Penang curry is one of the more lightly-spiced Thai curries. I love the nutty, slightly sweet flavor. This paste has two types of chilies, plus kaffir lime peel – as well as the leaves. Finally, the addition of ground peanuts rounds out the flavors. More peanuts are then added during the actual curry-making process. All in all, a well-rounded balance of salty, sweet and sour flavors.Although there is quite a lot of prep for this paste, the taste is far superior from anything you will find in a jar. It makes enough for about 6-8 curries, and will keep for 3 months plus, covered in a glass container in the fridge. Once you have the paste, the curries take less than 20 minutes start to finish – making it a great option for either a week-night meal, or a delicious dinner party feast! I tend to make a batch of Penang, Green, Red and Yellow pastes all in one go. The pastes contain a lot of the same ingredients, and this way – without much more prep involved – you will have access to making 4 different Thai curries! Most large cities have an Asian supermarket. All of these ingredients can easily be found there. However, nowadays, I am seeing most of the ingredients in regular supermarkets. If you cannot find the kaffir limes or leaves, Amazon.com or .co.uk should have everything you need. I have a blog post here that tells you all about the different ingredients used in the pastes.
If you eat a lot of Thai food, then I recommend making twice the amount – it is certainly easier to blend/process with more ingredients. If not, I suggest you use a small blender to make mixing easier. You can always add a tablespoon or two of water to help the paste come together.
Begin by de-stemming and de-seeding the dried chilies. Soak in warm water for 15 minutes, drain and roughly chop.
Dry roast the coriander and cumin seeds until fragrant for 3 minutes over medium heat. Finely grind in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. Dry roast the peanuts in a dry frying pan until they start to color, being careful not to scorh.
Finely grind the peppercorns.
Put the dried and fresh chilies (if using), and the garlic and shallots in a small blender or food processor and blend until chopped fine.
Add the coriander and cumin, along with the lemongrass, galangal and ginger, and process once more, scraping down the sides as necessary.
No add the roasted peanuts, kaffir lime and peel, the pepper and the shrimp paste, beancurd paste or salt.
Continue processing and scraping down the sides until the paste is very smooth.
Try and get the paste as fine as possible. It is usually easier to blend a larger quantity, so I tend to make double the recipe when I make it. If using a Vitamix, use the tamper tool to push the paste continually down towards the blades.
Place in a covered glass container in the fridge for up to 3 months.
- 8-10 large dried red chilies
- 1 T whole coriander seeds
- 2 t whole cumin seeds
- 3 T chopped roasted peanuts
- 2 T chopped lemongrass
- 2 T chopped shallots
- 2 T chopped garlic
- 1 T chopped fresh red bird's eye chilies
- 1 T chopped galangal
- 1 t chopped kaffir lime peel
- 1 T chopped kaffir lime leaves
- 1 T chopped ginger or coriander root
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- 1 t shrimp paste, fermented bean curd paste or salt
- Stem and de-seed the dried chilies. Soak in warm water for 15 minutes, drain and roughly chop.
- Dry roast the coriander and cumin seeds until fragrant for 3 minutes over medium heat. Finely grind in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.
- Finely grind the peppercorns.
- Put the dried and fresh chilies (if using), and the garlic and shallots in a food processor and blend until chopped fine.
- Add the coriander and cumin seeds, along with the lemongrass, galangal and ginger, and process once more, scraping down the sides as necessary.
- No add the roasted peanuts, kaffir lime and peel, the pepper and the shrimp paste or salt.
- Continue processing and scraping down the sides until the paste is very smooth.
- Place in a covered glass container in the fridge for up to 3 months.
I recommend wearing gloves to prepare the chilies - your eyes may thank you later!
If you cannot find galangal, add an extra ½ t fresh ginger.
Make sure the peanuts are finely ground before adding to the mix. I use a coffee grinder that I use specifically for grinding spices.