Authentic Basic Thai Red Curry Paste, Kaeng Kua – Thai Curry Episode IV

Basic Thai Red Curry Paste, Kaeng Kua by The High Heel Gourmet 7

I’ve already taught you Green Curry, so now we’re going to talk about the most used curry in Thai cooking, Red Curry. First, I have to straighten you out about the generic use of the Red Curry term!

You might be wondering what needs to be straightened out?…

EVERYTHING! This is not only an attitude adjustment, dear. This is a whole new set of knowledge.

OK let’s re-learn the Thai Red Curry paste.

First, you need to identify the red curry pastes by their names. Just as in Italian cooking not every tomato-based sauce would be called Marinara–there is Arrabbiata, Puttanessca, Amatriciana and so on—with Thai cooking we have many different curry pastes that appear to be red in color and yet are the not the same either. This is the list of the red-colored curry pastes.

The first set is the curry pastes that are normally cooked in coconut milk.

1) Kaeng Kua

2) Kaeng Phed

3) Kaeng Panang

4) Kaeng ChooChee

5) Kaeng Massaman

6) Kaeng Garee

The second set is the curry pastes that would be cooked in broth or stir-fried.

7) Kaeng Som (Sour Curry)

8) Kaeng Pa (Jungle Curry)

9) Pad Cha

10) Phad Phrik King

I tried to list them all, but I’m sure I have missed something. Anyhow, these are the popular curry pastes in Thailand and they are all red because they use either dried red chilies or fresh red chilies. So this list is at least a good start for you to learn the different varieties.

All of them contain some similar ingredients and some different ingredients. After all, they are all different curries. Don’t worry, if you keep following my blog, you will know ALL about them, one by one.

I’m going to start with the first set, the curry pastes that would be cooked in coconut milk, because Westerners already know and like them. The most basic of all is Kaeng Kua. Why do I call it the most basic? Because the ingredients used in Kaeng Kua are present in all the rest of the curries on the first list. Most of the times, I make a big batch of it and later on I add more ingredients to turn Kaeng Kua curry paste into Panaeng, Choo Chee, Kaeng Pa or Kaeng Phed. If you found a jar of a red curry paste in my fridge, most likely it would be the Kaeng Kua curry paste.

Basic Thai Red Curry Paste, Kaeng Kua by The High Heel Gourmet 9

What’s Kaeng Kua?

In summary, Kaeng Kua is the type of curry that incorporates less meat and more vegetables. And there are variations in this category: some of them taste slightly sweet and sour, and others don’t carry the sourness.

This is the curry that has little influence from Indian or Moslem cuisine, so there are no dried spices used in the paste. The ingredients are staples of most Thai curries. Please see the Thai Curry Episode II for the details of each ingredient. Also do not miss Episode I about what is not supposed to be in Thai curry, please.

Also, all the curry paste ingredients, regardless of who is describing them, are “live” ingredients. Meaning, the measure is not precise, and you can add or subtract (but not substitute) based on your preference, the intensity of the ingredients’ pungent flavors and the type of meats and vegetables that you would cook the curry with.

Most Thais who cook their own curry paste know how to make the curry paste using their nose. I do too. As soon as I open the lid of the Vitamix, I can tell if my curry paste is balanced or what else I need to add to balance the flavor. You will have to make it  at least a dozen of times before you can get the hang of it.

My aunts and grandmother’s recipes for curry pastes NEVER listed the amount of each ingredient. They assumed that everyone understand the balance, naturally, and in every Thai household before the restaurant era took over the kitchen, the cook made all of these curry pastes by heart.

My nanny, who also served as a cook at my house in Bangkok, said she could make curry paste with her eyes closed. Indeed, she could because you use your nose more than your eyes when you make curry paste. Even nowadays, the curry paste recipes in Thai cooking magazines and cookbooks still list the ingredients like this: lemongrass -2 stalks, galangal – 2 slices, garlic – 5 cloves, turmeric – 2 knuckles long…SERIOUSLY!

When I started making my own curry paste and was trying to perfect it, I finally understood. Each herb comes with a slightly different intensity EVERY TIME!  And the seasons change the amount of water in each ingredient. I can’t even use the Western measuring system to make multiple batches of an “exact” curry paste.

