Wednesday, January 14, 2015
You can find a terrific green curry paste in the store, but it’s fun and easy to make it at home yourself, and it freezes beautifully. Give it a shot! (Mortar and pestle optiional.)
When it comes to take-out, Thai food is right behind sushi at my house. But my ordering-in days have dwindled considerably as I turn to my own kitchen to make my favorites at home. Think: Pad Thai and Thai salad with spicy peanut dressing. My versions are much tastier and more authentic—not to mention more nutritious.
You might be wondering, “What does this white chick know about authentic Thai food?” I hear that. Yet, I have had the good fortune to expand my cooking skills and palate greatly after traveling to many different parts of the world, Thailand among them. I spent several weeks backpacking around the country, sampling all kinds of different foods. (Though I did pass on the roasted guinea pig at the local market—which was whole, by the way.) And I took a wonderful class at the Sompet Thai Cookery School in Chiang Mai where I learned to make many traditional dishes, including green curry.
Green curries can be made using a varied array of vegetables and proteins (eggplant, broccoli, and rice noodles is shown in the photo). Thai basil is a beautiful garnish. but green curry paste is the key ingredient, as the name implies. My version uses a modern food processor rather than a traditional mortar and pestle. I did do the whole thing by hand in Thailand and it’s kind of a lame move to use a food processor, I’ll admit. But I just didn’t have a large enough pestle (or is it mortar?) to fit all of the ingredients and, if we’re being honest, didn’t really feel like it. If you’re up to the task—and/or have some inherent aggression that needs an outlet—grab your stone tools and get mashing.
Whatever kitchen aid you employ, making curry paste is a great cooking project, and it’s time well spent since it keeps in the refrigerator for weeks and freezes beautifully. That means home-cooked curries are even faster than take-out.
And way, way more delicious.
Green Curry Paste
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons shrimp paste
- 10-15 Thai green chile peppers
- 1 cup shallots, rough chop
- 3 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled, rough chop
- 12 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon dried turmeric
- 2 teaspoons lime zest
- 1-2 Kaffir limes, quartered (the whole fruit, substitute regular)
- 1 cup cilantro, stems and leaves
- 3 pieces lemongrass, fresh, rough chop (white and light green parts only)
- 4 kaffir lime leaves, crushed
- 4 chili leaves (if you can find them)
1. Heat the coriander and cumin sees in a frying pan for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Place all ingredients into a food processor (or use a mortar and pestle).
2. Blend everything together until a chunky paste forms. Taste and add more chiles if desired.
Makes about 2 cups.
There’s nothing difficult about this recipe other than making sure you have the right ingredients; a high-quality supermarket or the Asian food store will have most of them and there are common options if you can’t find indigenous varieties.
Also, making sure your curry paste isn’t inedibly spicy.
The flavors will become diluted somewhat in your final dish, when the curry is combined with other elements (like coconut milk). But you can always add more heat to whatever you’re making later on so be careful when making the paste; you can’t go back.
On a somewhat ironic closing note, my readers and students know that I am a realist and so I will happily confess that I still keep a selection of high-quality curry pastes in my pantry (green, red, yellow, and the like). Making a paste is easy, but it does require a lot of ingredients—which doesn’t always align with my curry cravings. I’ve gotten better about keeping a batch in the freezer for exactly this reason, but I’m glad to have those handy little store-bought jars on hand in case I need them.
And, while I’m no longer competing on The Taste, I would have definitely featured this curry paste in the “Bring on the Heat” challenge to knock the mentors’ socks off.
Learn more about food personality and health expert Dr. PK Newby here, or her experience as a nutrition scientist, professor, and consultant here. Or click here if you just want to ogle food porn featuring plant-based, globally inspired cooking.