Thai Cooks’ Stand-By
Home-Made or Store-Bought
Curry pastes are aromatic mixtures of spices Thai cooks use to flavor stews, soups and other dishes. They can be made in the kitchen fresh before use, or can be bought canned, which is commonly done by households and many Thai restaurants.
Typically, these pastes come in small jars or tin cans whose labels bear the photographs of someone’s mother. There are several main varieties:
Penang paste reflects the culinary style of the Penang area of the Malaysian Peninsula.
Musaman, that is Moslem style, reflects the cuisine of Southern Thailand, which has many Muslim people.
The red variety is commonly thought to be the most versatile and also the hottest. Actually, it depends on the amount of Chili Peppers used by the individual cook. Thus, a Red Curry Paste can be made to taste quite mild, while a green one might be intensely hot.
The main ingredients in these pasts are Garlic, Lemongrass, Shallots, Chili Peppers and other spices.
The Penang Curry Paste emphasizes flavors of Fennel and Mace and goes well with Beef, as in Penang Beef, and also also good with Chicken, Pork, and Fish. Here is a formula for making a Penang Curry Paste:
Penang Curry Paste
5 – 7 large dried Red Chili Peppers
½ teaspoon Fennel Seeds
1½ teaspoon Coriander Seeds
½ teaspoon Mace
2 teaspoons Black Pepper corns
1 stalk fresh Lemongrass
1 teaspoon chopped Lime Zest
1 teaspoon powdered Galangal
3 medium Shallows
4 cloves of Garlic
First, chop the Chilies coarsely and soak in cold Water to soften – for about a quarter hour.
While the Chilies are soaking, chop the Lemongrass finely, and also chop the Shallots and Garlic.
After the Chili Peppers are softened, remove the seeds and discard them.
Place the Chilies in a food process or blender.
Head a large, heavy dry iron skillet over very low flame and toast the Fennel Seeds,Coriander, Mace and Black Pepper corns for 5 minutes, shaking hte pan occasionally to keep the spices from burning. Remove the s;ices and crush them finely ina mortar and pestle or spice grinder and add to the Chilies.
Add in the Lime Zest, Shallots and Garlic and process for a few minutes at medium speed, adding a little cold Water, a few drops at a time, while processing until a thick, dark reddish-brown paste results. This is the Penang Curry Paste.
This recipe makes about half a cup of Curry Paste. It will keep for up to several months inthe refrigerator.