So I have been forced by nature to give up and accept the fact that my curry pastes are going to be slightly different every time I make them. Now I relax and focus more on the balance of the aroma. My recipe here gives you the estimated amounts of the ingredients I used and hopefully you can use them as a guideline until you develop your own balance.

As I told you before, I’m going to make a big batch of this Kaeng Kua curry paste. Not only so I can store it in the fridge for a while and turn it into many different curry pastes later on, I need it to be enough to cover the blades in my Vitamix.

This recipe I’m giving you is enough for a pot of curry for the whole village or at least for two dozen of people who eat only curry for their meals. I put my finished paste in a jar about 16 – 20 oz. So, I suggest dividing all the ingredients by four for your own reasonable portion.

Basic Thai Red Curry Paste, Kaeng Kua by The High Heel Gourmet 8

Ingredients (for 16-20 oz. of curry paste)

Dried red chilies (I used California Chilies)  10-14 pods

Galangal sliced thinly then chopped  1/4 cup

Lemongrass sliced thinly then chopped  1/2 – 3/4 cup

Garlic sliced or chopped  1/3 – 1/2 cup

Shallot sliced thinly or chopped  1/2 – 3/4 cup

Kaffir lime zest grated  1-2 teaspoon

Coriander (Cilantro) root chopped  1 tablespoon

Shrimp paste wrapped in foil or banana leaf and roasted  1 tablespoon

Salt  1 tablespoon

Method

1) Whenever you use dried chilies, follow this preparation method:

1.1) Cut off the stems

1.2) Cut along the length of the chili pod and remove all the seeds and membranes. These are the parts that contain the most heat in the chilies. Unless you want them hot, then keep the membranes or use a different kind of chilies. In that case I would recommend Thai chili.

1.3) Wash them throughly and cut them to about 1/2 – 1 inch in length.

1.4) Soak them in cold water for at least 10 minutes.

Basic Thai Red Curry Paste, Kaeng Kua by The High Heel Gourmet 6

2) Please refer back to the Green Curry recipe for the method. I again just simply puree them in the Vitamix until they are smooth. Because this recipe uses dried chilies, I add about 1/4 cup of drinking water into the mixing bowl to keep it moving.

What is the acceptable smoothness?

This is the old method taught by my grandmother. She told me to smear the curry paste on my palm and if EVERYTHING can go in the busy network of lines in my palm, then I’d reached the level of smoothness she was looking for. Obviously I was pounding vigorously with the pestle in the mortar; I wish I knew of Vitamix back then!

Sounds complicated and risky, right? Okay, the modern method is to puree until you don’t see any chunky pieces of ingredients left. How’s that? Smooth puree, that’s what we’re looking for.

3) Once you are done you can keep it in the refrigerator for a few days. If you cook it lightly with coconut oil just to sterilize the fresh ingredients, you can keep it up to two weeks.

What will happen after two weeks?

You can still use it, but the quality would be only as good as the pre-made in the jars or cans. It loses the potency of fresh-made curry paste, that’s all.

If you follow my canning instructions here you can keep it for a long time.

Basic Thai Red Curry Paste, Kaeng Kua by The High Heel Gourmet 10

3.1) Prepare the jars by putting them in the oven. Yes, baked in the oven instead of boiling them in hot water. I bake them in the oven at 225º for 20 minutes. Don’t forget the lids. Put them in at the last five minutes of baking the jars. (If you want to know the detail, you can visit my basic jam making post here)

3.2) Heat coconut oil in the wok, add the curry paste and cook over medium heat until you can see the steam come out of the contents in the wok. Cook for another minute just to make sure that every part of the curry has been cooked.

Alternatively, you could actually steam the paste rather than fry it, but I already added the water to help it move in the machine, so drying it out a bit isn’t going to hurt it.

3.2) Fill the jars with curry paste and seal them.

The last report said it kept for three and a half months, but I never keep it that long. So I can’t tell you how long you can keep it, but tell me how long you keep yours (highheelgourmet@gmail.com<mailto:highheelgourmet@gmail.com>) and the results of your cooking, too.

