your mind will be blown the first time you make fresh curry paste. pounding each ingredient in the mortar and pestle and smelling the wafting perfumes that are released is absolutely intoxicating. even if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, the satisfaction of making fresh curry paste from your food processor, blender, whatever it may be, is well worth the effort. your curry will turn out more fragrant, flavourful, and luscious, plus, you can freeze portions of it for a quick weeknight meal! this does require some ingredient hunting, but most of it can be found at your local asian market. if you’re okay with store bought paste, skip to part 2 of the recipe for instructions. serve with steamed white rice, or try our coconut rice for some extra richness.
we thank leela punyaratabandhu (a.k.a. shesimmers) for teaching us how to cook ‘simple thai food’ and inspiring this recipe. reid and I highly recommend her book for those of you wanting to dive into thai cooking but have been intimidated to do so. she makes it approachable, easy and straightforward, offering reasonable ingredient substitutions for those who live in north america.
*by the way, we keep chilis, galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves on hand in our freezer so that we can conveniently whip out our favourite recipes whenever we want!
Serves 4 to 6
Makes 1 cup
1 1/2 tbsps. coriander seeds
2 tsps. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. white peppercorns
3 dried guajillo chilis, microwaved for 20 seconds until brittle
4 dried thai red bird's eye chilis or arbol chilis, microwaved for 20 seconds until brittle
2 tbsps. galangal, sliced
2 tbsps. lemongrass, roughly sliced
4 kaffir lime leaves, deveined and roughly sliced
10 cloves garlic
1/2 cup sliced shallots
2 tsps. salt
2 tsps. shrimp paste (substitute with 1 anchovy)
For best results, use a mortar and pestle. However, we know that not everyone has a mortar and pestle, so a blender or small food processor will do just fine.
Toast dried spices in a small pan until fragrant.
Pound or pulverize the dried spices with the chilis until it has become a fine powder. Set aside in a small bowl.
Pound or pulverize the fresh herbs until it has become a paste. Add salt and shrimp paste.
Combine with dried spice powder.
Set aside 1/4 cup of paste and divide the rest into 3 separate portions (1/4 cup each) to freeze for later use.
1/4 cup red curry paste (you could also use store bought, but fresh is way better)
1 tbsp. coconut or canola oil
1/2 cup coconut cream (Aroy-D is the best coconut milk for this, just skim the top layer! otherwise, you can buy coconut cream separately)
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (Aroy-D or Savoy)
1/2 a small kabocha squash or buttercup squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tbsps. fish sauce
1 lbs. chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces or packaged fried tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 tbsp. brown sugar
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 heaping tbsp. peanut butter
In a dutch oven or a large pot, fry curry paste in coconut oil and coconut cream for 2 minutes over medium heat.
Add coconut milk and squash. Bring to a boil, turn down to a medium-low simmer, and cook for 5-7 minutes.
Add fish sauce, chicken, stock, sugar, and lime leaves. Simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. Mix in a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter.