I’m very fond of Thai food. It possesses an amazing bouquet of fragrant flavours; from sweet to zesty-sour and spicy-hot, all bundled up together in a piquant bunch.
I have had Thai food in Baku ( the city where I was born and grew up ) but it was in Thailand where I got the taste of real authentic Thai food and instantly fell in love.
It was in the beginning of the year 2004 when I first landed in Bangkok, a few days stopover on the way back from Perth to Baku. I was a young maiden, a very innocent one, travelling with my then much older, seasoned traveller boyfriend (whom I married a few years later). I remember stepping out of a hotel lobby onto the street and the feeling reminiscent of a cold beer bottle just pulled out the fridge on the hottest summer day swamped my body; the feeling of tiny droplets of sweat rapidly forming all over my skin! The mixture of aromas from frangipani, steaming jasmine rice, lemongrass combined with the stench from gutters and decaying fish had sent my smell senses into confused overdrive.
Lively streets, bars crowded with drunken tourists and young looking girls draping their tiny arms around strange men covered from head to toe in tattoos. Feminine ladyboys with porcelain skin and lush lips strutting outside bars in small groups. Hungry locals buying bags of roasted grasshoppers and sun-dried frogs from a motorcycle cart pulled over by the side of the road. Another memory is of a bunch of young women standing in a line for what seemed like a bus stop, and a question “are they waiting for a bus?” leaving my lips, a cheeky smirk on my boyfriends face and his response: “ something like that sweetheart; they are waiting for a lift “… I was a slow thinker back then…, not sure if the speed of my thought is any more rapid these days, but I certainly am a lot less innocent.
Next four days were spent wandering the streets, visiting temples, markets and my favourite of all – eating! The food was amazing everywhere we ate. Deliciously juicy, cold fruit sold on the sides of streets were my saviours from the heat. I enjoyed slices of green mango dusted with spicy sweet and sour powder and barbequed pork skewers brushed with flavoursome tangy sauce. I even got to try the roasted grasshoppers sprayed with hot sauce – they were crunchy.
I remember tasting the authentic green curry for the first time at dinner on our first night there. The light green coconutty sauce, thinly sliced chicken breast, tiny Thai aubergines, mushrooms, green peppercorns, kaffir lime, ginger and lemongrass – the magical ingredients birthed the unforgettable flavours as they hit my taste buds.
After my trip to Bangkok, I was obsessed with cooking Thai food and getting it to taste the authentic way. I cooked curries using curry pastes from the jars bought in local Asian grocery stores. They didn’t taste near as good as the curries in Thailand. It was only after a few years and few more trips to Thailand, and extensive experimenting in the kitchen I realised I had to make my own pastes using fresh ingredients. That was when I began making my own curry pastes and my homemade curries started to have that real authentic taste I was looking for.
The hardest part in making homemade curry pastes, it is obtaining all of the required ingredients. Growing some of the ingredients, if possible, is the greatest of options and I’m fortunate enough to be able to do just that.
The benefits in making homemade curries don’t end only with the achievement of the flavours; the lack of preservatives, artificial flavours and emulsifiers in homemade goodies turn them into real health-boosting treasures. Another favourable side of making your own curry pastes is the control you get over the amount of heat that goes into the paste by adding as many or as fewer chillies as you like.
Preparation time 15 minutes
7cm fresh ginger, peeled roughly chopped
2-3 cm galangal ( see note )
3 lemon grass stalks, white part only, chopped
4 shallot onions, peeled, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, roughly chopped
1-6 green chillies, roughly chopped
6 kaffir lime leaves, torn
3 lime juice ( 1 lime zest )
1 bunch coriander ( stems and roots included )
2-3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp coconut sugar ( raw or brown sugar )
2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp sesame seed oil ( optional )
- Place all ingredients into a food processor and process until curry paste forms.
- Move into jars and refrigerate or freeze for a later use.
Galangal is a root, in appearance it resembles ginger but with a much tougher texture and it has a strong fruity-earthy flavour. Even though ginger doesn’t have the piquant flavours of galangal it is often used as a substitute when galangal isn’t available. Since galangal has a tough texture it can add a hard, crumb-like consistency to the curry paste, in this case, the use of a good grinder is recommended for the best result.
Taste your curry paste as you make it, add more lime (lemon) juice, fish sauce, spices, salt or sugar if desired.
I like adding little bit of lemon juice to my paste. I think it adds more to the flavour and is a bit sweeter than lime.
Curry pastes will last for up to 1-2 months when refrigerated and longer when frozen.