WARNING: This is quite important. I’ve heard people who make curry paste say that they freeze their curry paste! They seem to be so happy about their cleverness and also happy that they can always have it on hand…I’m NOT! I don’t know if those people can’t detect the degradation of the quality or they expect it, or they just simply don’t give a damn!

I NEVER FREEZE MY FRESH MADE CURRY PASTE. The taste of frozen garlic and shallots would be unbearable to me. They become bitter after I thaw them! Also the curry paste would leak juice out, hence the pungent flavors would be gone with the juice and the end result would be worse that the canned version. Don’t forget that we’re going through the trouble to make our own curry paste because we want to get the fresh taste that is far superior to the pre-made, right? Do not lose that intention!

Next I will give you recipes of dishes that use Kaeng Kua curry paste. I already posted the first one, which is the peanut sauce to dip the satay in, here in the Rib Satay recipe.

Also if you want to know how to use Kaeng Kua curry paste to make Panang curry paste, Kaeng Pa curry paste, Choo Chee curry paste and Kaeng Ped curry paste (This is the “generic” red curry paste that you will find in jars, cans and some people will use it for everything), just click on the link. It will take you to an episode about “Advance Thai Curry Paste“.

Basic Thai Red Curry Paste, Kaeng Kua by The High Heel Gourmet 1

75 thoughts on “Authentic Basic Thai Red Curry Paste, Kaeng Kua – Thai Curry Episode IV

  1. Is there any curry paste that is non spicy to make it kid friendly? Or, would it be weird if I made Penang curry without the chilies?

    • Unfortunately not. You can only take the seeds and membrane out to reduce the amount of heat but you need the chili or the curry won’t be curry. Panang won’t be panang. If you can’t eat chili, there are recipes that don’t include chili but still using coconut milk such as Tom Kha.

  2. Hi! I make red, panang and khao soi curry pastes using your recipes and information and it comes out fab! Thank you so much for that.

    I am a vegetarian and mostly only use the curry paste to make thai curries with rice. I have also made the peanut dipping sauce with vegetarian spring rolls up on your blog and loved it. I was wondering if you have any more vegetarian friendly ideas/recipes to use thai curry pastes (red, panang, green and the khao soi pastes are my fav!)?

    Thanks! x

    • Substitute the shrimp paste with the vegemite already, right?

      Panang with tofu, eggplants, zucchini, green banana, pumpkin (pick just one vegetable at a time, please).

      For vegan, you can try red or green curry with the Seitan or mock meat and one vegetable too.

      Stew the lentil or any beans with the curry paste and coconut milk is nice too. It’s kinda yuck to me without coconut milk but my vegan friend thought it was fabulous 😖.

      I like tofu and tomato in red Kaeng Kua, red Kaeng Ped with fried tofu and ripe mango, green curry with roasted tofu and eggplants and kubocha squash or delicata squash panang.

      You can stew eggplants in green curry with coconut milk and it was delicious as a dip too.

  3. I love your blog and the recipe! I’ve tried it and mine came out even better than from my favorite Thai restaurant. I’ve also used the jar method, very smart and clean with the oven, I always hated the mess from sterilizing them in water.
    It kept for quite a while in the fridge, but I never manage to use it up before it spoils. So I’m trying to scale it down. Thanks for putting all the pics of the ingredients online, that’s a good guideline!
    Sorry to say, but the cups system is driving a European mind just crazy – can’t cook without google 😉

  4. Thank ypu for ypur amazing recipes! My curry paste came out pink instead of a beatiful red like yours, where did I go wrong?

  5. Hi! Thanks for posting all these detailed curry paste recipes. I’ve recently returned from nearly 5 years living in Thailand–but in an extremely Burmese town, where I lived in a small room without a kitchen the entire time so I never practiced cooking while there. Now I am trying to recreate the dishes I’m missing, and have not yet figured out if the taste is different because I can’t get the same type of chilis, or if the proportions are off because I’m trying to randomly create a spicier chili combo than you use but not matching the VOLUME of chili you have, or…if maybe curry just tastes different where your family is from!

