If you want to get something approaching authentic Thai flavour in your home-cooked curry, you face a bit of a dilemma. Let’s face it, making up a curry paste from fresh ingredients for one curry is a pain in the seating area. So, most of you don’t bother. Instead, you buy a jar of some bright red sludge from the supermarket, fry up an onion and some meat, add the sludge (sauce, if you must), sprinkle on some coriander leaves and you think you have made a curry. You haven’t. You have added some gloop to a saucepan and you don’t know what you are missing. Here’s how to deal with this particular culinary dilemma.
My recommendation is to make a big batch of paste and freeze it in portions to suit your needs. The freezing does no harm and might even improve the paste flavours. Debate rages about whether the freezing helps the flavours. I believe it does, as long as you don’t leave the paste in the freezer for years, rather than weeks. There is no one right curry paste. This is my take and I highly commend it to you. Be warned. I had fun with the pouring shots in this one and there are far too many of them.
- 10 shallot
- 10 stalk lemongrass
- 8 red chillis
- 2 bulbs of garlic
- 200 gms galangal
- 6 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 10 tablespoon fish sauce
- Juice and zest of 4 limes
- 4 tablespoons of chilli powder
- 1 400 ml can of coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon of shrimp sauce
- 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of cumin seeds
- A big bunch of coriander (stalk and leaf)
- 2 teaspoon of white pepper
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoon ground coriander
The preparation of this paste is really straightforward. Peel and chop roughly the following; chillis, garlic and shallots. Do likewise with the galangal and lemongrass but cut both more finely. They are tough and can do with the extra slicing before blending.
Dry fry the cumin seeds and then pound them to a powder, in a mortar, using a pestle (I say it that way to remind myself of which is the mortar and which is the pestle). Zest the limes and squeeze out the juice. See the side note below.
Side note on lime quality. Here in Ireland, the standard of limes available is variable. One can get a lime with practically no juice and on another occasion get a juicy, tasty fruit. My estimate for limes here is based on the latter.
Roughly chop the coriander, including the stalks.
Place everything into a big blender. I am using our smoothy maker as it does a great job of blitzing the ingredients. Be sure to put on the lid as you could make a big mess. Blitz the lot until you have a nice smooth, pungent paste. Divide this lot into five or six portions. Freeze them all bar one. Use this remaining one to make a really sensational Thai style curry. I will cover that in another post.
You are going to have to trust me (said the bishop to the schoolboy) that this is very well worth the little bit of peeling, chopping blitzing and bagging. You have to get away from the dilemma of “Make my own or use the jar?”. This is proof positive that this is the way to go.