Tuesday, August 4, 2020

"Christmas" Thai Curry Paste

Christmas Thai Curry Paste is a flavour (not just heat) packed blend of herbs, fresh chiles, toasted spices and a hint of fish sauce for umami. Perfect for any and all curries you care to whip up!


We make curry at least once a month here, a habit which stemmed from my mom's travels to Thailand when she was working. That said, a lot of the time the actual curry making is done by her, since coconut and I don't mix - but I am always glad to provide the recipes, and making this curry paste is our secret weapon!

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with storebought curry paste - we use it a lot too - when the Summer garden is in full swing it would be a crime not to use what I'm growing! Last year (when I finally refined this recipe) we had a glut of Thai chilies along with Thai basil and lemon balm. My friend happened to be growing cilantro (which similarly took off) and gave me a bunch to cook with. A quick search and about 15 minutes later, and I had a batch of curry paste primed for the next recipe! At the end of the season I made a quadruple batch (yes, a quadruple batch) and froze it, which was great for the cold of winter!

This year, we used the same paste to make a rendition of this curry (using half coconut milk half vegetable broth and doubling the recipe, adding cauliflower and chickpeas) and while spicy it was the perfect mix of flavour and heat. I would wager this would work well with chicken, shrimp or pork as well!

For those of you who are vegan - the fish sauce can be replaced with a tablespoon of red miso which gives it a fermented, salty flavour. Likewise, I have provided an alternative for the lemon balm (which grows rampant here but I know it isn't easy to find in stores) but the Thai basil is best omitted rather than substituted. Regular basil has a totally different flavour to it! Toasting the spices "wakes them up" and really boosts the flavour they lend as well.

If you love Thai curry in any respect, or are simply looking for a way to jazz up your cooking, this paste is a dead-simple, fresh way to do it. Give it a try and let me know how it goes, and what you used it in, below!

Christmas Thai Curry Paste
Adapted from Recipe Tin Eats
Makes enough for one (8 serving) curry, about 1/2 cup
20 fresh red Thai chilies (bird chilies), cut into thirds
5 green onions (I used a bulb of my Egyptian onion), chopped roughly
2 tbsp grated ginger 
8 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fish sauce
Zest and juice of 1 lime 
1/2 cup (packed) cilantro, leaves, stems and roots if available
1/4 cup lemon balm leaves (optional, you can use parsley with a bit of lemon zest)
2 tbsp packed Thai basil leaves (optional)
1/4 cup water
  1. In a small dry frying pan, toast the coriander, cumin, pepper and turmeric until fragrant. Remove and set aside to cool.
  2. In a food processor (this is my workhorse), combine the chiles, onions, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, lime juice and zest, and the herbs. Pulse to finely chop.
  3. Add the toasted spices and pulse in.
  4. With the machine running, stream in the water until the mixture is a "paste" consistency. You may not need all the water.
  5. Store in the fridge up to 1 week or freeze for longer storage.