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basic curry pastes

Thai 'curries' are typically made using a 'curry' paste. However that is
an oversimplification: firstly the word used for these dishes in Thai is
kaeng (pronounced 'gang') and it covers soups, stews and of course
curries. A paste which is used could be used just as well for a soup as
for a curry.

Secondly of course it is not true that Thais call them curry: the word
for curry is kari and it is only applied to a small number of dishes:
the dishes that appear on western Thai restaurant menues as 'curries'
are kaengs, and they are made not with curry paste but with a sauce made
from prik kaeng (which in this case could be translated better as chili
paste).

There are many different prik kaeng in Thai cuisine and from them you
could make a vast number of different dishes by using different protein
ingredients, and vegetable ingredients and so on to the extent that it
is said that most Thai housewives could cook a different kaeng every day
of the year.

However if you know the four basic pastes listed here, and the basic
techniques from my next posting, you can make a vast array of dishes, if
not perhaps quite one per day for a year.

A rough rule of thumb is that one cup of raw chilis yields a cup or so
of paste (since there is air in the chilis). Further it will keep about
3 months in a preserving jar in the fridge.

Since the average kaeng will require (depending on how hot you make it)
between 2 and 8 tablespoons of paste, and since there are roughly 16
tablespoons in a cup, you can scale this recipe up to suit your needs.
Suffice it to say that we make these pastes on a cycle over 8 weeks and
make 6-8 portions of each of them. As they say in US motor
advertisements: your mileage may vary!



1: prik kaeng kiao wan

This is a paste for a green curry, and the 'wan' indicates that it
should be slightly sweet as well as hot.

ingredients:

1 cup of prik ki nu (green birdseye chilis)
5 tablespoons lemon grass, finely sliced
10 tablespoons of shallots (purple onions), chopped
10 tablespoons of garlic, minced
5 tablespoons of galangal (kha) grated
5 tablespoons of coriander/cilantro root, chopped
2 tablespoons of coriander seed
1 tablespoon of cumin seed
1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of shredded bai makroot (lime leaves)
4 tablespoons of kapi (fermented shrimp paste)
1 tablespoon of palm sugar.

If you can't get prik ki nu, you can use half a pound of habanero chilis
or one pound of jalapena chilis. If you use the latter deseed them
before use. Note that if you use a substitute you will get a different
volume of paste, and that you will need to use different amounts in
subsequent recipes.

If you can't get kha use ginger
if you can't get bai makroot use lime zest
if you can't get coriander root, use coriander leaves.

method:

coarsely chop the chilis.

Toast the dry seeds in a heavy iron skillet or wok, and grind them
coarsely.

Add all the ingredients to a food processor and process to a smooth
paste.

Place in tightly stoppered jars, and keep in the fridge for at least a
week for the flavors to combine and develop before use.

The remaining three pastes are all made from dried red chilis: those
sold in Thailand are frankly stale. Those sold in Europe and America are
generally barely fit for human consumption. If you must use them then
break them up and shake out the seeds, and soak them in tepid water for
about 30 minutes before use.

Preferably dry fresh red chilis. All these recipes call for one cup of
fresh red chilis, or half a pound of red habaneros, or one pound of red
jalapenas, deseeded. Dry them in the sun, or if the climate doesn't
allow then dry them in a herb desicator, or smoke them in a smoker or
over a barbeque.

The dried chilis (which need not be tinder dry - it is enough to remove
most of the water) are then toasted under a broiler until *almost*
burnt.

Treat this stage with extreme caution: if you overcook them a noxious
gas closely related to Mustard gas is released. This is quite dangerous
-- at a minimum cook them in a very well ventillated room with a fan on
and have a damp cloth ready to cover your mouth and nose in case of
emergencies -- and disconnect your smoke detector/fire alarm!

2: prik kaeng phet

phet means hot incidentally.

ingredients, 

1 cup of prik ki nu daeng (red chilis), prepared
5 tablespoons lemon grass, finely sliced
10 tablespoons of shallots (purple onions), chopped
10 tablespoons of garlic, minced
5 tablespoons of galangal (kha) grated
5 tablespoons of coriander/cilantro root, chopped
2 tablespoons of coriander seed
1 tablespoon of cumin seed
1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of shredded bai makroot (lime leaves)
4 tablespoons of kapi (fermented shrimp paste)

(Note that except for the sugar and the use of red chilis this is the
same as the prik kaeng kiao wan)

Follow the same procedure: toast and grind the dry seeds, and then blend
all ingredients to a fine paste

3: prik kaeng Panaeng

This is a paste for a 'dry chili'

ingredients

1 cup of prepared red chilis
10 tablespoons of shallots, chopped
5 tablespoons of garlic, chopped
10 tablespoons of lemon grass, finely sliced
5 tablespoons of galangal, grated
1 tablspoon of coriander seeds
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
5 tablespoons of coriander root. chopped
1 tablespoon of kapi
5 tablespoons of freshly toasted peanuts, crushed

follow the same general method, toasting the seeds, then blending
everything together.

4: prik kaeng masaman

masaman is a mild hot and sour dish equivalent to the Indian vindaloo.

ingredients

1 cup of prepared red chilis
3 tablespoons of coriander seed
1 tablespoon of cumin seed
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of cloves
1 tablespoon of star anise
1 tablespoon of cardamom
1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons of shallots, chopped
10 tablespoons of garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons of lemon grass, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon of galangal grated
3 tablespoons of bai makroot (lime leaves, or lime zest)
3 tablespoons of kapi
a small amount of salt (pinch)
a small amount of turmeric (just a pinch as a colorant).

toast the seeds, and blend everything in a food processor to a fine
paste.
Special thanks to - Muoi Khuntilanont.