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Red curry paste

March 1, 2009
Pounded by Sean

Last week I took my nephew Henry to a Thai seafood cooking school at the Sydney Seafood School. The course was great, but the best thing was the red fish curry – the first time I have ever made a good Thai curry. One of the secrets, I discovered, was only using dried red chillies, not fresh, and also cooking the shrimp paste (on a bit of foil in the oven or under the grill) before adding it to the paste.

The other tip was to use very little oil in the paste, as using too much results in the oil slick we’ve all seen on top of curries. The food processor ran for about 15 minutes to get it right.

I tried it at home and Sean pounded it in the mortar & pestle, but it still needed a good 10 minutes in the whizzer after that.

NB: Here, in response to a comment, is the recipe. I’m not sure about the etiquette of stealing somebody else’s recipe, but all credit goes to the Sydney Seafood School Thai course people. Go along, learn something.

Red curry paste

Makes approx 1 cup

  • 24 long dried red chillies
  • 10 white peppercorns
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, lower third only, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, peeled galangal
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander root
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste, toasted*
  • ½ cup red shallots, peeled & chopped
  • ½ cup chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil / rice bran oil if required (we only used 1 tablespoon i think)

1. Remove and discard seeds & membrane from chillies (use scissors to cut them open, then scrape – this bit very time consuming!)

2. Soak in warm water for 15-30 minutes. Drain, squeeze to remove liquid (use gloves for this bit) and chop chillies.

3. Add remaining ingredients and process for several minutes (use pulse button) until a fine paste with a rich red colour emerges.

4. If it doesn’t blend smoothly, add a little oil.

*Wrap shrimp paste in an aluminium foil packet and place under a high grill until aromatic – 3-5 minutes.

To make a curry,  spoon 1 cup of the thick, stiff cream from the top of a can of coconut milk  and heat till just boiling. Then add ²/³ cup of this paste to the cream and fry until the oil separates from paste and it’s quite fragrant. Add the other stuff in your curry (fish sauce, lime juice / tamarind water, sugar, etc etc) and boil until reduced by half – then add the protein and any other bits and bobs. Yum.

4 comments

  1. The curry paste looks fantastic, but no recipe! Can you let us all in on your secret?


  2. Hmm will address this in a future post, Alice of Bathurst…


  3. Have amended it now Alice …


  4. […] uncomfy though (not discomforted enough to refuse to put the Sydney Seafood School red curry recipe here though, obviously – I never said I wasn’t a hypocrite), so I looked up the copyright rules […]



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