BASIC CURRY PASTE
(This recipe is based upon one in the Baan Rim Pa Cookbook. The Baan Rim Pa is a beautiful restaurant overlooking sea on the resort island of Phuket in southern Thailand, www.baanrimpa.com)
Every morning millions of Thais waken to the sound of pestle striking mortar, a sign that mother is making curry paste, the main ingredient of many of the country’s dishes. The precise ingredients used in a particular paste are passed from one generation to the next and often vary slightly from one family to another. Thai curry pastes can now be purchased in grocery stores throughout the world, but those made at home are far superior.
These pastes will keep for up to two weeks in a refrigerator and can be frozen in one-tablespoon quantities in an ice cube tray. Directions are given for making them using either a mortar and pestle or a blender and spice mill. Remember that the number of chilies used is up to you. If you find a paste too hot, simply reduce the number of chilies used.
7 or so dried, red chilies, seeds removed, soaked in water and coarsely chopped
7 or so fresh red chilies, use prik kee noo or a substitute, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
7 or so fresh green chilies, use prik kee noo or a substitute, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
2 coin sized slices of kah, finely chopped (if dried, soak first)
4 Tbsp chopped shallots or onions
2 Tbsp garlic
2 Tbsp coriander roots or stems, coarsely chopped
1 stalk lemon grass, finely slice and use the only the bottom six inches of the stalk
2 tsp lime zest, preferably kaffir lime, but any lime will do
2 tsp shrimp paste
2 Tbsp oil, only if making in blender
Procedure. If making in a mortar and pestle, omit the oil and pound the remaining ingredients into a smooth paste. If making in a blender or food processor, blend everything, including the oil into a smooth paste.
Comments. If you want to make a green paste for a dish like green chicken curry, use the green chilies. For other dishes, red chilies are more popular. The color is connected more with esthetics than flavor. From this basic recipe, a wide variety of different pastes can be made by adding different spices that have been ground to a powder in a spice mill. These variations will be described in recipes included in this section at a later date.