Phuket Red Curry Paste, My Aunt’s Recipe
I have five women in my life that I am thankful everyday for their talents, strength and kindness. I grew up with my grandmother, mom and my three aunts. It was quite an experience. When it came to culinary skills, my three aunts each had their own specialty. My aunt Pan specializes in curry paste making and her curry paste is well known among family and friends. It was the year I left Phuket to go to Seattle that I visited my Aunt Pan to pick up a kilo of her homemade curry paste to bring with me. I kept it in the freezer for a year. But when I visited her a year later, I felt a little guilty asking her to make some more for me because it takes a week of pounding by hand. Instead, I asked her for her secret. She taught me to feel the ingredients in my left palm before putting them in the mortar. I was not sure if I got it at the time, but I was glad that I had also taken note of the amount in standard American measuring spoons. Now I even teach my aunt’s recipes in my cooking class on Southern Thai curry dishes.
Then the other day, I gave myself a final exam. I was in the kitchen preparing a curry paste, conducting every step from memory. I recalled the lesson with my aunt from over 15 years ago. She said that for four servings, start with about 1 teaspoon of salt and about 1 tablespoon of black pepper. For turmeric, she said that if I wanted to use fresh turmeric I should use about 1 inch, and she bent her index finger. If I used dry turmeric, use about 1 teaspoon. The amount for the dry red chili pepper I remember really well. She used 40 dried Thai chilies. I used 20 for my cooking class and everyone thought that it was too hot, so generally I use 15 chilies for American 3 stars and 20 for 5 stars.
My grandmother, mom, and three aunts prepared this curry paste with a mortar and pestle countless times in their lives. About 30 years ago, when our village had access to electricity for the first time, I remember that the most important modern kitchen appliances that we purchased right away were a rice cooker and a blender.
My mom’s favorite way to make curry paste was with a mortar and pestle, but often she blended them in the blender. For this recipe I decided to prepare it in a blender, which only takes 5 minutes. I hope you enjoy my family recipe.
Phuket red curry paste is so versatile. You may use it in any red curry recipe that calls for red curry paste. However, the color is yellow because our family omits dried large red spur chili pods. You may add 3 dried New Mexico Chili Pods to this recipe to add a deep red-orange color.
Phuket Red Curry Paste
Kruange Gaeng Phed Phuket
Yield: 1/2 cup1 shallot, halved and peeled 6 cloves garlic 1 lemongrass, trimmed and thinly sliced, about 2 tablespoons 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon turmeric 1 teaspoon shrimp paste 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
Place all ingredients in the blender with 1/2 cup water; blend until smooth, about 5 minutes.
© 2010 Pranee Khruasanit HalvorsenI Love Thai cooking Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area. Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com