For people who care about their food

Thai Green Curry Paste

Thai herbs and spices on a plateThere are as many different recipes for Thai green curry paste as there are people who make it. There are no hard and fast rules – just a few basic principles and common ingredients. The picture on the right shows the basic ingredients which I used. (The list of ingredients is below along with the method.)

I think sometimes people are afraid of Thai cooking when it’s new to them and they expect it’s going to be very complicated and they’ll need to follow the measurements and instructions to the letter.

They’re often also hampered by not ever having had the “real thing”. So-called Thai food served in the West often bears very little resemblance to real Thai food. And I’ve seen some appalling recipes in well-respected foodie magazines. BBC Good Food magazine once had a recipe for what they called Thai curry – “Easy! Only five ingredients!” What a disgusting hash that particular recipe would have made. (I wrote to the then editor, Orlando Murrin, about it and complained – but that’s another story. LOL!)

Just relax and do your own thing. If you like the taste of coriander (cilantro), add more; if you don’t like your food spicy then cut back on the chillies. It’s your food, you can make it to suit your own taste!


Lemon grass, lime leaves, chilli, and galangal in a cling-wrapped styrofoam trayThese ingredients are so common in Thai cooking that the Thais make it really easy for you by selling packets of lemon grass, lime leaves, chilli, and galangal all together in one inexpensive packet.

If you’re not lucky enough to be able to do your shopping in Thailand, your best bet is probably a specialist Asian store. We were regulars at Wing Yip when we lived in London. Supermarkets seem to charge a fortune for “exotic” produce such as a small bunch of coriander.


Prepared ingredients for Thai green curry on a plateHere are my ingredients, herbs and veg all chopped and spices toasted, ready to go.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander (including the roots)
  • 6 small green chillies, chopped (we like spicy food – use fewer and/or de-seed them for a milder flavour)
  • 1 Thai shallot or a very small red onion. chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 small piece of galangal (or ginger if you can’t get galangal)
  • 3 sticks of lemon grass, chopped
  • 4-6 lime leaves, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted
  • a few black peppercorns
  • a few cumin seeds, toasted
  • a few dried shrimps (it’s supposed to be shrimp paste, but I’m not a fan of that stuff so I just use the dried shrimps instead. For a vegetarian version I guess you could leave the shrimps out altogether.)
  • Enough vegetable oil to help you blend the mixture into a stiff paste – about 3 tablespoons.

Method


Thai green curry paste being mashed in a Thai stone mortar and pestle“Toast” the spices – basically this just means put the peppercorns, coriander seeds and cumin seeds into a dry frying pan and dry fry them for a few minutes.

Meanwhile you can be chopping up the herbs and the shallot/onion.

Bung everything into the mortar and pestle, and apply some serious elbow grease. Add a little vegetable oil to your mixture to help you make a paste.

And that’s it! What could be simpler?

However, even a Thai food enthusiast like me doesn’t always have the time (or patience!) to blat away all day with the mortar and pestle, so once I’ve got it paste-like by hand, I usually finish it off with the hand blender.

A lot of recipes tell you to just bung everything into a blender, and many people do it this way, but it’s just not the same. The blender tears the ingredients and doesn’t release the aromatic oils in the same way. The flavour will be inferior. That said, I have sometimes made a pretty good curry paste by starting off using the food processor and then switching to the hand blender towards the end.


Thai green curry paste in a mortar with a hand-blender headHere’s the finished Thai green curry paste. You can store this in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Personally I think there’s nothing to beat making the curry paste freshly each time you’re making a Thai green curry.

I can imagine that some of you might be thinking that’s all a bit of a faff, because the ingredients are hard to find and/or expensive, plus the process itself can be a labour of love (just like making your own bread!).


A packet of commercially-produced Thai green curry pasteIs there any way to cheat? Yes, of course. You can buy a commercially made packet of Thai green curry paste. Many of them are very good. Do try to get one which has been produced in Thailand, though. Some of the gunk sold in jars in supermarkets bears no relation at all to a real Thai curry paste.

Packets of curry paste, like the one pictured, can be a real time-saver. They’re good. But they’re never quite as good as the paste you’ll make yourself. Why? Because they tend to use more of the cheaper ingredients to make the bulk of the paste, whereas you’ll be making your paste as fragrant and aromatic as you can. The choice is yours.

PS: Here’s a link to my recipe for Thai green curry with pork.


 

2 Responses to “Thai Green Curry Paste”

  1. Jackie Lancaster

    Hi

    I am going to make your Thai green curry paste tomorrow ,…. and have got all the ingredients from Hoo Hing on the North Circular.

    You don’t say what quantity the ingredients make … is it enough for curry for 4? 6?.

    p.s I saw the pea aubergines and wondered what they are used for. Bought the tiny baby pale green ones instead. Next time will buy the Tpea ones and follow your pork recipe.

    Jackie

  2. Not Delia

    Hi Jackie

    Thanks for your question. You’re right! I didn’t say anything about quantities. I’ve been cooking for years but only recently started writing down recipes. I’ve not quite got the hang of the discipline required yet. Sorry.

    The quantity of green curry paste I made yielded about 5 tablespoons of paste. For a pork green curry for four you need 2 – 3 tablespoons, so you should be OK with the quantity I suggested.

    Please be aware, though, that Thai food is normally served as a meal consisting of several dishes. Therefore quantities in recipes say things like “serves 4-6” when they would only be large enough to serve one or two – if that was all you were having.

    For example, it’s quite usual to have a Thai soup, a spicy salad, a curry, and perhaps another dish, all together at the same time. It’s easy to say that the curry serves four – but that’s because there are three other dishes there.

    Also note that Thai green curry is quite soupy in consistency. It’s intended to flavour the rice you soak it up with. Quite often the curry on its own will taste quite strong, but once you’ve diluted the flavour with rice, it balances nicely.

    Thai cooking isn’t difficult but it does take a little practice – and quite a lot of confidence in your own palate to get the balance of flavours right. Keep tasting it, and adjusting the balance. It if tastes good to you, there’s a good chance it’ll taste good to your guests too. Good luck!

    Give me a shout if you get stuck and I’ll try to help.

    The pea aubergines can be a bit of an acquired taste. I used to pick them out and leave them on the side of the plate. They’re a bit like a tough mini gooseberry. (That doesn’t sound very inviting!) I like them now, but would be wary of serving them to people who weren’t used to authentic Thai food. In the UK it’s quite common in so-called Thai restaurants – places which serve food blanded down and adapted for the farang palate – to use green peas instead. Nah!

    Hope this helps.

    Sawasdee Pee Mai Kaa (Happy New Year)

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