Red Curry Paste

In the last post, I alluded to some good news we were celebrating. Here’s the scoop: During the last month, I’ve been working on my senior project for my bachelor’s degree. Last week, I turned it in and on Saturday, I received my evaluation notice. I passed with flying colors! As of now, I have my Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting!

It’s really good to be able to get back to writing about food and recipes now that the project is done. I have a bunch of recipes set by to share with you!

The little jars of red curry paste are by now ubiquitous and, unsurprisingly, one lived in my spice cupboard for quite some time (naturally being periodically replaced as I emptied it). I’d never really thought much about making it myself – it seemed impossible to get that dark, earthy aroma.

Then, of course, we ran out and immediately thereafter, had Thai cravings. Yes, we could have (and did) go to the local Thai restaurant (very good, would recommend), but I wanted my curry, not theirs.

Now, the thing about my small town is that there’s not a lot of choice. There are two grocery stores and Walmart. Prices for “exotic” ingredients, like curry paste, are exorbitant, despite thriving communities of expats from various Southeast Asian countries only a half-hour’s (or so) drive away. I usually go to one called “Southeast Asian Market” on 4th East and 9th South that carries all sorts of fun ingredients – I once found a packet of 5 snake heads in the freezer, for example. They have good prices on a lot of items, one of which is curry paste, which comes in little cans for about a quarter of the price my local stores ask.

Still, going downtown is a pain, particularly in the summer when daily temps are around (or over) 100F and the truck’s a/c isn’t working. We didn’t need anything else since most of the items we use, we bought in bulk last time. I still didn’t want to pay Macey’s price, so I started looking around for a recipe.

I found one in my Quick & Easy Thai book. (I love this book – everything I’ve ever tried has come out wonderfully.) I even had all the ingredients on hand, thanks to my husband’s affection for fresh enchilada sauce.

All I can say is: why on earth did I not do this before? It’s far, far better than the stuff I had been buying.

Look for dried chiles in the Hispanic section of your supermarket, if you’re in the US. Or, better yet, go to a Hispanic market – they will have the best selection at the best prices.

Red Curry Paste [printable recipe]

From Quick & Easy Thai: 70 Everyday Recipes

  • 3 large dried red chile peppers – New Mexico, Anaheim or Pasilla
  • 10 small dried red chile peppers – Chiles de Arbol or Chiles Japones
  • 1/2 cup shallots or onion (1 small)
  • 1/4 cup garlic
  • 1 tbsp galanga root1
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander*2
  • 1 tsp cumin*
  • 1/2 tsp pepper*
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • optional ingredients3

Stem and seed the chiles. Tear them into small pieces and put them into a small bowl. Cover with hot water and set aside for about 30 – 45 minutes.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a food processor along with the chiles and 1/4 cup of their soaking water. Puree. Add additional soaking water if necessary if the paste is too thick.

Remove to a small jar or a freezer container and cover tightly. Keeps in the fridge for about 3 weeks and in the freezer, 3 months. Don’t forget to label it with the name and date so you don’t forget.

Notes:

  1. Substitute 1 1/2 tbsp ginger if you can’t get galanga. It’s very strong and very hard – I grated it straight from the freezer using my Microplane grater, which seems to be the most efficient tool for this job.
  2. You should be able to find ground or whole coriander at the same Hispanic market or section as the chiles.
  3. The author notes that you can add any or all of the following to make this even better: 2 tbsp fresh lemongrass; 2 tbsp cilantro roots, stems or leaves; 4 wild lime leaves
  4. Ingredients marked with a * can be omitted to make gaeng kua curry paste. (Red curry paste with these ingredients is called krueng gaeng peht, according to the book.)
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