Red, Yellow and Green Thai Curry Pastes

For many years, I made very large quantities of  green, yellow and red Thai curry paste at Christmas time to give as gifts (and also to stock my freezer).  A few years ago my friend Kerthy helped me roast and grind all of the ingredients and half way through the process we could barely speak or breath due to the amount of pepper in the air.  We realized that the roasting chili peppers was almost certainly an activity that was meant to be done outdoors…or at least in a kitchen with better ventilation than is possible during a New York December.  I have since tried out some recipes that do not call for the roasting of the peppers, but these pastes are milder.  Part of what is nice about the roasted pastes is that you only need about two tablespoons to flavour an entire batch of curry.  So now I make the pastes as soon as it is warm enough to leave my windows open.

As pretty as they look piled into bowls like this, the best way to store these pastes is by scooping 2 tablespoon portions into zip lock bags and freezing them.  They will keep for at least 3 months this way.  I use them in a number of specific Thai dishes, but you can also use them to improvise a curry.  Just heat a couple of tablespoons of the curry paste and a couple of teaspoons of coconut milk along with minced aromatics such as lemongrass, garlic, shallots, onions or ginger for a minute until they become aromatic.  Add whatever meat, seafood or vegetables you wish to use along with the rest of the can of coconut milk.  When everything is cooked remove the curry from the heat and season it with fish sauce, lime leaves or lime juice, a bit of sugar and maybe some fresh sliced tomato and Thai basil leaves.

I have adapted these recipes to varying degrees from The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking.  You should feel free to adjust the amounts to suite your own tastes.

RED CURRY PASTE

This is a good “all-purpose curry paste” but is also specifically used for vegetarian and beef curries.

  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seed
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander seed
  • 12 white peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup small dried red chilies, split and seeded
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 4 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon galanga root, thinly sliced (I use frozen galanga root)
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemongrass, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime zest
  • 1 Tablespoon shrimp paste (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  1. Place a medium skillet over low heat and add the peppercorns, cumin and coriander seeds.  Toast the seeds, shaking occasionally for 3 to 4 minutes.  Transfer the seeds to a mortar and pestle.
  2. Add the chilies to the same pan and use a metal spatula to press them into the pan.  As soon as a little wisp of smoke appears (this does not take more than a minute) turn the chilies over .  Do not let them blacken.  When both sides are toasted place the chili peppers in a blender or food processor.
  3. Add the shallots to the skillet.  Allow them to brown on each side and then add them to the blender.
  4. Add the garlic to the skillet.  Allow it to brown (don’t burn the garlic) on each side and then add them to the blender.  Remove the pan from the heat.
  5. Grind the toasted seeds in the mortar and pestle and transfer them to the blender.
  6. Add the paprika, galanga root, lemongrass, lime zest, shrimp paste, salt and oil to the blender and process everything until it becomes a smooth paste.  You will have to stop frequently to push the ingredient down with a spatula.
YELLOW CURRY PASTE
This one has an earthy flavour that goes well with sweet vegetables such as pumpkin or yams, seafood, and noodle dishes.
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seed
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander seed
  • 12 white peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup small dried red chilies, split and seeded
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 4 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 Tablespoon galanga root, thinly sliced (I use frozen galanga root)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemongrass, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime zest
  • 1 Tablespoon shrimp paste (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  1. Place a medium skillet over low heat and add the peppercorns, cumin and coriander seeds.  Toast the seeds, shaking occasionally for 3 to 4 minutes.  Transfer the seeds to a mortar and pestle.
  2. Add the chilies to the same pan and use a metal spatula to press them into the pan.  As soon as a little wisp of smoke appears (this does not take more than a minute) turn the chilies over .  Do not let them blacken.  When both sides are toasted place the chili peppers in a blender or food processor.
  3. Add the shallots to the skillet.  Allow them to brown on each side and then add them to the blender.
  4. Add the garlic to the skillet.  Allow it to brown (don’t burn the garlic) on each side and then add them to the blender.  Remove the pan from the heat.
  5. Grind the toasted seeds in the mortar and pestle and transfer them to the blender.
  6. Add the turmeric, curry powder, galanga root, lemongrass, lime zest, shrimp paste, salt and oil to the blender and process everything until it becomes a smooth paste.  You will have to stop frequently to push the ingredient down with a spatula.

GREEN CURRY PASTE

This paste has a complex herbal flavour.  I often make it with quite mild chilies which is definitely not traditional but still delicious.  This paste is very good with chicken, duck, mussels and crab.

  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 Tablespoons coriander
  • 12 white peppercorns
  • 7 fresh green chilies, chopped or quartered (depending on the size)
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 shallots, sliced
  • 1/4 cup minced lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced galanga root
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro including the stems and roots
  • 1 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  1. Place a medium skillet over low heat and add the peppercorns, cumin and coriander seeds.  Toast the seeds, shaking occasionally for 3 to 4 minutes.  Transfer the seeds to a mortar and pestle.
  2. Add the green chilies to the same pan and use a metal spatula to press them into the pan.  Let them roast until dark spots begin to appear but do not let them blacken.  When both sides are toasted place the chili peppers in a blender or food processor.
  3. Add the shallots to the skillet.  Allow them to brown on each side and then add them to the blender.
  4. Add the garlic to the skillet.  Allow it to brown (don’t burn the garlic) on each side and then add them to the blender.  Remove the pan from the heat.
  5. Grind the toasted seeds in the mortar and pestle and transfer them to the blender.
  6. Add the cilantro, anise seed, galanga root, lemongrass, lime zest, shrimp paste, salt and oil to the blender and process everything until it becomes a smooth paste.  You will have to stop frequently to push the ingredient down with a spatula.

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About Big Sis Little Dish

This is a blog run by two sisters. Erin is the big sister who lives in New York, and Silvi is the little sister who lives in Vancouver. They both love to cook! They created this blog to share and store recipes for the food they make.

6 comments

  1. i cannot wait to make these! these are legendary!!! i think i am going to freeze them in ice cube trays (one from the dollar store, since it will only be useable for curry paste afterwards) and stick them all in a giant ziploc.

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