Thai Red Curry Paste

17 Oct

Thai Red Curry Paste

Anyone who’s a regular reader of this blog has probably figured out that I cook quite a lot of Asian food. I’ve long been a lover of the flavors found in Asian cuisine, and I somewhat recently began doing most of my shopping at an Asian supermarket (H&A Supermarket in Langley Park for anyone who’s in the area) and thus have easy access to many rarer ingredients for ridiculously cheap prices. When I discovered this store, I knew immediately what I had to make first: Thai curry. Thai food plays around a lot with mixing salty, sweet, and sour, and this curry paste is the first step in building a delicious curry with those flavors. For those of you who’ve cooked with fish sauce before, you know how intensely pungent it can be – but be prepared for the shrimp paste used here as it is even stronger. Trust me though, the flavor it adds is necessary.

This recipe makes enough curry paste for six or more curries, and I like to freeze it for later use – to make it easy on yourself, freeze it into 3 – 4 Tbsp chunks (enough for a 4-serving curry recipe) as you can then just grab a chunk out of the freezer the next time you’re ready to make curry. Come back on Wednesday for my recipe for Thai red curry using this paste!

Thai Red Curry Paste
Yield: 1 1/2 cups curry paste


  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup cilantro with stems
  • 9 – 10 bird’s eye chili peppers
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 8 – 10 shallots
  • 4 stalks lemongrass, white parts only
  • 2-inch piece galangal
  • 2 – 3 red bell peppers (optional)**
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp lemon granules*
  • 1/4 tsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp shrimp paste
  • water, as needed

*Lemon granules are a handy ingredient to have around, but if you don’t have them, you can substitute lemon zest, lime zest, or a little extra lime juice.
**This is just for color – without it, your curry paste (and resulting curry) won’t be a pretty red color but will still be quite tasty. I only used one red bell pepper in mine, and as you can see in the picture (and this is even clearer in the curry I made from it – post coming Wednesday), it isn’t nearly as red as it should be.


  1. Dry roast 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp coriander seeds and 2 tsp cumin seeds (for my dry roasting technique, see my post on chaat masala).
  2. Roughly chop 1/2 cup cilantro with stems, 9 – 10 bird’s eye chili peppers, 10 cloves garlic, 8 – 10 shallots, 4 stalks lemongrass, white parts only, 2-inch piece galangal, and 2 – 3 red bell peppers.
  3. In a mortar and pestle (my preference) or food processor, combine the dry roasted spices with everything you’ve roughly chopped and 1 tsp black peppercorns, 1/4 tsp lemon granules, 1/4 tsp lime juice, and 1 Tbsp shrimp paste. Grind everything together (or pulse in the food processor) until it forms a paste, adding water, as needed. Although you will end up with about 1 1/2 cups of curry paste, I had to initially grind the paste in two batches in my 2-cup mortar and pestle.

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