Green Curry Chili Paste
This recipe is featured in Revolution in Thai Cooking
About Green Curry
Green Curry — or in Thai, Kang Keow Wann — means kang, a stew-like dish; keow, green; and wann, savory or sweet. Modern Thais often translate this last word as sweet, thus justifying why they add sugar to the curry. The original recipe is not sweet. However, in most Thai restaurants today, sugar has been added into the Green curry, which absolutely infuriates my friend, the former cooking teacher. Please do not add sugar into the curry.
This curry paste recipe is an adaptation of the one which originally appeared in my cookbook “Cracking the Coconut.” Based on a classic recipe, I tweaked it to balance the flavors of the ingredients, while maintaining the integrity of the original. I used several kinds of chilies because the Thai bird chilies used in Thailand are not available in the United States.
I suggest you follow the instructions as closely as possible to the way they are written. Dry roasting the dry spices and then grinding them produces an intensely aromatic fragrance. Substitution for original Thai ingredients such as lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime rind will change the taste of the paste. In fact, even if your curry paste is made with these ingredients, it will not taste the same as the ones made by traditional cooks in Thailand. One reason is that there is no getting around Mother Nature’s products raised in different soils and climates. This affects the final taste of the ingredient. Therefore, I simply adapt and alter as I go when I use them in America, just as I did with the chilies.
Lastly, pounding the paste using mortar and pestle is the only way I know that can produce the consistency of a truly exceptional curry paste. As you pound, be patient. When the paste is pureed, creating almost a suction-like feel when you pound, it is done. Another way to tell is to lift the pestle and smell the paste. It should have a fragrance of an entirely new entity, rather than any one of the ingredients used.
- Servings Makes 3/4 cup
- 3 to 4 fresh green jalapeño chilies
- 1 fresh poblano chili
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 15 fresh green Thai chilies (a variety of Tabasco chilies), minced
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
- ¼ teaspoon Thai white peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 9 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon minced cilantro roots (or substitute 1½ tablespoons cilantro stems)
- 1 teaspoon minced galangal*
- 1 stalk lemongrass, green parts and hard outer layers removed, minced
- 1 rind of one Kaffir lime, minced
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1 teaspoon fermented shrimp paste or 1 tablespoon-red miso
*Galangal is a root similar to ginger
1. Slice both the jalapeno and poblano chilies into manageable chunks and blend with 1 teaspoon salt to puree in a food processor. Transfer to a cheesecloth and wring out the juice into a bowl. Set aside the liquid and combine the pulp with the Thai chilies.
2. Combine the cumin and caraway seeds in a skillet and dry-roast until fragrant. Remove to cool.
3. Do likewise with the Thai white peppercorns and coriander seeds. Cool.
4. Grind all the dry-roasted spices, using an electric grinder or mortar and pestle, into powder; set aside.
5. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the remaining salt with the garlic into a paste. One at a time, add the cilantro root, ground spices, chilies, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime rind, and shallots in sequence. Adding each new ingredient only after the previous one is pureed, and incorporated into the paste. Add the fermented shrimp paste, and pound to incorporate.
6. If not using immediately, transfer to a jar with a tight lid and refrigerate. It will keep for a couple of weeks.
7. If using soon after you finish the paste, do not wash the mortar and pestle, but while cooking the paste, spoon some warmed coconut cream into the mortar and stir with the pestle. Pour the mixture into your skillet to be cooked. We old-timers consider this to be the best part of the curry paste.
Some tips for making curry, which I acquired from years of cooking with great “old-timer” cooks:
• ¾ cup of curry paste is good for a pot of curry using up to 4 cups of meat and about 3 to 4 cups of coconut cream and milk. This will make about 4 to 6 servings.
• When cooking the curry paste, be patient and let the combined heated cream and paste marry easily in the skillet as you stir it over medium-low heat. If the mixture thickens, add a ladle or two at a time of the combined heated coconut milk and cream that you have simmering on the stove in a saucepan. Keep stirring until the coconut oil bubbles appear on the surface with the color of the curry paste.
• It is now the time to add your choice of meat (except for fish and shellfish). Regardless of what you select, the meat must be dried thoroughly. Some ancient recipes suggest that one either brown the meat or cook it slightly in the simmering coconut milk and cream before adding into the curry paste mixture.
• Increase the heat, and once the broth begins to boil, add the vegetables, fresh chilies, and handful of hand-squeezed kaffir lime leaves.
• Season with salt, taste to adjust the flavor. Green curry should taste spicy, creamy, and salty. Fish sauce should be added at the end of the cooking and only lightly to highlight the briny taste and aroma.
• Add a handful of fresh and hand-bruised Thai basil leaves once the curry is cooked together with the chili liquid from the chili paste recipe. Stir in to mix, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes.
• For garnish, heat about ½ cup thick coconut cream and ladle it on top together with strands of red chilies.