    So, about that volume…I noticed that for your jungle curry recipe you wrote that it’s about 1/2 cup chili (for a smaller portion of paste). For a bigger batch the size of this Kaeng Kua, do you know how many cups of chili you’re using? I felt my result tasted too strongly of shrimp paste (and this is coming from someone who looooves shrimp paste). Meanwhile, my problem with replicating spur chilis led to an experimentation of 15 Chinese chilis, 5 Costena chilis, 4 Puya chilis. Originally it was only Chinese chilis, which was both too spicy yet overwhelmed by the other flavors at the same time. Also not pretty. Adding the other chilis gave a better color, but reduced spice too much. And even with the added volume of chili, still tastes too strongly of shrimp paste!

    As a fellow Asian, I’m well aware of the “little of this, little of that” recipes, but if you can hazard a guess, I’d appreciate it!

    • If your shrimp paste smell too strong, instead of trying to add more chili, I would reduce the shrimp paste.

      The mix or the amount of the chili is depend on your preference. You can create your own mix the way I create my own too. I use the California chili for color. You can also add the seeds and membrane if you want a spicier version.

      Try grill the shrimp paste longer or simply reduce the paste first and please, let me know the result.

  6. Had a couple of subjectively good results with using nutritional yeast instead of marmite for the vegetarian version (has umami too, does bring in less of an off taste/off color, and also has some hygroscopic/thickening properties that come in handy)… Also, I found that with SOME vegetable/protein combinations throwing in some dried wakame (with the curry ingredients not in the paste!) pushes the flavor in an appreciable direction (resulting texture of the wakame if left in might or not be appreciated, also dependent on how long you let it stew… stewed wakame also features in a lot of recipes for vegetarian faux fish sauces so tried just adding it directly…) …

      • I was just wondering because in a response to an earlier comment you said a mix of dried and fresh could be used. It’s cheaper and easier for me to find fresh Thai chilies than dried California chilies where I live. Do you happen to know if those little dried red chilies found in Indian stores would be a good alternative?

      • The Thai used fresh red chili in pad-cha (I haven’t written about it yet) and sometime in southern style Kaeng-Leung or some Kaeng-som only or you might found it sliced in the curry but not using it to make red curry paste. We used them in “nam-phrik” or relish and in a lot other recipe. If you want authentic red-curry paste, you can’t use the fresh red chili but if you want to explore on your own, you can try it. Just do not serve to any Thai people.

        Yes, dried red chili at the Indian store should be good enough but they might be really hot. You can find any smooth skin dried red chili and use them. I like California chili because they are not hot at all and they give beautiful red color.

        What kind of dried red chili do you have available? If you can find the name, list the name and I can help you pick. If not pictures are fine.

      • I’ll get back to you with the names of the chilies we have here once I get a chance to go to the store. But yes, we have Latino stores, I’ll have to check them out. Thank you! Great site! I can’t wait to try some recipes 🙂

  7. Hi, I just came across your blog and I find it very interesting. I have always been taught to freeze extra curry paste. You mentioned we have the option of frying the paste or steaming it so that it can keep for a while. Which method is better to preserve the original taste of the spice paste and how long do we need to fry or steam the paste?

    • Freezing is just changed the taste of the curry paste for me but a lot of my friends kept the curry paste I made for them or the curry paste they bought from Thailand in the freezer too. They sacrifice the taste for the readiness.

      I mentioned steam and stir fry as a method to sterilize and eliminate water. To keep the curry paste longer than a month outside the fridge, you need to kill the bacteria. Steam at least 8-15 minutes, steam the jar at the sane time for the same purpose and put the curry paste in the jar, then steam the already packed and sealed jars again for another 10 minutes. This way you can have curry past store outside the fridge up to 6 months.

      Fry is stir fry to eliminate the water and at the same time kill the bacteria. You can stir-fry at medium heat until the curry paste look dry. I don’t know how long but go for the texture more than time. After stir fry, you can store the curry paste in an already sterilized (look in to my post “Basic Jam for beginner” for the jars sterilize method). This way you can store the curry paste up to a year.

