There are many kinds of curries and sauces that go with various dishes. Some are made fresh and some are preserved or pickled. Once made, most of them can be stored for quite a long time. Most Thai families make their own curries and sauces because they can be sure to get the flavor and spiciness the way they like it. My wife and I make our own, too.
The following is a list of some of the most common Thai curries and sauces and their uses. I have also included some recipes of other curries and sauces that I have tried and some that I have gotten from other places. First off, I’ll list the recipes for the main curry sauces. All are unique, and, I believe, the heart of Thai food and Thai people. ENJOY!
First, we start with the curries….
Green Curry Paste
Kaeng Kiao Wan – this is a paste for a green curry, and the ‘wan’ indicates that it should be slightly sweet as well as hot.
- 1 cup of prik ki nu (green birdseye chilis)
- 5 tablespoons lemon grass, finely sliced
- 10 tablespoons of shallots (purple onions), chopped
- 10 tablespoons of garlic, minced
- 5 tablespoons of galangal (kha) grated
- 5 tablespoons of coriander/cilantro root, chopped
- 2 tablespoons of coriander seed
- 1 tablespoon of cumin seed
- 1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons of shredded bai makroot (lime leaves)
- 4 tablespoons of kapi (fermented shrimp paste)
- 1 tablespoon of palm sugar
If you can’t get prik ki nu, you can use half a pound of habanero chilis or one pound of jalapena chilis. If you use the latter deseed them before use. Note that if you use a substitute you will get a different volume of paste, and that you will need to use different amounts in subsequent recipes.
- If you can’t get kha use ginger
- if you can’t get bai makroot use lime zest
- if you can’t get coriander root, use coriander leaves.
Method: coarsely chop the chilis.
Toast the dry seeds in a heavy iron skillet or wok, and grind them coarsely.
Add all the ingredients to a food processor and process to a smooth paste.
Place in tightly stoppered jars, and keep in the fridge for at least a week for the flavors to combine and develop before use.
The remaining three pastes are all made from dried red chilis: those sold in Thailand are frankly stale. Those sold in Europe and America are generally barely fit for human consumption. If you must use them then break them up and shake out the seeds, and soak them in tepid water for about 30 minutes before use.
Preferably dry fresh red chilis. All these recipes call for one cup of fresh red chilis, or half a pound of red habaneros, or one pound of red jalapenas, deseeded. Dry them in the sun, or if the climate doesn’t allow then dry them in a herb desicator, or smoke them in a smoker or over a barbeque.
The dried chilis (which need not be tinder dry – it is enough to remove most of the water) are then toasted under a broiler until *almost* burnt.
Treat this stage with extreme caution: if you overcook them a noxious gas closely related to Mustard gas is released. This is quite dangerous — at a minimum cook them in a very well ventillated room with a fan on and have a damp cloth ready to cover your mouth and nose in case of emergencies — and disconnect your smoke detector/fire alarm!
Thai Masaman Curry Paste
- 3 ea Dried chilies
- 3 tb Chopped shallots
- 2 tb Chopped garlic
- 1 t Chopped galangal
- 1 1/4 tb Chopped lemon grass
- 2 ea Cloves
- 1 tb Coriander seeds
- 1 t Cumin seeds
- 5 ea Peppercorns
- 1 t Shrimp paste
- 1 t Salt
Soak dried chilies in hot water for 15 minutes and deseed. In a wok over low heat put the shallots, garlic, galangal, lemon grass, cloves, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and dry fry for about 5 minutes, then grind into a powder (with mortar and pestle). Into a blender, put the rest of the ingredients except the shrimp paste and blend to mix well. Add the shallot-garlic-galangal-lemon grass-clove-coriander seed-cumin seed mixture and the shrimp paste and blend again to obtain 1/2 cup of a fine-textured paste. This can be stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator for about 3-4 months. This recipe from: The Elegant Taste of Thailand, by Sisamon Kongpan & Pinyo Srisawat.
Thai Red Curry Paste
By Pojanee Vatanapan
- 6 ea Dried red chilies
- 1 ea Fresh lemon grass
- 1 ts Dried lemon grass
- 5 ea Garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 md Shallots, peeled
- 1 ts Kaffir lime zest OR Lemon zest
- 1 ts Galanga, fresh or dried*
Cut the chili peppers into small pieces & soak them in a cup of cold water for 15 minutes. Separate the seeds & discard them.
Place the prepared chilies into a mortar or food processor. Add the remaining ingredients & blend well until a thick paste, like peanut butter is formed. If the ingredients are too dry, add a few drops of cold water. Put the curry paste in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
* If using dried galanga, soak in cold water for 15 minutes.
Makes 1/2 cup.
Thai Yellow Curry Paste
- 1 ts Cumin seeds
- 1 ts Coriander seeds
- 8 Dried chilies
- 1/2 ts Ground cinnamon
- 1 ts Salt
- 1/2 ts Ground cloves
- 1 tb Chopped lemon grass
- 2 tb Chopped shallots
- 1 tb Chopped garlic
- 1 tb Yellow curry powder
Place the cumin and coriander seeds in a pan without adding any oil. Dry fry them, stirring, over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes until they are slightly browned, and give off a roasted aroma. Coarsely chop the chilies and soak in water for 10 minutes. Drain. Pound all the ingredients together to produce a fine paste which goes well with beef and pork.
Hanglay Curry Paste
This is a Northern Thai/Burmese style of curry paste
- 3 tablespoons of very thinly sliced lemon grass
- 3 tablespoons of palm sugar
- 1 tablespoon thick soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons dried red Thai chile peppers, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons of shallots (small red or purple onions), thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
- 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
- 1 tablespoon coriander seed
- 1 tablespoon cumin seed
- pinch turmeric powder
- quarter cup fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate mixed with 3 tablespoons water
Toast the coriander and cumin seeds until fragrant, and grate. Combine all the curry paste ingredients and process to a fine paste.
Will keep 3-4 weeks in a well stoppered container, or may be frozen (Isuggest you freeze it in an ice cube tray to give useable portions for cookingwithout defrosting a large batch).
Penang Curry Paste
Penang is a dry curry, probably originating in Malaysia.
- 25-30 dried red chillis: shake them to discard the excess seeds.
- 2 tablespoons hom daeng (shallots/purple onions), chopped
- 2 tablespoons kratiem (garlic), chopped
- 2 tablespoons of takhrai (lemon grass), very finely sliced
- 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander/cilantro root
- 2 tablespoons of chopped freshly roasted peanuts.
- 1 tablespoon grated kha (galangal – use ginger if you can’t find galangal)
- 1 teaspoon of toasted coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon kapi (shrimp paste)
Mix together to a fine paste in a food processor.
It is better to make it milder than use less than 2 tablespoons of paste in a curry, but I do not recomend using less than 10 chilis.
You can keep this paste in a well stoppered bottle in a cool place for 3-4 weeks. Alternatively it can be frozen and kept for 3-4 months. I recomend freezing it in an ice-cube tray to form known quantities for subsequent use.