Curry Paste for months!
I used to be a dork.* A big ol’ American dork who thought all cool ethnic foods like chutneys and curry pastes came straight from jars which came straight from factories because who the heck would ever make this stuff from scratch, right? I mean nobody but chefs and people with tons of time ever did that.
At my house it was never about tons of time. It was about throwing some Kikkoman Teriyaki sauce on a bowl of Top Ramen, calling it “ethnic” (hah!), and then chowing it down in five minutes flat before rushing off to an evening’s rehearsal of The Pigeon by Some Guy Who Thinks He’s Anton Chekhov But Clearly Isn’t.
Yes, I lived a life of culinary… well, to be honest, the word culinary didn’t enter into it. (That is, except for those late nights at the theater bar with too many oyster shooters… but I digress…)
Then, wonder of wonders, I met a chef. Okay, he wasn’t exactly a chef when I met him, but point is, he knew things. Wondrous things. Like: You can make curry paste at home! Really! You can!
In fact, about this time last year, we made quite a batch of Thai red curry paste, and it was scrumptious. Hot as a freakin’ sun spot, but scrumptious.
The thing I adore about home made curry paste is that it’s so much more aromatic than the store bought kind, and you can tweak it into a hundred different varieties. It lasts a nice long time, too. Cook up this stuff, use just a spoonful or two (or a cup if you’re feeling bold) and freeze the rest. Curry paste for months!
Here’s Chopper’s recipe for Thai red curry paste. Check back in a jiff and I’ll have posted about the time I assisted Chopper in the making of Thai red curry paste. It was — how shall I put it — a memorable experience. One I shall treasure forever. Right along side that time I took my hiking lunch break atop a 4′ ant hill. Not that this should stop you from…
Home made Thai Red Curry Paste
- 1/2 pound dried red chiles
- 10 black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek
- 4 stalks lemongrass
- 1 tablespoon minced cilantro
- 1 teaspoon minced galangal
- 1 teaspoon minced lime zest
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Have a large mortar and pestle ready. I know, not everyone has one of the primitive tools, but it works best, and they’re not as expensive as one might think if they know where to look. We got ours at an Asian market in Portland for $22. But, a food processor can work as well.
- First, stem and seed the chiles. Then soak them for 20-30 minutes, or until they are hydrated enough to peel. Then remove the skins.
- Put a small sauté pan on medium high heat, no oil. When the pan is hot add the peppercorns and shake them around in the pan until you begin to detect their aroma. Then add the coriander, wait again for the aroma. Then add the cumin, repeat, and also with the fenugreek.
- When all the spices are toasted, place them in the mortar and pestle, and allow them to cool.
- While the spices are cooling, take the lemongrass and bash it with the flat side of your knife until it’s bruised and frayed. Then slice only the white parts and mince.
- Pound spices and salt into a powder, then add cilantro, lemongrass, galangal, lime zest, garlic, and shrimp paste. Pound down to a thick paste, then add chiles. Keep pounding until the paste has the desired consistency.
This method is not fast or easy. It is long, and difficult. But your toil will be rewarded with enough paste to make fine curries for weeks.
(*Actually, I still am a dork. “Used to be” is only to suit the purposes of this post and to illustrate that sometimes I do indeed learn things.)