25 July 2009

Thai Red Curry

I'm not a big fan of using pre-made pastes or sauces. Firstly, because of the presence of preservatives and additional colourings usually found in these pre-made sauces. Secondly, because of the amount of MSG present.

MSG = Monosodium Glutamate => very dry mouth => red skin rash => :((((

Making Thai red curry from scratch isn't actually that time consuming. The paste base can actually be done beforehand and kept in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two weeks, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. The red curry paste can be paired with beef, chicken, most seafoods and vegetables. You can use a pestle mortar to make the paste, but I take it as a sign for me to put my Magimix food processor to good use.

Red Curry Base Spice Paste:

  • 5 dried red chillies
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 5 shallots (Try to get the small redish\purple coloured shallots)
  • 1 thumbsize piece galangal (thinly sliced)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass (use the bottom 10cm, inner white part - smashed, then thinly sliced)
  • zest of 1 lime (grated)
  • 3 Coriander stalks (bottom ~5cm of stalks)
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon cardamon seeds (seeds removed from husks)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon white peppercorns (black peppercorns can be substituted)
  • 1 teaspoon Shrimp paste (Thai version preferred)

Over a hot pan, lightly toss and toast together the coriander seeds, cardamon, cumin and peppercorns until the aroma is released. This step also helps to bring out the flavours in the spices.

Pour all the ingredients into the food processor and pulse until everything has broken down and blended together. This should make enough base paste for about 5-6 serves. With about 2 tablespoons used per red curry. When using the spice paste, just fry in equal amount of peanut oil to release the flavour.

It does look like a lot of difference spices and ingredients are being used. But once you are able to source all the ingredients, the cooking part is actually quite easy. Thai curry is different to cooking other curries, where you don't actually need to simmer the curry over a long period of time (atleast I don't find that I need to).

I still like to add more fresh lemongrass, shallots and galangal to the curry on top of the spice paste. I also find that with my red curry, I usually end up with a curry that has a lot more vegetables present than meat. I also tend to like eating the vegetables more as it tends to absorb the flavours of the spice and curry sauce better.

Red Curry Chicken with Mix Vegetables

  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 tablespoon red curry paste
  • 3 shallots (chopped into quarters)
  • 3 whole dried chillies (optional - use less if you prefer a milder curry)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass (thinly sliced diagonally)
  • 1 thumbsize galangal (thinly sliced)
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves (torn in half)
  • Mix vegetables - see section below...
  • sawtooth coriander (if substituting with chinese coriander add this around the end)
  • 500g coconut milk
  • 300g chicken thigh meat (skin removed, sliced into strips)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
  • juice 1 lime (kaffir lime preferred)

Mix vegetables - I usually add in a selection of the following (about a handful each):

  • canned longan fruit <-- used to enhance the sweetness in the curry
  • Thai green round eggplant (preferred, but purple eggplant can be substituted)
  • Okra (a.k.a Ladies fingers)
  • canned bamboo shoots
  • fresh oyster mushrooms
  • zucchini (sliced in chunks)

This list is a guide only, you can use any types of vegetables that you may have available. The veggies in the list are also what I've found to soak up the curry sauce better.

The canned longan fruit is easily sourced from any supermarket. Try to get the non-sweetened syrup version. The sweetness in the longan fruit actually helps soften the hotness of the chilli in the curry.


  1. In a medium-hot wok, add peanut oil then the two tablespoons of the previously prepared red curry spice mix. Fry the spice paste for a couple of seconds, then add in the chopped shallots, dry chilli, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves.
  2. Add in the mixed vegetables & sawtooth coriander. Stirfry the veggies around with the spice paste and the other fresh spices for about a minute. The veggies are added in earlier to try to soften them first, as they do require to be cooked longer than the chicken.
  3. Pour in the coconut milk. Stir the contents around, making sure the coconut milk has combined with the spice paste. Bring up the heat until the coconut milk starts to simmer.
  4. Add in the chicken strips. Season with fish sauce and the palm sugar. Keep the curry on a slow simmer. Keep stirring the curry around, make sure the chicken pieces has cooked.
  5. Squeeze in the juice of one lime.
  6. Taste the curry, if its not salty enough, add in more fish sauce. If its not sour enough then add in more lime juice. If its too sour, then add in more palm sugar.
  7. Let simmer for a couple more minutes then serve with some steam rice.


  • If using Okra (Ladies fingers), make sure they have cooked thoroughly.
  • Sawtooth coriander is a Thai style herb. Chinese coriander can be used instead. Put these in at the end, if you are using chinese coriander.

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