      If you want to store curry paste longer, you need to add salt to the ingredient too. I would just double the amount of salt in my recipes. Salt helps preserve the curry paste.

      Both method you would have to sacrifice the flavors and taste but you can compensate by using more curry paste to cook.

    • You are not going to hit anyone for six with beef or pork in Thai curry 🙂

      Any vegetables you like would work, as long as they don’t get soggy or disappear after cooking. The popular one for the Thai would be bamboo shoot, Thai eggplants (why not), kubocha squash, winter melon but those are readily available in Thailand. I like kale, butternut squash, eggplants, carrots, and brussels sprouts too, just to give you an idea. I also like to slow cook beef until it tender so crockpot cooking is perfect for the beef and I add the vegetables in later once the beef is nearly done (so both would be ready at the same time).

  8. I was wondering if there was something you could use instead of shrimp paste. My husband is allergic to shellfish. Thanks!!

  9. Hi, lots of thanks again for this great source of cooking teaching and inspiration

    I have learned to make the curry paste following your blog articles. It tastes great and i think i am finally getting the texture right… but i also think I am somehow not getting the right balance of ingredients
    My curries are a little bit too smoky if that makes any sense at all 🙂
    I suspect that could be too much galangal or shrimp paste, but i am not sure… I am tempted to cook several curries leaving one ingredient out at the time to see if i can identify the ingredient. Yes, really… 🙂

    Something strange I noticed…I cooked a veggie red curry one night. We ate half of it and left the other half for the following night. Well, it was nicer on the second night and the sauce was much more balanced too. Is that possible? Could it be the ingredients can change the flavour over time? Or is it the coconut milk?

    Not sure if my post made any chance at all but Thanks!!!!!!!

    • It is so difficult to get the balance right but you are on the right track.

      First of all, how do you mush the curry paste?

      Believe it or not, if I use mortar and mush it traditional way the curry came out just like the way I use to in Thailand but if I use the food processor (picture showed in the green curry paste post) I have to wait one night for the curry paste to blend right but if I use Vitamix, I don’t have to wait. It almost like the paste I made using mortar. This is also apply to the relish or “Nam Phrik” the traditional Thai dip.

      My assumption is, the food processor just “cut” the ingredients without “bruise” them. So the flavor don’t blend until you let it sit over a period of time. I think Vitamix doing something different or make a fine paste would allow the flavor to blend the same way as mush them with mortar and pestle.

      It’s common that the curry is going to be good the next day 😉 The flavor would blended more. I always like the left over curry. The ingredients changed the flavor because of the other ingredients.

      I can’t tell if you have the right balance or not without sniffing the curry paste. I don’t think it is the shrimp paste unless you grill it until it burn. Shrimp paste usually give a very distinct flavor. Too much lemongrass will smell citrusy, too much garlic is just stink, too much shallots is not going to be smoky too. Too much galangal is harder to detect and it could be earthy or smoky same as cilantro roots.

      You seem to have a very good sense of smell. I think you will figure this out soon. My aunt usually told me to add more chilies, garlic and shallot if I told her my curry paste doesn’t smell like hers. You can also try that.

      Also keep the curry paste over night before you use if you use food processor or blender making your curry. It helps married the flavor of all ingredients.

      • Hi!!!!
        Thanks for your reply. You are so great replying to everybody’s comments!
        I messed up with the notification blog settings and I have just realised you had replied to my post. Thanks!

        You are right, I used the food processor to blend the paste ingredients and cooked the curry right after. I have some paste left from that batch, which I’m gonna cook tonight to see if resting helps this time.

        I guess that experiment with different amounts of galangal would be next in my list.
        I didn’t use cilantro roots because I have not found any to buy where I live (Dublin) .i used the stems… Also, Could the cilantro seeds have anything to do with a smoky flavour?

        Thanks

      • It might. Did it smell smoky after you roasted them? You might roasted the spice a little too long.

        If you can’t find cilantro root sometime I skip because the cilantro stem can give some earthy greenie smell that I don’t like. I found the cilantro root at the frozen section in Asian grocery store especially Thai groceries store.

