When Pop, our wonderful exchange student from Thailand, lived with us I became hooked on making curry pastes from scratch rather than buying the little bottles in the store. Pop is a terrific cook and spoiled us well with her delicious food! I took notes when she was cooking, and green curry paste was something she made fairly often.
Fresh curry paste is vibrant and flavorful. By making your own, you can tweak the ingredients (I leave out the traditional shrimp paste) and the spice levels. No cooking is involved and it's a quick one to make.
You can whiz the ingredients together in a food processor, or my favorite way is to use a mortar and pestle. This method takes time, and there is something quite satisfying about pounding away and creating the bright green paste. The lively scents of lemongrass, basil, cilantro, chiles and lime coming together are intoxicating. As I pound away, I inhale deeply, my spirits lift and I feel awake. My eyes water, too!
When mixed with coconut milk and veggies, simmered and then ladled over rice, this curry paste transforms into a simple, spicy stew. It warms and soothes on a cold winter night when the snow is falling. And if you’re looking for a unique gift to bring your hosts on New Year's Eve, just spoon some into a little jar with a ribbon around it. I wish you a happy, healthy, and delicious new year!
Green Curry Paste
Makes 1 1/2 cups
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lime zest
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 ounces green chiles (Thai or Serrano chiles are good), stems removed and roughly chopped (remove seeds if less heat is desired)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro stems (save the leaves for another use)
1 large shallot (about 3 ounces), coarsely chopped
1 ounce fresh galangal root, finely minced
2 ounces Thai basil leaves, slivered
2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, finely chopped
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Stir all the ingredients except the water the lemon juice together in a bowl. Depending upon the size of your mortar, you may need to make this in batches. Place your mortar on a folded kitchen towel to secure its base and protect your kitchen counter. Scoop the spice and chile mix into the mortar and begin mashing with your pestle. Add a couple drops of water and lemon juice to moisten and help it come together. Continue mashing and bashing until a rough paste is formed. This may take about 15 minutes and will give you a bit of a workout.
If you would prefer a quicker method, you can pulse the ingredients in a food processor until a rough paste forms, adding the water and lemon juice to help it come together.
Scoop the paste into a jar and cover. The paste keeps well in the fridge for a couple of weeks or can be frozen, so it's great to make extra to have on hand.