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Homemade Thai Green Curry Paste

Thai Green Curry Paste
June 29
Day 97 of Lockdown 5.0 and Day Day 29 of Unlock 1.0

First of all let me tell you I was not aware of the existence of Thai curries in India until some 8 years ago. The first time I tasted this in Pune, though I do not remember the restaurant name now. But what I do remember is the smooth, rich texture of the beautiful aromatic pale Green Curry along with a plateful of fragrant jasmine rice. Till then probably the only south east Asian cuisine I was used to was Chinese and a little Japanese. After having the green curry I started looking up for Thai cuisines. And the more and more I looked at the culture and cuisines I got fascinated. Whenever I used to see Thai green curry mentioned on the menu, the default selection would be it for me. This became such a practice that my colleagues and friends even started complaining that I was stuck up with it. But I didn't mind! In this regards the two places where I absolutely loved the green curry was - Eddie's Kitchen in Camp, Cafe Peter on Apte Road and of course Wok Asia, the takeaway restaurant - out of which the curry from the last one fascinated me most. All the three variants - fish, chicken, prawns were like super awesome.

Then there was this time when I traveled to Thailand for vacation. I was super pepped up not only for the holiday but that I was going to the birth place of the curry I loved so much. I could already see myself having green curry even before I boarded the plane.

But when I ordered my first prawns Thai green curry in Krabi, I was in for a rude shock. What I had on my plate did look somewhat like the curry I was used to have in India, but it didnt taste like the one I was used to. This was not as sweet, not did it have the usual selection of vegetables. Instead it had some small round things - which I later came to know as Thai brinjals but I didn't like their taste. The curry over there was not loaded with vegetables by default unless you specifically ordered a vegetarian variant. I ended up believing that just like the way we have Indianized Chinese cuisine to suit our Indian palate, Thai dishes might also have undergone transformation to suit our taste buds. So that was the end of my green curry eating in Thailand, but once back I resumed having it here.

The very obvious question for those who are unfamiliar with this name is what is a Thai green curry?

The classic Thai curries are named after the color of the paste used to make the curry. Hence the names - red curry, yellow curry and green curry. Traditionally they are cooked with some protein and seasonal greens and are served along with a bed of fragrant Jasmine rice. Green Curry tends to be one of the milder curries of Thai cuisine. The name Gaeng Kiaw Wan literally means 'sweet green curry', where wan means sweet. It is a smooth and rich coconut milk sweet curry with a lemony aroma and a soft hint of chilli.

Green Curry Paste
You will find many pre-made options of the Thai curry recipe in the market. But nothing beats the aroma and texture of freshly made curry paste. I always feel the green paste is the tastiest out of all three variants - red, yellow and green. For the longest time I wanted to make the green curry at home. I used pre-made curry pastes, powders and what not, but they tasted nothing like the original one. I even tried making the paste at home once but it was not a successful try. And mostly the failure attributed to the unavailability of most of the herbs and spices. So lets be honest, making thai green curry can become a little tricky if you do not happen to have the core ingredients at least - lemongrass, galangal, basil, thai chilli and coriander roots. If I must add also the shrimp paste, but still for our palate it can be made optional. I have mentioned all the substitute ingredients below, but then if you use only the substitute elements, then you may as well end up with a Coriander chutney at best instead of a green curry paste. So take a note of it.

The list of ingredients may look long but don't get intimidated by it. Now a days mostly in all super markets or even online grocery markets have all of the below mentioned ingredients. So if you plan in advance you can easily make a big batch of this paste and store it for later use.

A brief about the ingredients:

1. Lemongrass - Its the most classical ingredient in South East Asian cuisine. Peel the tough green outer layers and use the white softer part.The parts which can be chopped by knife.
Substitute: Kaffir Lime leaves 

2. Galangal - It looks like ginger but is more citrusy and harder. The flavor notes are much stronger and sweeter (I would say it somewhat resembles the smell of camphor!). Galangal, also known as Siamese ginger, is indeed a member of the ginger family.
Substitute : Ginger + the zest of 1 lime

3. Shallot - They are a type of onion but have a sweet and mild flavor, and lack the bite. You can use the onions underneath the spring onion for the same effect.
Substitute : Onion

4. Kaffir Lime Leaves - This is indispensable part of Thai cuisine. Both leaves and fruit rind emit an intense citrusy aroma. If you are using frozen or dried leaves, run them under hot water for a few seconds to thaw them and release those delectable aromas
Substitute : Lime zest / Gondhoraj Lemon leaves

Coriander Leaves , Ginger, Peppercorn & Bird's eye Chilli
5. Thai Chilli / Bird's eye chilli - Small and spicy, bird's eye chilies (also known as Thai chilies) are popular in Southeast Asian cuisine and they truly pack a punch, apart from the beautiful red color body.
Substitute: Any spicy chilli

6. Shrimp Paste - The flavor of shrimp is the backbone of South East Asian cuisine and Thai Green Curry is no exception. It is primarily made from finely crushed shrimp mixed with salt, and then fermented for several weeks.
Substitute : Soy Sauce + fish sauce

