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Close, but not quite pulverised enough...

It’s been said once or twice that it ain’t easy being green. Of course, no food demonstrates the fallaciousness of this little dictum better than a Thai green curry. It would have to be the favourite dish of one of the world’s favourite cuisines.

I went to Thailand a few years ago and made a green curry paste in a cooking class. I remember the poor chef being very frustrated by my inept pestle-ing skills. Up-and-down, it’s meant to be; not round-and-round.

I was inspired to revisit some Thai cookery by David Thompson’s appearance on Poh’s Kitchen last week. I decided to make the Green Blue-Eye Curry from Neil Perry’s Balance and Harmony. I’ve made it before and it was very successful. So, off to Victoria Street I went on the weekend with my long list of Asian ingredients in hand.

I used Perry’s Thai green curry paste recipe, though I didn’t take much notice of the quantities because I wasn’t in a measuring mood. I’ve just had a bit of a cookbook browse, and have noted that Thompson, in his book, Thai Food, uses basically all the same ingredients. In a recipe from a little cookbook that I bought in Thailand, there are considerably less ingredients and many more chillies!

My version is fairly light on the chillies just because I’m a bit soft, really.

All the ingredients (plus some imposters)

Ingredients

A small pinch of coriander seeds, dry roasted
A small pinch of cumin seeds, dry roasted
A small pinch of white peppercorns, dry roasted
3 little wild chillies
2 long green chillies, deseeded
2-3 lemongrass stalks, the soft inner part
A walnut sized piece of galangal, peeled
6 red shallots, the sweeter Thai sort
5 garlic cloves
2 thick coriander roots, scraped and chopped
2 small turmeric ‘fingers’, peeled
Zest of 1 small kaffir lime (sub 2-3 leaves)
3 teaspoons shrimp paste, wrapped in foil and roasted

Method

  • To prepare the ingredients: roast the spices in a saucepan and grind to powder. Roast the shrimp paste in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Roughly chop everything else. Ensure you avoid grating the bitter pith of the kaffir lime. Charmaine Solomon suggests using galangal from a jar because it will be softer. This is good advice; my galangal was alarmingly tough and fibrous.
  • Stick everything in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust any flavours if need be.
  • Transfer to a heavy mortar and pestle and pound away until all the ingredients are completely pulverised and smooth. This takes at least ten minutes.
  • Add some water if the paste seems too dry.
  • This stores in the fridge, covered for about two weeks. Thompson warns against freezing the paste, though wouldn’t it be great if you could?!

Stay tuned later this week for my green kingfish curry, where I put this spice paste to good use…

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3 Responses to “Thai green curry paste: sometimes it is easy to be green”

  1. Hannah says:

    Darn tootin’ I’ll be staying tuned for the kingfish recipe! (I do like kingfish – am always very happy to see it as a sashimin option, but I digress.)

    I’ve made similar green curry pastes to this but have never used shrimp paste before. I’m going to have a try and bit harder with my authenticity, I think. Or my willingness to go beyond a supermarket for ingredients…

  2. Gabriela Jurado-Blanco says:

    I’m curious about this recipe because all this time I’ve used pretty much the same ingredients, but I have never had to roast anything before. I was told once, correctly or not, I don’t know, that the main diffference between thai curries and the Indian ones is that you only use fresh ingredients, none of the dry ones… so I wonder what the roasting is going to do to the overall effect of the paste. I find that the shrimp paste is already very dry and I’ve never used anything but fresh coriander. Interesting…

  3. Saskia says:

    Hannah: Thanks! I agree! always make a beeline to any kingfish carpaccio or sashimi on a menu! This curry probably didn’t show off the fish in its best light – but was still lovely!

    Gabriela: I can’t claim to be any expert on Thai cookery but I did just have a little read of the David Thompson ‘Thai Food’ cookbook, which is great. I suggest you seek this book out if interested – it has pages and pages devoted to curry pastes! Thompson uses just a little of these three dried spices, but does say that they are unusual in Thai cookery and should be used subtly (for extra dimension). He roasts the cumin and coriander, and says that this revitalises them a little. (He says not to roast the peppercorns though – oops!) Similarly, roasting the shrimp paste just brings out its flavour a little. At the end of the day, I guess it comes down to personal taste (unless you want to be super-authentic). Hope this helps!

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