Friday, August 16, 2013

Kitchen Nightmare: Homemade Red Curry Paste

I know you all find this hard to believe, but I occasionally screw things up in the kitchen. And I'm not afraid to blog about it. Usually there is a very good reason for my failure. Perhaps because I was missing a few ingredients that were much more critical to the success of the dish than I realized. Or more than likely, I was attempting to bake, where you can't just guesstimate measurements.

In the case of the red curry...I wish I knew what happened. I obtained this red curry paste recipe during my cooking class in Thailand. Sure, the translation may be a bit off. My personal favorite instruction in the notes section: "Put less small chili and add more big chili in case of eating chili problem."

Let's just put it this way. What I made following this recipe was a BIG chili problem.

What you see on the right here is what was my finished product after following this recipe. I even ventured out to H-Mart in Virginia to get some of these awesome ingredients (though I still had the small dried red chilis that I brought back with me from Thailand...even 10 months later those babies are POTENT).

It should not look like this at all, and I know this because I've bought red curry paste before when making various Thai dishes. Before I got ambitious. But what it all boils down to is that I learned that sometimes, it is just easier and less painful (don't handle chilis and touch anywhere on your face. Ever.)

So perhaps you're feeling ambitious and want to try this out. If you do, and you get it to come out the right consistency, please let me know how you did it!


Dried Spices
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, roasted until fragrant
  • 2 cardamom pods, roasted until fragrant
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • pinch of salt
  • 3-5 dry big red chilies (seeds removed and soaked in water for at least 10 minutes)
  • 1-8 small dried chilies for extra spicy
  • 1 tsp galangal, skin removed, chopped
  • 1 TB lemongrass, chopped
  • 1 piece kaffir lime peel, chopped
  • 1 tsp coriander root, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp shrimp paste.
Please note: Can use coriander stem, instead of root. Can use fresh ginger root, instead of galangal or Thai ginger.


Put the small chilies, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, black peppercorns into a stone mortar and pound them into a powder. You can use a food processer instead, per the instructions.

I never got a powder. that was problem #1.

Then add the rest of the ingredients and pound for 15 minutes until paste is smooth.

You've seen the photos. There ain't nothin' smooth about it.

Anyone up to the challenge?

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