THAI Red Curry Paste from scratch

in food processor
in food processor

Love Thai Curry?  Red, Green & Yellow curry pastes are the base for most of the dishes in Thai cooking and the Red version makes for excellent chicken, beef, vegetarian, fish and other seafood curry.

You’ll never buy packaged curry pastes again once you try this recipe. Homemade curry paste makes for tastier curries, and they’re much healthier too!fish

This paste is courtesy of Chef Sarnsern Gajaseni at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok.  It’s enough for at least two dishes, each serving about four people.  I’ve made double this amount and divided it up to freeze it, well labelled in separate containers.  It freezes very well and you’ll be able to easily use it with a few extra added ingredients (see recipe) to create a delicious curry.  If you like this one I’ll be posting the Green & Yellow versions which are slightly different but equally delicious.

using shrimp
using shrimp

Makes about 10 Tablespoons

10 to 12 hot dried chillies (of the long cayenne variety).  I use Thai red bird chillies.

5 garlic cloves, chopped

1 cup chopped shallots

1 Tbsp. fresh lemongrass that has been thinly sliced, crosswise.  Fresh lemongrass stalks have a knot at the very bottom.  Remove that before finely slicing, crosswise, and at a slight angle, starting at the bottom end and going up about 6 inches.  It will not blend unless it has been sliced first.

3 thin slices peeled, fresh or frozen galangal (or ginger). Galangal is fairly tough and needs first to be cut, crosswise, into thin slices, and then chopped before being put into the blender.

1 thin slice of fresh kaffir lime rind or dried rind, first soaked in water for 30 minutes.

6-8 cilantro roots (usually bought from Indian grocers), washed well and coarsely chopped.  If you cannot get them, use a small handful of the leaves for the required aroma.

Fresh ground white pepper

¼ tsp. shrimp paste or use either 2 anchovies from a can, chopped or a bit of anchovy paste.

½ tsp. ground cumin

½ tsp. ground coriander

2 Tbsp. bright red paprika

*most of these ingredients I buy from “South China Seas trading company” at Granville Island Market including the shrimp paste and palm sugar (for recipe).

How to:

Soak the chillies in 5 Tbsp. of hot water for 1-2 hours (or put them in microwave for 2 minutes and then let them sit for about 30 minutes).  Put the chillies together with their soaking liquid, into the blender, along with all the remaining ingredients in the order listed.  Blend, pushing down with a rubber spatula as many times as necessary, until you have a smooth paste.  What you do not use immediately should be refrigerated or frozen.

Fish in Red Curry Sauce

I used fillet of halibut for this one but you can use a variety of firm white fish or even shrimp.  The fillets should be cut into roughly 3-inch pieces.  Serve with plain aromatic jasmine rice which will be really nice to soak up the sauce.

14-ounce can of coconut milk, left undisturbed for 3 hours of more

3 Tbsp. peanut oil (if not use corn)

5 Tbsp. Red Curry Paste (which I hope you made but if not you can always buy it).

1 Tbsp. Fish sauce (there is no substitute but vegetarians will need to omit this ingredient).

1 tsp. thick tamarind paste (if not substitute with lemon juice).  Tamarind paste can be found usually at an Indian market.

1 tsp. palm sugar (if not use brown sugar).

1 pound firm white fish

4 fresh kaffir lime leaves (if not use 1 tsp. julienned lemon rind)

20 fresh sweet Thai basil leaves (if not use regular basil leaves)

Carefully open the can of coconut milk without disturbing it too much and remove 4 Tbsp. of the thick cream that will have accumulated at the top.  Stir the remaining contents of the can well and set aside.

Pour the oil and the coconut cream into a large, non-stick, lidded pan or well-seasoned wok and set over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, put in the curry paste.  Stir and fry until the oil separates and the paste is lightly browned.  Reduce the heat to low and add the fish sauce, tamarind paste, sugar and ¾ cup of water.  Stir and taste for a balance of seasonings.  Cover and simmer on a very low heat for 5 minutes.  Stir in the reserved coconut milk.  Lightly dust the fish pieces with salt and then slid them into the sauce in a single layer.  Bring to a simmer, spoon the sauce over the fish pieces, cover, and simmer very gently until they just cook through.

Just before serving, either tear up the lime leaves or else remove the central vein and cut them into fine strips, and scatter these and the basil leaves over the top of the fish.

**I have a flavorful recipe for a vegetable curry

thai eggplants
thai eggplants

using 4 Thai eggplant, 1 medium chopped onion, 1 cup of bamboo shoots, 6 ounces French cut green beans + 1 red pepper cut into strips.  You make it much the same way: Heat 1 Tbsp. of oil in a large wok or fry pan and then cook 2 Tbsp. of red curry paste for 4 minutes over a medium heat, stirring.  Then add 2 ½ cups of coconut milk, bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes.  Add the chopped eggplants, bamboo shoots, and 6 lime leaves and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the green beans & red pepper and cook for additional 5 minutes or until all vegetables are tender.  Add ½ cup basil leaves, 2 Tbsp. fish sauce (if using), 1 Tbsp. lime juice and 2 tsp. palm or brown sugar.   Drizzle with coconut milk, garnish with thai basil and sliced red chilli.  Serve with rice.

but you can substitute using Japanese eggplant
but you can substitute using Japanese eggplant

from curries to kebabas – recipes from the Indian spice trail” – everything in this enticing cookbook is outstanding.  Madhur Jaffrey even traces the origins of curry, explaining how the ingredients & techniques were brought to new lands. It’s unusual for me to make so many recipes from one book but each one turned out better than expected – and it took some of the mystery out of these exotic dishes.