Curry pastes are the bases of Thai curry. They are made with spices and herbs, pounded together into a paste. Most curry pastes include chili, galangal, shallots, and kaffir lime. The five most popular curry pastes are red, green, yellow, Panang, and Massaman curry pastes. It is very easy to find curry pastes in any Asin food store or supermarket. The smaller AROY-D curry paste packs are a convenient single meals size. If you curry often, try the MAE PLOY range of curry pastes in larger plastic pots.
Red Curry Paste
Red curry paste key ingredient (which makes it red) is dried red chilis. It is spicy, and full of flavor. Many people like red curry paste best because it is versatile and many things taste good with it. The base Thai red curry paste (phrik kaeng phet) is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle, and remains moist throughout the preparation process. The red coloring derived from dry red spur chilies (prik haeng met yai) – which is dried prik chee fa red chilies.
The main ingredients include (dried) red chili peppers, garlic, shallots, galangal, shrimp paste, salt, kaffir lime peel, coriander root, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns and lemongrass. Today, the prepared Thai red curry pastes are available at markets produced in mass quantities, and also available in bottled jar produced by some brands.
The prepared red curry paste is cooked on a saucepan with cooking oil, to which coconut milk is added. Then the meat as protein source is added into the curry-base soup. Various kinds of meats could be made as red curry, such as chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, duck, or even exotic meats such as frog and snake meats. The most common however, are chicken, pork and beef. The meat is cut into bite-sized pieces. Common additives are fish sauce, sugar, chopped kaffir lime leaves, Thai eggplant, bamboo shoots, thai basil (bai horapha).
Green Curry Paste
Green curry paste is traditionally made by pounding in a mortar green chilies, shallots, garlic, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime peel, cilantro roots (coriander) and cumin seeds, white peppercorns, shrimp paste and salt.
The name “green” curry derives from the color of the dish, which comes from green chilies.The “sweet” in the Thai name (wan means “sweet”) refers to the particular color green itself and not to the taste of the curry. As this is a Thai curry based on coconut milk and fresh green chilies, the color comes out creamy mild green or, as this color is called in Thai, “sweet green”.
Its ingredients are not exactly fixed. The curry is not necessarily sweeter than other Thai curries but, although the spiciness varies, it tends to be more pungent than the milder red curries.
Green curry was developed during the reign of King Rama 6 or Rama 7, between the years 1908-1926.
Yellow Curry Paste
The primary spices in Yellow Curry Paste (kaeng kari) are cumin, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek, garlic, salt, bay leaf, lemongrass, cayenne pepper, ginger, mace and cinnamon. Sometimes a touch of palm sugar or a similar sweetener will be added, depending on the sweetness of the coconut milk.
Thai yellow curry is most typically made with chicken or beef and a starchy vegetable, most often potatoes, but it can be made with duck, tofu, shrimp, fish, or vegetables and is eaten with steamed rice or round rice noodles known as khanom chin.
Thai Yellow curry, outside Thailand, usually refers to the dish kaeng kari. This curry is milder and often less oily than other Thai curries. Like “curry rice” in Japan and Korea, and a variety of mild Chinese “curry” dishes, it is the result of the influence of British naval cuisine, deseminated in Asia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries due to British military presence.
Massaman Curry Paste
Compared to other Thai curries, the distinct characteristic of Mussaman Curry Paste is that all ingredients are roasted prior to pounding/grinding. When all the spices are roasted and the aroma fills your kitchen, the real work begins:
Due to its Muslim roots and therefore Islamic dietary laws, this curry is most commonly made with chicken, but there are also variations on this dish using duck, beef, mutton, goat, or, less commonly so, pork.
As pork is forbidden in Islam, this last variant is not eaten by observant Thai Muslims. Vegetarians and vegans have created their own versions of this dish.
The flavors of the massaman curry paste (nam phrik kaeng matsaman) come from spices that are not frequently used in other Thai curries. Cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cumin, bay leaves, nutmeg and mace would, in the 17th century, have been brought to Thailand from the Malay Archipelago and South Asia by foreigners, a trade originally dominated by Muslim traders from the Middle East, Indian subcontinent and from the archipelago itself. These are combined with local produce such as dried chili peppers, cilantro (coriander) seeds, lemongrass, galangal, white pepper, shrimp paste, shallots and garlic to make the massaman curry paste. This paste is first fried with coconut cream, and only then are meat, potatoes, onions, fish sauce or salt, tamarind paste, sugar, coconut milk and peanuts added.
Panang Curry Paste
Panang Curry Paste is made from finely grinding coriander and peppercorns in a mortar and pestle for approximately 2 minutes, then combining with lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves, cilantro, shallot, garlic, fresh chiles, and soaked dried chilles in a bowl.
Phanaeng (also spelled phanang and other variants) is a type of red Thai curry that is thick, salty and sweet, with a nutty peanut flavor. The earliest known mention of phanaeng appears in Mom Somchin Rachanupraphan’s book Tamra Kap Khao, published in 1890 (2441 BE, 109 RE)
A popular phanaeng curry dish is beef phanaeng.For vegetarians and vegans, there are vegetarian/vegan alternatives for shrimp paste called kapi chae in Thai, and the fish sauce can be substituted with a strong vegetable stock or soy sauce. Tofu can be used in place of meat. In Thailand, this curry is usually eaten with rice.