Tuesday, June 21, 2011

All Thai'ed Up - Thai Red Curry Paste

A significant amount of time has past since my last post.  Sorry bout that, but I have had to re-prioritize a few things due to my study schedule for one of my Microsoft Certifications.  Basically, I needed to be certified "yesterday",  so I am attempting to cram copious quantities of technical data into my already overtaxed brain.

As a result, dinners are devoid of forethought and resemble a haphazard conglomeration of whatever happens to be in the refrigerator. 

Then "it" happened while I was deeply involved in the creation of SharePoint's Feature Event Receivers.  I had this undeniable craving for Thai food. 

Normally, I steer far and wide of Pan-Asian cuisine, simply because it requires a completely different, and somewhat foreign, pantry full of ingredients.  This can involve a significant amount of financial outpouring to accomplish, but I wanted Thai food REALLY REALLY bad.  So, I decided that since I am "turning a page" in my career, it would be fitting for me to turn a page in my culinary pursuits as well.

Luckily, since my appetite was focused on Red Curry, the list of "special ingredients" is fairly short.  Well, it was short for me at least.  I always have Kaffir (Makrut) lime leaves in the freezer (I use them in my Saffron sauce) and I usually have Cilantro floating around the refrigerator, and Galangal (which is Ginger's more robust cousin) as well as Sesame oil, multiple types of Garlic, Coriander Seed, Cumin and Peppercorns.  In fact, in order to make a fairly passable Red Curry, the only ingredients I needed were Dried Thai Chilies, Lemon Grass and Shrimp paste (though I have been told that you can use Fish sauce or Soy mixed with brown sugar)

So grab a large mortar and pestle, cause I have tried this in a food processor and the results were less than stellar to say the least, and follow along, cause Thai Red Curry is a snap to make... with a little elbow grease.

Thai Red Curry

(Gaeng Phet)

1 bulb of Thai Garlic (or 7 peeled cloves of American garlic)
1 TB Minced Shallot (if your using the American garlic)
2 stalks of Lemon Grass (peeled and thinly sliced pale parts only)
2 inch chunk of Galangal (chipped - this stuff is tough)
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
2 TB Cilantro (Coriander) Stems (though Cilantro root is better)
4 tsp Coriander (Cilantro) seeds, toasted
1 TB Cumin Seeds, toasted
1 tsp White peppercorns
10 Kaffir (Makrut) Lime leaves (middle stem removed and thinly sliced) or zest of 1 Kaffir lime
For Red Curry - 20 Dried Red Thai Chilies (prik haeng is their name I believe)
2 tsp Shrimp Paste 
2 TB Toasted Sesame oil for cooking everything together.

OK, let's prep first.
Now as far as the dried chilies go....

If you like a "medium" heat, I suggest that you cut the stem end off of 10 of them, and remove the seeds.

Thus reducing the Scoville burn potential of your final paste mixture.

Soak your chilies for about 15 minutes in a little boiling water, then drain.

Meanwhile, peel the Garlic (Please note that the Thai garlic on the right is significantly smaller than the normal American garlic, it also has a slightly milder flavor and a much thinner peel)

Thinly slice the Lemon Grass (Lemon grass has very long fibers so the thinner you slice it the less fibrous your paste will be)

This is Galangal (on the left) and Ginger (on the right).  Galangal's flavor is similar to Ginger, but without the warm "heat" usually associated with Ginger.

Hack thin chips of Galangal (with a VERY sharp knife, this stuff is tough)

Toast the Coriander Seed and Cumin in a dry skillet over medium flame for about 4 minutes (until fragrant)

This is a Kaffir lime leaf.  (it kind of tastes like lime zest but it's more perfume-y)

Remove the stems from the lime leaves,

then slice the leaf lobes thinly.

On a happy note, now you have something to do with the cilantro stems after you have picked off all the leaves.

Chop the stems fairly finely.

Don't forget to grab your shrimp paste....

OK, lets get to smashing and mashing.... 
In a large Mortar and Pestle (preferably a granite one, not a molcajete like I used) smash everything together until it forms a sloppy paste.

Finally, stir in the shrimp paste.
Heat the Sesame oil in a skillet set over medium heat.

Add the curry paste and cook it until it has absorbed all the oil and becomes extremely fragrant. (about 5 minutes)

Remove from the heat and your ready to jar it and store it in the refrigerator for 2 months.

Me, I have some immediate plans for about 2 TB of this curry.  But you will have to check in over the next couple of days to see what it is.   :)



Patti T. said...

You have been sorely missed, so nice to see you back. I am not much for hot stuff, wonder how hot this would be for a wussy like me.

Shane T. Wingerd said...

Thanks Patti. It's good to be back, even if only sporadically over the next couple of months.

This is a fairly middle of the road paste when it comes to the heat and this recipe makes enough paste for several recipes. I will only be using 2 tablespoons of this in my next recipe.

If you want it milder, go ahead and remove the seeds from all of the chilies instead of only half of them. The other option is to use the milder green chilies.

Patti T. said...

Great suggestions. Thank you.

Spryte said...

Wow!!! That sounds amazing!!!