One of the most important steps in making Thai dishes is preparing the chili paste. The paste is a concentrate of aromatic ingredients that provides a lot of flavor for the dish. There are many variations of chili pastes but this particular one is used in Massaman Curry. It could be used in a variety of dishes as well, not just for Massaman Curry. If you have a food processor making it would be easy, but without one it will take some time to prep. You can find the paste in stores but it goes without saying that it won’t have the same amount of flavor and freshness that making it from scratch provides. It can be tough to find the authentic ingredients but if you live near or in a city there is likely a Thai or Asian market that can provide some of the harder to find ingredients.
My favorite part of making this was roasting it for a few minutes in a pan. By heating it up the flavors were released into the air and the whole kitchen smelled so good! It’s an important step since it intensifies the flavor of the paste as well. The result was a really versatile concentrate of flavors that can be used in a ton of different Thai foods. It should last for a week or two in a sterilized jar in the refrigerator.
Thai Red Curry Paste
(Makes about 1 1/2 Cups)
- 12 big red Thai chilies, roasted, soaked and seeds removed
- 1 1/2 tsp peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp white peppercorns
- 1 tbsp coriander seed, toasted
- 1 tbsp cardamom, ground
- 2 tsp cumin seed, toasted
- 1 tbsp shrimp paste
- 1 tsp cloves, whole
- 1 tsp nutmeg, ground and untoasted
- 1 tbsp cilantro root, minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 kaffir lime, zest and juice
- 1 2 inch piece galangal (thai ginger), minced
- 2 tbsp lemongrass paste
- 6 small shallots, minced
- 2 tbsp garlic, minced
- Dry roast the whole spices and dried chilies until fragrant, about 3 minutes. The chilies should be slightly browned.
- Boil the chilies in a pot until soft, about 7-10 minutes. Drain and remove the seeds. Chop the peppers until they are finely minced.
- Grind the whole spices until powdered.
- In a bowl mix all of the ground spices, minced chilies, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, lime juice and zest, cilantro root, shrimp paste, and galangal together.
- Toast the mixture in a pan just prior to using in recipes.