Learned while staying in Thailand, this Red Thai Curry Paste is spicy and aromatic. It uses whole dried red chilies, as well as fresh red bird’s eye chiles for extra spice. I usually add both types, each gives a slightly different favor, as well as an increased heat level. You can use the seeds as well if you like your curries really spicy! To see notes on all the different ingredients used in this recipe, see my blog post about making Thai curry pastes here.
To get that authentic Thai curry taste, it’s really worth seeking out an Asian supermarket to get all of the ingredients. Asian markets are really worth a visit – they have a wealth of different greens and herbs, inexpensive rice, tofu and coconut milk. Their fresh fish counters are also usually well-stocked with lots of interesting fish and mollusks. Oftentimes they even have fresh crab and lobster at a fraction of the cost of most supermarkets. If you ask, they will fillet and skin fish, and I’ve even chosen a lobster from the tank and had them cook it for me.
This paste does take some time to prepare, although once made, it will keep in the fridge safely for several months. You only need 1-2 tablespoons of the paste for each curry, so you will easily get 8 or more curries from one paste. Simply sterilize a glass container and put your finished paste into it. Always use a clean spoon to scoop out what you need and cover the paste with its lid immediately. This will keep contaminants out and ensure the paste will last a long time. I recommend making twice the quantity to make mixing/blending easier. You can always give half of it away to friends – it makes a great gift!
To start, de-stem and seed the dried red chilies. Soak in warm water for 15 minutes, drain and chop roughly. You can use some, or even all, of the seeds if you like – they will add more intensity to the finished paste. Using a dry frying pan, roast coriander and cumin seeds over medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant. Next, chop the shallots and the fresh chilies. Be aware that the Thai chilies can be really hot – I always wear disposable gloves when handling them. Occasionally, you’ll get a batch that isn’t too spicy and they can be red or green. I try to get the red ones, but use green if that’s all that’s available.
Now, peel and chop the ginger, lemongrass and the galangal. Chop the Garlic and zest the lime. If you can’t find kaffir limes, then use one small regular lime instead. Grind the black peppercorns in a mini mill/grinder until fine. Now place the chopped fresh chilies and dried chilies, garlic and shallots in the food processor and chop until extremely fine. Scrape down the sides as necessary. Add the corinader and cumin, ginger, lemongrass and galangal, and process again.
Lastly, add the kaffir lime zest, ground pepper, shrimp paste, beancurd paste or salt and process once more. Continue scraping down the sides and processing until paste is extremely fine. You’ll find processing is easiest if you double the quantities of all the ingredients. If using a Vitamix, use the tamper to push the ingredients down towards the blades.
Store 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 shallots
- 1 T chopped ginger
- 1 T chopped galangal
- 2 T chopped lemongrass
- 2 T fresh red bird's eye chilies
- 2 T chopped garlic
- 1 T chopped kaffir lime peel (or a mix of lemon and lime peel)
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- 1 t shrimp paste or salt (or sub fermented beancurd paste)
- First prep all the ingredients:
- Stem and seed the dried red chilies. Soak in warm water for 15 minutes, drain and chop roughly.
- Roast coriander and cumin seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant.
- Chop the shallots.
- Chop the fresh chilies.
- Peel and chop the ginger, lemongrass and the galangal.
- Chop the Garlic and the lime peel.
- Grind the black peppercorns in a mini mill/grinder until fine.
- Next place the chopped fresh chilies (if using - recommended), dried chilies, garlic and shallots in the food processor and chop until extremely fine. Scrape down the sides as necessary.
- Add the corinader and cumin, ginger, lemongrass and galangal, and process again.
- Lastly, add the kaffir lime peel, ground pepper, shrimp paste or salt and process once more.
- Continue scraping down the sides and processing until paste is extremely fine.
- Store in a covered glass container in the fridge for up to 3 months.
If you cannot find galangal, use an extra teaspoon of ginger and a small squeeze of lime.
Use gloves to chop the dried and fresh chiles!
To keep the paste vegetarian, omit the shrimp paste and use fermented beancurd or salt instead.
If you can find fresh coriander root, use that, otherwise fresh ginger is good.