should have a spicy, sweet, salty flavor from the paste, coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar and the lime leaves brighten it lending a citrusy note.  
  • If your sauce is too spicy, add more coconut milk.  Not spicy enough, add more curry paste.  
Keyword Green Curry Chicken, Thai Curry, Thai Green Curry

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