This curry paste is certainly not for the faint of heart! I find it to be the hottest of the Thai curry pastes. The heat comes from the use of about 15 fresh green bird’s eye chilies. More layers of flavor are gleaned from adding shallots, ginger, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime peel. Kaffir limes and the leaves can usually be found in Asian markets, however, a mix of lemon and lime zest can be used if you have difficulty finding them.
(Ifyou’d like to see a full run-down of all the ingredients used in making Thai curry pastes, see my original blog post here).
Occasionally when I make this paste, I will pound each ingredient in the mortar and pestle, although the fastest route is by using the food processor. Sometimes though, taking the time to grind up the spices by hand, layering the next ingredient over the previous one, savoring the pungent and aromatic aromas, and continuing until all ingredients are used and a smooth paste is achieved, is very meditative and satisfying to do. For the purposes of this today though, the food processor is the tool of choice! I’d also recommend making double the quantity – this will aid in the processing/blending of the paste.
When removing the lid from the food processor/blender between adding ingredients, be sure you keep your face pointing away from the contents of the bowl. The aroma is strong from the chilies and can certainly make your eyes water if you breathe in too deeply! I always wear disposable gloves when dealing with chilies – just means I don’t have to think twice if I need to rub my eyes later!
Galangal is a member of the ginger family – and looks deceptively similar. It is also often referred to as young ginger and has a slightly more sour and mustard-like, citrus flavor than regular ginger, and gives another layer of flavor to the paste. It is more dense than regular ginger, and a little harder to chop. I recommend peeling, slicing and then finely chopping it before adding it to the food processor. If you cannot find fresh galangal at your local Asian market, look in the frozen section as sometimes you can find it there. As a last resort, you might be able to find dried galangal powder, or try adding an extra teaspoon of regular ginger and a small squeeze of lime to the paste.
- 1T whole coriander seeds
- 2 t whole cumin seeds
- 1 t whole black peppercorns
- 10-20 chopped fresh green bird's eye chilies
- 3 T chopped lemongrass
- 3 T chopped shallots
- 2 T chopped garlic
- 1 T chopped finger ginger or coriander roots
- 1 T chopped galangal
- 1 t chopped kaffir lime peel
- 1 t shrimp paste/fermented beancurd paste or salt
- Start by prepping all the ingredients: Chop the chilies, Lemongrass, shallots, garlic, finger ginger (or coriander root), galangal and kaffir lime peel.
- Roast coriander and cumin in a frying pan over medium heat for about 3 minutes, or until fragrant. (Being careful not to burn them, or they will take on an extremely bitter taste).
- Place the chilies, garlic, and shallots in the food processor and process until fine. Scrape down the sides as needed.
- Add the lemongrass, galangal, ginger and kaffir lime peel.
- Finally Add the shrimp paste or salt and process until the paste is as fine as you think it will go.
- Transfer into a sealed glass container and store in the fridge.
- Paste should last up to 3 months.
If you cannot find Galangal, use an extra teaspoon of regular ginger and a small squeeze of lime to the paste.