This Thai red curry paste recipe is authentic and very easy to follow. Made with fresh ingredients using the right technique, it's pungent and flavorful and totally preservative-free. Spare some time on the weekend to make this and enjoy a quick and easy red curry dish any busy weeknight!
Thai Red Curry
It goes without saying that the Thai red curry is loved by so many because it's sooo, soooo good. A good meal involving Thai red curry is when you enjoy it with rice and some other Thai dishes like Thai garlic pork or Thai omelette and wash it all down with a glass of Thai iced tea.
If you've made Thai red curry before, then you know how easy it is! Though there are certain vegetables and meats that are more common than others in our red curry, you can use pretty much any kind of vegetable and protein you want, as long as you have a good red curry paste and basil leaves.
And today's recipe is nothing but the Thai red curry paste itself, which is also known as prik gaeng daeng (พริกแกงแดง) or prik gaeng ped (พริกแกงเผ็ด) in Thai. This paste is pretty versatile. Other than the obvious red curry, you can use it in stir-fries like this stink bean stir-fry or to make Thai fish cakes or as part of a marinade.
Right, before we begin, if you're a fan of curries, be sure to check out my chicken panang curry, beef green curry, and papaya sour curry recipes! These are so good and will make all you curry lovers jump for joy.
Store-Bought VS Homemade Prik Gaeng Ped
When it comes to Thai red curry, store-bought red curry paste usually works just fine. But do you ever think about making your own curry paste or does that idea just sound intimidating to you? When I was a student studying abroad, I relied on store-bought curry pastes too, from red to green and yellow.
At that point, I was already cooking but I never thought I'd make my own curry paste. Obviously, it would have been difficult for me to find all the essential ingredients there and I would have probably got kicked out of my building for the sound that the pounding would have made (for the record, I did NOT have a mortar and pestle back then, okay?).
Anyway, I've been back home for a long time now. There are so many good homemade curry paste stalls at local markets that make their pastes fresh daily, with no preservatives added. And while I admit I often buy curry pastes because they're so inexpensive and quick, there's nothing like making your own curry paste.
With the local vendors in Thailand aside, I think it's safe to say that your homemade curry paste will always be better than any packaged ones you will find in stores. If you have the right recipe. For one thing, fresh herbs are more pungent and for another, you know you won't be consuming any unnecessary chemicals. Plus, you can pride yourself on being that "oh yeah, I've made my own curry paste before" person. It's quite an achievement!
All of the ingredients required to make the Thai red curry paste can be seen in the image above. They include galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime rind, dried Thai chilies, garlic, shallots, salt and shrimp paste.
Here's what you need more specifically:
- 12-15 small dried Thai chilies
- 3-5 large dried Thai chilies, optional, if you want the color of your curry paste to be vibrant, use these as they're only mildly hot
- 1 galangal root or about 1 ounce
- 3 lemongrass stalks
- 1 kaffir lime, rind only
- 10 cloves of garlic
- 7 shallots
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ½ tablespoon of Thai shrimp paste
Note: Many Thai curry pastes, including my Thai sour curry paste, have shrimp paste (gapi or กะปิ) as an ingredient. There are many shrimp paste brands out there. Usually, the smaller homemade brands here in Thailand are really good but again, only the big guys export the stuff.
I'm not sponsored by this Thai shrimp paste but this is what I would buy from the supermarket whenever I run out of the smaller brand version and need it quick. It's good enough for me and I've seen it in other countries (just remember their scales logo). So yeah, something to keep in mind because this thing can make or break your curry paste!
Making It Vegan
You can replace the shrimp paste with fermented soybean paste. It won't be exactly the same as the shrimp paste but it will do. Plus you can adjust the taste of your curry as you go when you cook it.
How to Prepare Thai Herbs and Spices for This Recipe
For those of you who are not familiar with Thai herbs and spices, you might look at them and think, "what do I do with them?" Even I had to ask my mom when I first started cooking properly! So, in this post, I'll try my best to explain how to prepare all the Thai herbs and spices required for this Thai red curry paste recipe. You can also look at the pictures above to get more of an idea.
You only need to use the root so just remove the other parts. Then, rinse the root under running water and make sure that there's no dirt left on it. You can either peel or not peel the root. It won't make a difference and I personally don't bother. After that, just slice it up. You need 10 slices with each being about 0.5 cm thick. Then, chop those galangal slices into small pieces so they're easier to pound.
Remove the outermost leaf of each stalk. Cut off the root and the tougher part at the top because that part is very fibrous and you can never get it to be fine by pounding. Then, finely chop the bottom part.
We'll be using just the rind of the kaffir lime. Simply use a knife to peel it off the fruit.
Dried Thai Chilies
There are two types or dried Thai chilies - big and small. I only use the small ones in this recipe but you can use both. Generally, the small ones are very hot and used for their heat and the bigger ones have a mild flavor and are added to achieve the bright orange color. My recipe suggests using 12-15 small dried Thai chilies but you can, of course, use fewer or more. Just make sure you soak all the dried chilies first so that they're easier to pound and blend in with the other ingredients.
Garlic and Shallots
Peel both and slice the shallots.
1. Prepare your herbs and spices. You can read about how to do that in detail in the section above.
2. Add the galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime rind, dried chilies, salt and shrimp paste into the mortar and pound until relatively fine (see the upper right picture for reference). These herbs are pretty fibrous so that's why they go in first and they can take a good 10-15 minutes of pounding to get the right consistency.
3. Add the garlic and shallots and continue to pound for another 10-15 minutes so that everything blends together and the paste is fine enough. The lower right picture is how I like the consistency of my curry paste to be. If you like it finer, just continue to pound until it reaches your preferred level of consistency.
Pound your curry paste in a mortar with a pestle. This is how you're going to get the most fragrances and flavors out of all the herbs and spices. While using a blender or food processor can turn the ingredients into a paste too and much quicker, the overall flavor of the curry paste just won't be nearly as strong. So be prepared for a good arm workout!
Storing Red Curry Paste
You can store it in an airtight container and it will keep in the fridge for about a week. If you want to make a large amount and store it for longer than that, you can freeze it in an ice cube tray for a couple of months.
Other Recipes You Might Enjoy:
- Spicy Thai Eggplant & Mushroom Stir-Fry
- How To Make Thai Chili Flakes (Prik Bon)
- How To Make Toasted Rice Powder (Khao Khua)
- Thai Holy Basil Chicken | Pad Kaprao Gai
- Tom Yum Goong
Thai Red Curry Paste Recipe
PREPARE THE HERBS AND SPICES (PLEASE CHECK OUT PICTURES IN THE POST FOR MORE DETAILS)
- Soak the dried chilies in water.
- Rinse the galangal root under running water until there is no dirt left. Slice it into ten 0.5 cm slices, about 1 ounce. Then, chop the 10 slices into small pieces.
- Remove the outermost leaf of each lemongrass stalk. Cut off the root and the tougher part at the top and discard. Then, finely chop the bottom part.
- Use a knife to peel the rind of the kaffir lime. Set aside the rind and discard the fruit.
- Peel the garlic.
- Peel the shallots and slice them thinly.
MAKE THE CURRY PASTE
- Add the galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime rind, dried chilies, salt and shrimp paste into the mortar and pound until relatively fine, about 10-15 minutes (picture reference in the post). These herbs are quite fibrous so they need to go in first.
- Add the garlic and shallots and continue to pound for another 10-15 minutes so that everything blends together and the paste is fine enough. You can make your paste a little coarse or very fine. This depends on your preference.
- Use the paste right away or store it in an airtight container for up to 1 week or freeze in an ice cube tray for a few months.