When I start to grind the aromatics, chilis and shrimp paste for this Thai Green Curry Paste, that funky, intoxicating aroma instantly transports me back to last year’s trip to Thailand. I first travelled to Thailand twenty-plus years ago on a business trip. During that three week trip, I was able to steal away a few whirlwind days from work to take in the sights. I knew I would be back, and my only regret was to not revisit sooner.
The tastes and smells of Thailand and Thai cuisine are unforgettable. We found that the most humble looking food stalls (and boats) & restaurants served us the memorable meals during our trip.
After eating our way through the country over two weeks, I was on a mission to recreate those tastes at home. Thai food possesses that perfect balance of spicy, sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.
Although some Thai specific grocery items (i.e. Thai bird chilis, galangal, keffir lime, fresh turmeric, shrimp paste) can be more challenging to source than others, easy substitutions are available, To my pleasant surprise, I was able to hunt down most of the ingredients at my local grocery store or online.
I plan on making a third trip to Thailand soon – let’s hope it’s in the next few, not twenty plus years. In the meantime, join me in making this tasty Thai Green Curry Paste, which is a versatile flavor foundation for Thai Green Curry, soups and other main courses.Print
THAI GREEN CURRY PASTE
Adapted from Vanee in Chiang Mai who taught me the original recipe.
Paleo/Whole 30: Review the list of ingredients in the shrimp paste. If you cannot find shrimp paste, use Red Boat Fish Sauce.
Vegan: please substitute shrimp paste with equal amount of soy sauce.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 3 tbsp
3-6 Thai bird eye chilis (or sub with 1-2 serrano peppers), stems & seeds removed, minced. If you like spicy things like me, leave the seeds in.
1/4 tsp whole coriander seeds
1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/4 tsp whole black peppercorn
1 tbsp shallot, minced (1 small or 1/2 large shallot)
1 tbsp lemongrass, minced (remove tough woodsy exterior, and select them more tender parts of stalk that are light yellow/green)
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced (If you can find fresh galangal, lucky you! Please substitute here)
1 tsp fresh turmeric, minced
4 cloves garlic
zest of 1 small lime (if you can locate kaffir lime, please substitute here)
1/4 tsp shrimp paste
1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
Place the whole coriander, peppercorn and cumin in a small frying pan, and toast over medium-high heat (no oil). Your nose will tell you when the spices are ready – the aroma of the spices will become pronounced, which means it’s time to remove them from the heat. This should only take a 2-3 minutes. Transfer to mortar.
To the mortar, add chilis, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, tumeric, shallots lime zest, shrimp paste and salt.
Using the pestle, grind until the ingredients break down and you are left with this pungent, aromatic paste.
Use immediately or transfer to a small container. If reserving for future use, this green curry paste keeps for a week in the refrigerator.
If you don’t have a mortar & pestle, please feel free to use a small food processor. The texture of your final product will be different (i.e. a more homogenized paste), but the taste will be the same.
Serrano peppers are a perfectly appropriate substitute for Thai bird chilis. Thai chilis are extremely spicy, so if you have less toleranance for spicy foods, start with the smaller quantity (i.e. 2-3 chilis) and discard the seeds.
The toasting process transforms the whole spices and intensifies their flavors. Ground cumin, coriander and black pepper may be substituted in a pinch.
Strongly recommend that you use fresh ginger and tumeric. I’ve made this curry paste with the ground versions, and flavors of final curry paste is radically different.
Shrimp paste can be found in well stocked Asian markets or online. Make sure to read the ingredient list and ensure that there isn’t any added MSG or sugars. If you can’t find, you can use the same amount of fish sauce.
Kaffir limes and galangal are very difficult to find locally, period. Regular ole limes and ginger step in as a perfectly acceptable substitute.