Red Curry Paste is one of the most important staples of Thai cooking. Although you can buy commercial red curry paste that is good, there is nothing like the flavour and fragrance of making your own Thai Curry Paste.
Although you can use a food processor to chop ingredients for a curry paste, the resulting paste with not be so wonderful and flavourful nor fragrant as the ones when you hand pound with a mortar and pestle. This hand pounding breaks down the fibers releashing aromatic oils, and literally changes the texture and composition of the ingredients. Besides it is fun!
I often have a curry paste making "party" and have my husband do all the pounding for me while I mince, cut, and prep. It is great fun!!! We laugh as he says it is a fun way to release pent-up tension and suppressed aggression after a long week at work.
Maybe Thai people are so gentle as they spend so much time pounding and chopping and cooking in the kitchen, then sitting and eating together.
6-12 dried red chiles, soaked, deseeded and drained
1 tsp white peppercorns
2 tsp coriander seeds, roasted and ground
1 tsp cumin seeds, roasted and ground
2 Tabs thinly sliced lemon grass
½ tsp zest of "kaffir" lime (ordinary lime will do)
6 tabs garlic, chopped
1 tsp minced galangal
1 tsp chopped coriander (cilantro) root
4 tabs chopped shallot
a splash of fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tsp fermented shrimp paste (kapi) (roasted)*
* place kapi on a small tinfoil formed flat tray with sides, place in toaster oven until freagrant. Remove and let cool while you prepare and pound the other curry paste ingredients.
Place ingredients first the harder ingredients of chiles, peppercorns, coriander and cumin seeds, kaffir lime leaf slivers,in a mortor and pound thoroughly with the pestle. When they are completely mashed into a paste, add the garlic, galangal, and coriander root- pound again to form a smooth paste. Now add the shallot, nam pla, and kapi and pound again until it is a smooth paste.
You can use a food processor, but it is more difficult to create a smooth paste. It blender makes a smoother paste. You can begin in the food processor and finish in a mortor to attain the desired smooth paste. Place in glass jar and keep in a refrigerator for up to 3 months.
Thai red curry paste (Mae Ploy or Mae Sri brands are quite good), but freshly made curry paste tastes much better and contains no MSG or preservatives.