Anyone who has ever picked up a Thai cookbook will know what they say: that store-bought Thai green curry paste is but a shadow of the real thing.
Blah blah blah.
I’ve been a green curry fan since sometime in college when I first ate at Sawatdee in Minneapolis with my then-boyfriend Jim — now known as bad-boyfriend Hong Kong-Jim. [He lives there. And no, he's not Chinese -- not that there's anything wrong with being Chinese. And he was a nice guy, just a baaaad boyfriend. ] Thai food back then was counter culture. Not popular. Dark. Exciting. Amazing. [kind of like Jim at the time...]
But now, Thai green curry is like the much-maligned Merlot. Over-sold. Over-consumed. Beneath the trendy.
I don’t care. I still love it.
Since discovering Aaroy-D brand, I haven’t felt the tug that I used to — when buying green curry paste — to try making it from scratch. But then, while researching recipes that were not allowed by the New Year’s Board of Directors [see previous post], I came across a video on Rouxbe.com that re-kindled that long-forgotten urge.
So, during my last visit to a grocery store, I picked up the ingredients to make it. Came home, threw them in the ‘crisper’, and forgot all about them for about two weeks.
Because — what would a recipe given here be without the challenge of missing ingredients or ingredients gone bad? Surely there is a psychological name for this tendency of mine to sabotage perfectly good recipes.
But I did it! I made Thai green curry paste. It was so fun to make it all in a mortar and pestle — though a larger one would work better. And it was good! Different than store bought — not earth-shatteringly better — but definitely brighter tasting. Brighter is the right word. Fresher, too, but brighter and more alive would be more accurate.
I don’t think you can watch this video on Rouxbe.com without a membership — which I have and love — but these pictures are sort of a snapshot of the same thing, the main difference being that my ingredients were not as well grinded as theirs. I think this was mostly due to my smaller mortar, but also probably had something to do with two-week old lemon grass and slightly different ingredients.
Ya think? [see ingredient list below for clarification.]
First step was to grind the peppercorns with the salt. So cool how easily this was done and how pretty it looked after:
Then, after toasting the coriander (mine, from the garden, also sport some twigs from the stems alongside the seeds) and cumin seeds
you add them to the mortar and grind them up. Ahh the smell!!
Then, you add your finely chopped lemon grass. I believe nice, fresh lemongrass is a bit more forgiving that two week old, from the grocery store, probably already 3-week old lemon grass. Finely chopping mine was akin to chopping dried cattails, but I did my best to incorporate it…
Then you add chopped garlic. Again, mine was pretty dry compared to juicy fresh. I’m using up my biggest bulbs from last summer. While they still taste amazing, the textures is different.
Then the chopped cilantro stems… The recipe calls for the root of the plant, which is so cool, and which I’d have had NO PROBLEM with during the summer months. And I had the stems all chopped up sitting next to the leaves. For some reason, I accidentally threw in the whole pile of cilantro instead of just the stems. I didn’t realize I had screwed up until my paste no longer looked like paste.
The water content from the peppers helped smooth things out considerably:
Lastly the onions:
My mortar was starting to overflow and it was hard to really go after it without slopping over the sides. But it still looked pretty good:
It made enough for two dinner-type recipes. I used half to make Thai Green Curry Coconut Shrimp:
And the rest is in my freezer waiting to be discovered sometime next year.
Thai Green Curry Paste from Rouxbe.com:
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 3 tbsp lemongrass [mine was old]
- 1 tsp galangal [I used ginger]
- 1 tbsp garlic [mine was old and dry]
- 2 tbsp shallots [I used onion]
- 2 tbsp coriander root (can substitute with cilantro stems) [I used leaves and stems]
- 5 hot, Thai green chilies [I used 3 jalapeños]
- 5 long green chilies [I used regular green and only 1/2]
- 1 tsp fresh turmeric (can substitute with 1 teaspoon dried) [I used dried]
- 1 kaffir lime [I used lime zest]
- 3/4 tsp shrimp paste [I skipped]
- 1 cup Thai sweet basil [I used basil paste]
- 1 tsp coriander seeds [mine had stems]
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds [my only unadulterated ingredient!!]
To make the green curry paste, first prepare your mise en place. Finely mince the lemongrass, galangal, garlic, shallots, coriander root and the chilies.
Peel and mince the turmeric. Keep in mind that it will stain your cutting board, hands, and anything it comes into contact with. Gather the kaffir lime, shrimp paste and Thai basil and set aside.
In a small fry pan, toast the coriander and cumin seeds until they release their aroma and start to brown slightly.
To make the paste, use a mortar and pestle. Grind the spices, peppercorns and salt into a fine powder.
Next, add the lemongrass and pound until you reach a smooth paste, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the galangal, followed by the turmeric, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the garlic, cilantro stems, chilies and shallots.
Zest and add the kaffir lime, followed by the shrimp paste. Finely chop the basil and add it to the mortar and pestle, pounding everything into a smooth paste.
The paste can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days or frozen for a few months.
For the coconut curry recipe, I basically made the same one I usually do, found HERE, but I also added 1 tablespoon of fish sauce and — my newest very favorite trick:
Separating the cream from the milk in canned Thai Coconut Milk:
Usually I shake the can of coconut milk to incorporate everything together and then add it all at once, and if I have the time, cook it down a bit to thicken. But in Rouxbe.com’s recipe, they advise scooping the cream off the top and adding that to your protein and stir-frying over medium high heat until the cream separates from the oil. Frankly, mine never did this, but it did get shiny and different looking. THEN you add the watery milk and it all melds together. I really liked the consistency and it didn’t get that sort of curdled look that it can sometimes take on.