7. Coriander roots - It adds a beautiful earthy flavor of the cilantro and much sharper flavors than the leaves. Cut off the white roots from the stem and clean them properly off all the dirt. Then scrape the skin off before using it for the paste.
Substitute : Coriander stem

Coriander Roots
8. Thai Basil Leaves - A stronger-flavored basil than sweet basil, Thai Basil also has a hint of licorice flavor.
Substitute: Sweet Basil leaves

9. Coriander/Cilantro - The coriander leaves add to the beautiful green color of the paste.
Substitute: None

10. The spices - The toasted and ground spices add to the flavor profile. Toasting helps in releasing the aromas better. Don't skip the turmeric, it adds to the nice warm color and also enhances the flavors.
Substitute: None

Please note: while all of the substitute ingredients would still give you a green paste, but it might be little less authentic in terms of the flavors.

Coriander seeds, Lemongrass and Garlic

A few things to Keep in mind:

1. Do not make the paste too smooth. it should have a little coarseness for the body in the curries.

2. Always try to use fresh ingredients while making this paste. Especially the herbs, because the more they age, the flavors and color will be impacted.

3. For making the vegetarian version of the paste, skip adding the shrimp paste

4. When you fry the paste in oil to make curry, the aromas will be much more pronounced

Preparation Time : 30 minutes
Cooking Time: NA
Serving : 1 serving of green curry for 4 people

Ingredients :
  • Caynne Pepper/ Green chillies (less spicy variant, seeds removed ) - 4
  • Thai chilli / Bird's eye chilli  (seeds removed)- 4
  • Garlic Cloves - 5
  • Small Red Shallots - 3
  • Galangal / Ginger - 1 thumb size chunk
  • Cilantro/Coriander Root - 5
  • Lemongrass - 2 stalks
  • Kaffir Lime leaves - 4 - 5
  • Thai Basil Leaves - 8 to 10
  • White / Block pepper corn - 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander seeds - 2 tsp
  • Cumin Seed - 1/2 tsp
  • Salt - 1 tsp
  • Shrimp Paste  (Optional) - 1 tbsp
  • Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
  • Chopped Cilantro - 1/4 cup loosely packed
  • Fish Sauce (optional) - 1tsp
  • Refined oil - 1 tsp
  • Palm Sugar / Normal sugar - 1 tsp

Green Curry Paste

1.  Dry toast the spices - coriander, black pepper corns and cumin seeds on medium heat in a pan. Be sure to keep them moving around the pan continuously or they will start to brown. Once they are nice and fragrant grind them using a grinder or a mortar pestle. But the grinder is going to breakup the fibrous bits better. Add turmeric to the ground spice mix.

2.  Mince all the herbs finely - lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, basil, coriander leaves, shallots, chillies, galangal, garlic, coriander roots. The smaller you mince them the easier it is going to be when you make the paste and incorporate everything. It might seem time consuming but it will help you later.

Make sure you remove all the seeds off your chillies, unless you want to end up with a fiery hot curry paste. Adjust the quantities of the chillies depending on how spicy they are.

Chopped Ingredients

3. It is recommended you use mortar and pestle or sil batta to make the paste. Because that way it doesn't loose its oils and aromas. Also you can control the texture.  Just make sure you incorporate the ingredients in batches so that you get an even texture.

But if you do not have either of them handy go ahead and use your grinder. Incorporate all the ingredients and give it a few pulses until you get a nice and thick paste. Avoid using too much of extra water and the herbs and spices will give off some moisture while breaking down.

Grind the Ingredients

4. First add all the chopped herbs to the mortar along with the salt. The salt will help in breaking down the ingredients quicker.

Next add the ground spices. So this order will help in starting with the most fibrous ingredients first and then to the softer juicier ones which has a lot of moisture. Add the shrimp paste and combine everything well into a nice paste. Add the sugar at this point too.

Add the ground spice mix
5. You can either add the fish sauce now, or you can add it to the curry when you make it directly. In this recipe I did not add the fish sauce to the paste, but added it to the curry.

Green Curry Paste

How to Store it

This paste is best to be used fresh. But it can also be refrigerated for 2 days or frozen for a week in an air tight box. Beyond that I would not recommend storing it as it might loose its aromatics.

Some ways to use green curry paste

1. Make Thai green curry - that is the most obvious option. You can make it with just vegetables or add a protein of your choice or even add both.

2. Sir Fry - Fry the paste in the oil and then add all your favorite ingredients for a Thai flavored stir fry.

3. Soup - Fry a little of the paste in refined oil first and then go on and make your favorite soup with chicken or vegetables.

4. Fried Rice - Fry a little of the paste in oil and add add the ingredients you would use to make the fried rice. It will give a nice Thai aroma to the dish.

This post first appeared on Curries & Stories, please read the originial post: here

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Homemade Thai Green Curry Paste


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