Spice Things Up With Curry! (Part 2: Thai Red Curry Paste)

Monday, August 06, 2012

Awhile back I wrote Part 1 of a series on easy curry dishes you can make at home, and I'm finally returning back with the next post, featuring one of my favorites - Thai Red Curry. In Part 1, I gave a few examples of what constitutes basic curry dishes and a general outline of how they can be prepared in simple, straightforward recipes. The base of each curry dish is always the spice mix or prepared curry paste use to season the food and/or make a sauce. Thai Red Curry paste uses red chilies and a host of other spices and herbs common to Thai cooking. It's an amazing blend of flavors that takes you on a journey from the heat of the chilies to the aromatic garlic & ginger, tangy lime, bright cilantro and saltiness of soy and fish sauce. Also, staying true to my goal to cook using healthy foods, this curry paste is packed with cancer-fighting, anti-aging and anti-inflammatory healing herbs and spices, not to mention the delicious veggies you'll add to whatever you include in your curry dish! The ingredient list might scare you, but it's really as simple as throwing everything in a food processor or blender. Yes, it's relatively easy to pick up a bottle of curry paste at the store, but where's the fun in that? Once I realized how easy it was to do this at home I was hooked. Unlike buying a prepared paste, this is something you can make as spicy or mild as you like, adjust the salt level, veganize it or whatever else your heart desires. Granted it's not quite an "authentic" Thai curry paste as there are a couple ingredients not easy to come by unless you're shopping at Asian grocers, but it's close, and easy to adapt to personal tastes. One recipe makes about a half cup of red curry paste, which is plenty to use for 2 or 3 dishes if not more. A couple tablespoons goes a long way and becomes an awesome base whether adding tomato sauce, broth, coconut milk, or even peanut butter to create a rich, intricately flavored sauce. As you might have noticed, I'm partial to coconut milk and lots of spices, so this has always been dear to my heart to incorporate the ingredients I love. Try it and have fun experimenting to make your own signature red curry dishes!

Thai Red Curry Paste

Ingredients (substitutions noted as applicable):
4 - 6 Thai red chili peppers, stems removed (or dried Thai red chili peppers, soaked in water for 10 minutes)
1 tbsp Sriracha sauce or red chili sauce of your preference (optional)
1 tsp red chili flakes (optional)
1 shallot (or 1/2 small red onion)
2 -3 tbsp lemon grass (I couldn't find fresh lemongrass, so I use a lemongrass paste found in the herb section of my grocery store.)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
1 - 2 tbsp fish sauce (For a vegetarian substitute, try Golden Mountain Seasoning or soy sauce)
2 tsp good quality soy sauce
1 tsp black pepper
6 garlic cloves
2" piece of peeled fresh ginger (Authentic recipes call for galangal, if you can get it great!)
1/4 c. fresh cilantro w/ stems
3 Kaffir lime leaves (Most recipes call for Kaffir lime zest. It was hard enough to find the leaves so that's what I use, and they can be found at most Asian grocers - I keep a small bag of frozen leaves to use just for this purpose. You can probably substitute the zest of a couple regular limes if you had no other options.)
2 - 3 tbsp tomato paste (I have also used tomato sauce in a pinch, which makes a wetter paste but tastes the same.)

Servings: Makes about 1/2 cup. Most recipes call for a couple tablespoons at a time, so it will last for several dishes.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: N/A
Equipment Needed: Food processor or blender

Gather all ingredients. The biggest thing I want to stress here is that I have successfully made slightly different versions of this each time depending on ingredients I had on hand. It's almost impossible to screw up. Don't stress about measurements too much, just start with the basic proportions above and adjust to your tastes.

Combine all ingredients in your food processor or blender.

Process until all ingredients are well blended and a thick paste forms. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.  The curry paste will last a few weeks, probably longer but it gets used up quickly in my kitchen! 

Stay tuned for the next post in this series using the Thai Red Curry paste to create some fantastic dishes!

Eggplant & Okra Curry (Vegan)
Salmon & Sweet Potato Curry
Shrimp & Scallops in Coconut Curry Sauce

You Might Also Like