        What do you think of this one? http://www.yelp.com/biz/spiceland-cash-and-carry-dublin#query:asian%20grocery%20stores

      • You might be right. I might have roasted the seeds for too long. I have to revisit that step 🙂

        Thanks for the Spice Land link. I was them before but it is more Indian food oriented, but i never asked them about the cilantro root

        Thanks!!!

        PS: this is the only place i could see to reply. I hope I didnt mess up the thread order 🙂

      • Don’t worry Mixy…as long as you can find my reply and I can find yours, all are good.

        Roasted with low heat like medium low or low until you can smell the spice a bit, like warm them up more than cooking them. Roasted so the oil in the spices were “waking up” that’s it. Because after making the paste then you will be cooking them in coconut cream.

        🙂

      • Hi Miranti ,

        I have not had a chance to revisit the curry paste yet and see if I can get it less smoky… but this Saturday I am organizing my first Thai dinner party at home. So, after all the pub talk about my new thai cooking skills I have no way of escaping now 🙂
        Tom Yum Goong + Red chicken curry in the menu

        I will be careful not roasting the seeds too long
        Also, I did not have white peppercorns and I used black ones in my previous curries. Does that matter too much?

        The other part I still don’t fully master is the separating the oil from the coconut cream part. I get it to boil but i don’t see the yellowy oil
        I use a can of 400ml aroy-d coconut milk, but i might not be patient enough

        Also, I have never cooked a curry for 4 people, but i always get the feeling that it was not enough sauce for 4 people with 1 can…

        Thanks

  10. Hi Miranti,

    I’ve just discovered your blog a couple of days ago and loving every minute of the probably far too many hours I’ve spent reading and then reading again! Thank you for putting in so much effort!

    I’ve obviously missed something though!

    Green curry paste uses fresh chillies but red curry paste uses dried. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen fresh red chillies used anywhere in your recipes except for the dipping sauce.

    Is there some sort of Thai rule that says red chillies can’t be used fresh? 🙂

    When is it OK to use fresh red chillies?

    I’m sure it’s an obvious question and I’m sort of sorry to have asked it but I strongly believe in “don’t die wondering”.

    All the best and thanks again.

    Ivan.

    • Red curry paste uses red Thai chilies, green uses green Thai chilies. Doesn’t matter if you use dried or fresh. I use fresh all the time. Green chilies give a long lasting heat while red give an immediate hot but not long lasting heat to the tongue. This is all information I obtained while taking a cooking class in Thailand. So you can trust my words.

      • Hi Dylan,

        Thanks for your response.

        I’m new to Thai cooking but I’ve cooked a couple of nice Indian curries that turned out well so I’m not new to cooking with “hot stuff”. In fact, it’s a nice challenge to make a seriously hot curry using only ingredients that were native to Asia before the introduction of genus Capsicum. Do try it one day!

        I’ve never taken a Thai cooking course so I can’t speak as to what you were told; however, my experience is that you want to read what Miranti says so well: “the word ‘curry’ means ‘with rice'”. OK, I’ve paraphrased it but the meaning is clear.

        Most Western people have an expectation that ‘green curry’ is milder than red and so the cultivar chosen for green curry tends to be fairly mild. I can assure you from personal experience that a green Bhut Jolokia hurts like hell!

        OK, so what makes a long lasting heat? You want something fairly hot, according to your tastes, make the sauce and then, referring back to Miranti, mix it with lots of rice. The rice absorbs the oil and so the capsaicin is distributed through your taste and digestive system. Again, with rice, and you will feel it all the way in and all the way out. There should be a sad or sympathic smile here.

        Because most green curries are made fairly mild you can take a big spoonful, add some rice and so get the long lasting effect. People who eat red curries tend to expect ‘red hot’ and act accordingly: take a spoonful, forget the rice, shove in mouth.

        My opinion, as confirmed by Miranti in her various blog entries, is that green or red chillies are according to desired colour of the curry sauce.

        Is the heat long lasting? It depends upon what you mix with it. Capsaicinoids are oil soluble so if you mix with water it’ll stay on your tongue. Mix it with coconut oil, ghee or any other fat and it will last forever.

