The mortar and pestle are the most valued tools in a Thai kitchen. It crushes and smashes all the ingredients together releasing their flavours and oils. Curry pastes to the Thais are “the mother sauces” to the French (Chef MCDang).
In my opinion Thai curry pastes are best made fresh at home and it is really worth the effort. All curry pastes take a lot of pounding but the results are incredible. In todays world we are all too busy to pound for hours. That is why all good supermarkets sell ready made curry pastes, and to be honest some brands are very good. If you are lucky enough to be living in Thailand you can buy them fresh everywhere.
This is one of my favourite Thai curries. This great Thai paste recipe and coconut milk deliver sophisticated flavours. The liquid in this curry is intense, luscious, creamy and fragrant. I also like to add small Thai eggplants. They are a bit bitter and they cut the heat of the spicy curry.
This curry is just perfect to eat with plain Jasmine rice.
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons red curry paste
- 1 teaspoon grated palm sugar
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 kilo medium shrimp, shelled and deveined with tails intact
- 6 Thai eggplants, quartered
- 2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
- 1 long red chilli, deseeded and sliced lengthwise.
Ingredients for the Red Curry Paste
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
- 5 red dried big chillies, seedless, sliced and soaked in water
- 1 teaspoon kaffir lime skin, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon galangal, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons lemon grass, thinly sliced
- 1 coriander root, sliced
- 3 tablespoons garlic, roughly sliced
- 2 tablespoons shallots, roughly sliced
- 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
- Or you can use 2-3 tablespoons processed red curry paste.
Method for the Curry Paste
- Prepare all the curry paste ingredients
- Using a mortar and pestle pound all the curry paste ingredients starting from the salt then the hard ingredients and then the soft ones until you have fine smooth paste.
- Or using a food processor, add all the curry paste ingredients and 1/2 cup of the coconut milk blending until the mixture is smooth.
Method for the Curry
- In a wok, warm the coconut cream over medium heat.
- Add the red curry paste and fry until fragrant. You will know when it is ready when you see red oil dots in the mixture.
- Add the coconut milk, chicken stock and simmer until the mixture is reduced to a thick curry.
- Add the Thai eggplants and cook them for a few minutes until they are almost tender.
- Add the shrimp and 1 shredded kaffir lime leaf.
- Add the palm sugar and fish sauce.
- Mix well and simmer for 5 more minutes, or until the prawns are cooked.
- Garnish with red chilli and remaining shredded kaffir lime leaf to serve.
- Do not use the whole lemongrass only use the part that is still purple.
- To make the curry paste start with the hard ingredients: white pepper, coriander root, lemongrass, galangal, Kaffir lime skin. Then the red chillies and the last ingredients should be the garlic and shallots. The reason for this process is that garlic and shallots have water and it is harder to make a soft paste.
- It is very important to cook the curry paste in the coconut cream until you see the oil and the bright red color. This is where the flavour for the curry is.