Thursday, 3 November 2011

How to make a proper red curry paste

If you want to make your own Thai curries, a good place to start is with a red curry paste.  Once you have made a batch you can freeze any excess in ice cube trays or mini muffin tins and you will always have an easy start to a great stir fry or curry.

The first thing you have to do is find the right ingredients.  You won’t find them in your local supermarket – or at least I couldn’t find everything there.  So head to your nearest Asian supermarket and Asian grocery store and you should find what you need.  One essential is a largish mortar and pestle – I think granite ones are best.  Don’t buy one at a kitchen speciality shop – that will cost double what you will pay at an Asian supermarket where I bought my latest one for about $35.  It is about 6 to 7 inches high and about 20cm in diameter.

Mortar and Pestle

The ingredients for the paste are (credit to Spirit House for this).  This will make approximately 2 cups of paste which is a lot considering you only use 1 or 2 tablespoons of it at a time.  But as I mentioned before it does keep well:

15                dried red chillies soaked in a little hot water for 10 minutes and then chopped– the best chillies are long dried ones.  I have made my own in the oven but it takes a long time and you can find good ones at the Asian supermarket.  If you can't find long ones use a greater quantity of the smaller ones.

2                  small red shallots – chopped.  These are little brown onion type things which have an outer reddish layer under the brown skin.  You could substitute red onions but I did find the proper thing at the Chinese greengrocers.

12                cloves of garlic - chopped

2                  stalks of lemongrass – finely sliced.  Use the bottom half of the lemongrass.  Before you slice it, it is a good idea to give it a bash with your pestle to bruise it and bring out the aromatics.  You can get fresh frozen lemongrass both in stems and chopped form at the Asian greengrocer.  I haven’t tried the bottled sort for this.

1 tablsp        galangal – chopped.  I could only get this frozen.  You could substitute ginger

2 tablsp         coriander root – chopped.  Please note this is the root – so you need to get this from the Asian greengrocer because they leave the root on.  Don’t use the living herbs because their roots are hopeless.

1 tablsp         lime zest

2 tablsp         white peppercorns.  Important to use white rather than black.  I could only find whole ones in the Asian supermarket

2 teasp         coriander seeds, roasted – what they mean by roasted is dry fried in a non stick pan until aromatic – say 2 minutes

1 teasp          cumin seeds, roasted

½ teasp         mace, roasted – now I couldn’t find mace anywhere – even in ground form so I substituted with nutmeg – because nutmeg is stronger in flavour I used a little less

2 teasp          salt

2 teasp         shrimp paste, roasted.  It smells awful but is an essential ingredient. You get it in little cans.  This is roasted differently.  You put it into foil and fold it over a few times so it is a little packet.  Then just put it directly onto the gas flame or other heat source for a minute or so until you can smell the change in the aroma.

To make the paste

Do have everything pretty finely chopped first before you pound it in the mortar and pestle you will get a much smoother paste.

In mortar and pestle, grind the coriander, cumin and white peppercorns.  Remember to roast the coriander and cumin first.  Don’t roast the peppercorns – they would go bitter.

Add the remaining ingredients – from dry to wet and pound away until you have got a smooth paste.  Let the pestle do the work for you.

With some luck you will end up with a paste like this

Red curry paste

You might also be interested in my post on my take on Sichuan chicken - click here to go to it.


  1. hey thanks for visiting my blog, recipe looks very authentic... esp since u used mortar pestle coz thats how the thai's do it :)

    1. Thanks for your comment. It makes a huge difference to use the right ingredients and then of course to season the curry properly!

  2. ooh thanks for the visit I will be making it definitely. great post!
    Galangal tastes nothing like ginger,

    Our local Asian shop only get it in once a fortnight so I had to wait and then rush there and get it. It sells out in a hour or so. Strange as its hard to cut and didn't taste of much.

    1. I agree. I get frozen galangal which seems to work ok. Thanks for your post

  3. hey!
    thanks for checking out my blog and yes, i have made red curry from scratch. i plan on doing it again and will use your recipe (veganized). .. keep up the great work!

    1. I guess it's the shrimp paste that is the problem? I wonder what you could use to get the flavour? Thank you so much for commenting.

  4. Thanks for visiting my blog at Sweet Craftiness, your recipe sounds great, will try it when I get chance! x

    1. It's a bit of effort but if you make a large batch and freeze most of it, it will last for lots of meals, making future curries quite quick to do.

  5. Wow, that looks awesome! Thanks for visiting my blog a while back. I will have to try your recipe. Hope you have a great week!

    1. thanks for taking the time to comment. I have now also made a yellow curry paste which I will blog about sometime.


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