Thai Red Curry Paste
Adapted from Victor Sodsook, David Thompson & Sompon Nabnian. Makes around 1½ cups; freeze in vacuum-packed freezer bags or something comparable
  • 3 oz dried New Mexico chile peppers (see notes above), seeded
  • 12 small hot dried chilies--if heat is an issue, sub in more dried New Mexico chile peppers; with my kids I used 2 small dried chile peppers per batch of paste and seeded them with additional ounce of New Mexico chile peppers
  • 1 T coriander seeds
  • 10 white peppercorns (can sub 5 black peppercorns if necessary)
  • 1½ t cumin seeds
  • ¼ t grated nutmeg
  • 5 cloves
  • 2 T shrimp paste
  • ¾ cup chopped shallots
  • heaping ½ cup chopped garlic cloves
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 1 T minced kaffir lime peel (see notes above)
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, trimmed to bottom ⅔ of stalk and tough outer layers peeled and discarded
  • ⅓ cup peeled and minced galangal
  1. Cover the seeded and de-stemmed dried chile peppers with boiling water. Set aside to soak for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Toast the whole spices and grind in a spice grinder. Toast them until they are fragrant, adding cumin, which burns easily, last. Add the nutmeg to this mix. Set aside.
  3. Place the shrimp paste in a square of foil. Fold the foil up, flattening the paste slightly,with about 3-4 layers of foil on each side. Toast the foil packet, about 5-7 minutes total, turning occasionally, until the shrimp paste is fragrant. Set aside.
  4. Very thinly slice the lemongrass. Add the lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime peel to a large mortar and pestle and pound for about 5-7 minutes to crush and release the oils, as well as soften the woody aromatics. Remove and add to a large food processor.
  5. Pound the garlic and shallots with the coarse salt in the same mortar and pestle for a few minutes–they need less pounding. Add to the food processor. Also add the ground spices and shrimp paste.
  6. Remove the soaking chile peppers and add them to the food processor, reserving some (1/2 cup) of the liquid. Process the paste, adding some chile pepper soaking liquid (a tablespoon or 2 at a time) to loosen the paste if needed. Process the paste to a smooth consistency, scraping the sides down occasionally, but do not let the processor heat up much or it will cook the paste. In addition to its texture, one of the key ways to tell a paste is ready is by sniffing it–it should no longer smell like its individual components, but rather a whole new entity. It will smell great but quite strong–it makes my eyes water. Set aside for curry and freeze what you don’t use.
Recipe by The Spiced Life at