The best (and most strenuous) way to make Thai curry pastes is using a motar and pestle (known in Thai as a krok). However, if you don’t have one, or if you want to save time and elbow grease, you can use a blender or food processor to make this red curry paste recipe.
First we’re going to pound the dry ingredients. Add 3 teaspoons of white pepper corns to your mortar and pound it until it’s a fine powder.
Add ½ teaspoon of cumin and ½ teaspoon of coriander to the pepper and mix it all thoroughly, and then set them aside in a small bowl.
Note: If you only have pre-ground white pepper, you can eliminate the first step and just mix these 3 spices together in a small bowl.
Take 8 dry spur chilies (prik chee fa haeng), soak them in warm water for a few minutes to rehydrate them, then drain the chilies. Cut off their stems, and you can then chop them into small centimeter pieces. Some people take out the seeds to make their red curry paste less spicy, but in my opinion you’ve got to keep the seeds.
Add the chopped dry chilies to the mortar along with ½ teaspoon of salt and start pounding. Keep on pounding for about 5 – 10 minutes until most of the chilies are nice and broken, the oils are coming out, and it’s starting to looks almost like a tomato paste.
Peel about 10 – 14 cloves of garlic. If the cloves are really big, use about 8. Peel 5 small shallots (Thai shallots are really small, about the size of a grape), so if you have big shallots you might need just 2 or 3. Chop them into small pieces.
Take 1 stalk of lemongrass, pull off and discard the outermost leaf, and then slice it from the bottom into small slivers. You want enough for 1 tablespoon.
Take the fresh coriander roots from about 3 stalks, cut off the roots, slice them into small pieces, and again you want about 1 tablespoon worth of coriander roots.
Take your galangal, and if you can find baby galangal that’s not too old, it will be softer, but whatever you have is alright. Again, slice it into pieces and you want enough for 1 tablespoon worth.
Roll up the kaffir lime leaves together, shred them and then chop through and add to the mortar and paste.
Toss all of those ingredients into the already pounded chilies. Pound and pound and pound until you’ve got a buttery, oily, and extremely fragrant Thai red curry paste. This should take anywhere from 15 – 30 minutes, and yes it’s tough work, but it’s so worth it (again, you can alternatively use a blender or food processor).
When your paste is buttery and smooth, go back to your bowl of white pepper and dry spices, and mix it into the paste. You don’t need to pound hard now, just mix it all in and smooth it out.
Final step is to add in just ½ teaspoon of shrimp paste. Pound your paste altogether and make sure the shrimp paste is fully mixed in.
3 teaspoons white peppercorns
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon coriander powder
8 dry red spur chilies (soaked in water for about 10 minutes to soften them)
½ teaspoon salt
10 – 14 small cloves of garlic
5 small shallots (Thai shallots are the size of grapes, so it’s about 2 tablespoons worth)
1 tablespoon finely sliced lemongrass
1 tablespoon finely sliced coriander roots
1 tablespoon finely sliced galangal
Skin of ½ a kaffir lime or 5 leaves, shredded
½ teaspoon of shrimp paste