        Regarding dried or fresh? Miranti said it best: “Mush with extreme caution” (or something like that :). It seems to me that, in the interests of safety, dried should be used whenever possible. I’ve never tried to mush (love that Miranti word) fresh chillies but I’m happy to go with the best advice I can get.

        I’m still recovering (and still drinking!) from New years eve so please forgive me if I don’t totally make sense.

        Kind regards and all the best for 2014.

        Ivan.

    • Oops…Sorry, I’ve missed your comment.

      It is ok to mix fresh red chillies in but we don’t normally do that with Kaeng Kua, Panaeng, Kaeng Ped, Choo-Chee. Thai people use fresh red chilies in Pad Cha, spicy seafood stirfry dish, in Kaeng Som (my newest post), most stirfry and all salads. We don’t use them as often in curry paste, especially in curry paste that will be cook with coconut milk. When fresh red chille showed up in curry paste, they normally appeared to be coursed paste unlike the curry paste with dried red chille that are fine paste.

      Can you guess why?

      Fresh red chilli is so juicy. When your tool used to mush them is only mortar and pestle. You might not want to mush them until fine with the price of your left eye. This is one of the reasons why fresh chilli isn’t so popular in the curry paste. Especially when the fragrant from it wasn’t that far different from the dried one. Green curry use fresh green chilli for flavors too but the fresh green earthy smell of green chilli can not be replicated by any dry chilli.

      In coconut milk base curry, I’ve seen sliced fresh chilli in the curry, especially the green curry. A famous restaurant in Bangkok was known for “Beef green curry with bird eye chilli”. That so right up the “chilli lover” ally.

      Every household in Thailand has their own family recipe. I’m sure some would use fresh red chilli. Why don’t you make it “Ivan’s style red curry paste”? Let me know how does it come out.

      • Thanks for the reply Miranti.

        I knew the answer would be simple 🙂

        I’d love to stop and chat but I’ve got to go read your new entry 🙂

  11. Hi, Miranti. Love the post and the reply to the above comment about the “can of flour.” Old recipes can be wonderfully funny and almost impossible to decipher – how much is 3 handfuls of flour or ball of butter. Now, a question for you – why soak the chiles in cold water as opposed to luke warm water? Being from Texas I cook pretty regularly with chiles and have always found luke warm water preferable to cold water and with thick skinned chiles, like ancho chiles, hot water works better.
    Thanks. 🙂

    • About the chilies first…why’s warm water? The skin would be soft faster? I used mostly California chilies (nooooo don’t call me a whimp…I already am…lol) and cold water works fine. It’s just a habit. Thai people used cold water because the Thai chilies are small and thin skin plus, we never wear gloves. So if we used warm water the water would dissolved the hotness of the chilies more than cold water. Then you have to deal with the water somehow. I think (just me no confirmation) that first they want to conserve all the heat of the chilies and also make sure that the water isn’t so poisonous to touch. My aunt sometime wash the chilies and soak then used the soaking water to add in the curry!…Does this make sense?

      Back to the recipe…I’ve seen a lot in my family recipe…handful if something, few knuckles long of some roots, dash of so and so…grrrrrrr…I’m so not precise in my cooking but those kind of recipes drove me off the cliff sometime! Ball of butter ughhhhh…tennis, baseball, socker, or ping pong…mannnn. I think it’s in every culture!

      • Interestingly, a ball of butter was 1 lb. It was called a ball because when they churned the cream to make the butter, they pressed the excess water out in their hands molding the butter into a ball. Pretty funny. 😀

  12. I’m with cluttercafe. I’ll go a step further and say that your blog is an onlne masterclass. You’re so thorough about informing is about the dos and don’ts. Promise that I won’t be clever about freezing my curry paste.(LOL) I was interstate for the weekend and went to a Thai restaurant for dinner both nights. The food there is wonderful.

    • lol…sorry for being so blunt! When I saw that people freeze the curry paste, it just made my knees weak. I just felt like it’s a lost effort…a lot of effort too….

      BTW let me correct your blog name here. It is “Cluttercafe.com”. It was spelled with an extra i. Once I get on my computer I will fix it for you.

