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.