      • Thank you.
        And don’t be sorry about being blunt, you’re just educating us. There are no short cuts to preparing good food. Or at least there should not be.

  13. I love the way you write Miranti. 🙂 I was wondering, when you cooked the curry paste in coconut oil, anyone in the household started coughing? I think the last time I was cooking with any kind of paste that has chilies in it, my husband started to have a coughing fit, and even my cats complained! 🙂

    • I’ve been told that’s the sign of a good curry paste!…lol…my grandma said if I don’t sneeze when I cook the paste, the curry isn’t good enough. Anyhow, once I switch and use the California chilies the sneeze is much less though.

  14. I feel like I am in school. Your posts are always so educational. I love it! I love Thai cooking. My uncle lives in Thailand and I like to “impress” him when he comes home to visit. I have a very hard time finding ingredients though. We do not have very good Asian markets here at all. Thank you so much for your awesome posts.

    • Are you in the US? I like to order some ingredients from online too. Believe it or not, they are fresher than in the store. Temple of Thai has a good customer service, you can try them or Amazon. Frieda’s customer service also willing to put together a package for you and their stuffs are the best so far. Lemongrass are so fresh and CLEAN! I like that.the most difficult ingredients to find are, cilantro roots and kaffir lime and they’re costly to order from online since they come frozen and require special shipment. You can drop them or use the substitute I suggested (in the green curry paste post).

  15. Wow. This was an amaaaaazing post. I loved it. I totally can’t cook anything, but as you know, I adore Thai food. And still, I had no idea of the diversity of red curry. (Maybe because I usually have geng kiaow waan gai most of the time?). So I learned a lot.

    However, what I loved about this post was not the recipe…but the understanding you gave about how Thai’s traditionally cook — with their noses, and using their knuckles to measure 🙂 It also never occurred to me that ingredients might change EVERY TIME you make a batch of curry. So it would be really impossible to measure things exactly and expect the same results. Basically, everything in here is interesting, informative and well written.

    Finally, I think it was great when you reminded people to keep that intention of making something fresh…so don’t freeze it! And you’re right — freezing ruins just about everything. We freeze for convenience (and safety), not for taste. Love live fresh Thai cooking! 🙂

  16. When my grandma finally got so elderly she had to quit farming and move to an apartment in town, she grew kaffir limes on her porch. I always wondered what they were for. She pickled them for some reason (she was old… she pickled a lot of things). I suddenly feel a compulsion to try to grow this tree. Then I can connect my grandma’s memory to all I’m learning from you about Thai cooking!

    • I think the original purpose is to kill germs because the shrimps (very tiny one almost plankton like) used to make shrimp paste were raw. However roasting bring out a slightly different flavor. We called them “hom” meaning “fragrant” (in a good way) but I’m afraid to say that because my husband said both stink at the same level (in his mind we ruined it from the get-go…oh well…)

      The answer to your 2nd question…no…it’s not milder but its smell much more familiar because it’s smell like cooked food.

  17. My aunts and grandmother’s recipes for curry pastes NEVER listed the amount of each ingredient. They assumed that everyone understand the balance, naturally, and in every Thai household before the restaurant era took over the kitchen, the cook made all of these curry pastes by heart.
    Thank you for these comments as I have an awfully hard job explaining this concept to non-Thais. A bit of this and a bit of that a taste here and there and hey presto. Another great post.

    • Trevor, let alone the non-Thai, I do have problem with them myself! It was ok when my aunt still alive but after my aunt passed away, I have to do all the trial and error myself and you know it ended up being more error before I made a success attempt.

      The savory dishes was not as ridiculous as dessert recipe. Some measurement said to add “one full can” of flour. I searched and searched, what kind of flour comes in a can, then my other aunt told me it was an old empty milk can that my grandma and my aunt used to scoop flour out of the sack! Great! I cooked some Thai dessert, the Fhoi Thong, drizzled duck egg yolk in syrup, and asked her “What’s the temperature of the syrup?”. The answer was “Oh I don’t measure the temperature, I just estimate from the bubble”…(screaming in my mind and so want to do it out loud)…

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