Thai Red Curry Paste

As promised, I am posting some of the things I learnt at my Thai Cooking classes in Bangkok. Here is a link if you haven’t read my previous post to know what’s coming up next.

The first post from my Thai Cooking Series is going to be about a basic curry paste that is used in a variety of Thai dishes including the most popular Red Thai Curry. Its also used in other dishes such as soups (the famous Tom Yam Goong), salads, stir fry seasoning, marinades and other coconut based curries. Its a pretty basic thing like the “Indian Garam Masala” in our cuisine.

Prep Time: 7-10 minutes

Makes: 3/4 cups of paste, good for making 4 batches of Thai Curry

Expertise Level: Extremely easy

Ingredients availability  Some of the authentic ingredients are difficult to find in India. There is no direct replacement really, but you can still make it with slightly compromised flavours, if you dont find them in the market. My Bangkok shopping comprised of only Thai spices and sauces. Pretty weird thing to do in a place like this, right? But then, one’s gotta do what she’s gotta do.

Food Mood:

  • Taste Palate: Medium Spicy to Spicy
  • Ambience for Cooking: Swithch off all the lights in your house. Set up nice candles in your kitchen and around your work area. Or low dim yellow lights only.
  • Music: So I am going to be pretty corny about my music selection for this series is because I am in Bangkok. I am sharing a playlist of OSTs from Bangkok Dangerous. I really love some of the scores despite the “crappiness” of the film. If you are into background scores, you should like this. Plays for good ambient cooking music creating enough drama while you are at it. 


5 pieces dried big red chillies (the ones that are used to give the colour, not the spicy ones Eg: Kashmiri chillies) – soak in water for 15                          minutes and squeeze the water out

1 root of Coriander (noooo, dont ever throw them out. Always use the stem and the roots in your cooking. They have the maximum flavours) – What I do is cut out the stem with the roots and keep them aside in a box in the refrigerator. I keep the leaves wrapped in a wet cloth separately to keep them fresh for longer. See for yourself)

1/2 tbsp Kafir Lime Zest ( Thai cooking needs Kafir Lime. If you dont get it, then use Lime/Lemon Zest as your last resort. The flavours wont be the same though)

1/2 tbsp Galangal, finely sliced (No its not like ginger. Ginger is a hot spice, galangal is a cold spice. Got to taste it figure the difference finally) but that’s the closest substitute. Ask your friends who are travelling to Thailand to get galangal powder for you)

1.5 tbsp lemongrass (finely sliced) – can find it in big supermarkets/hypercity these days

5 garlic cloves, pealed

4 shallots (1 big onion if you don’t find shallots. Use a less pungent one if you are using onions)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground roasted cumin seeds (jeera powder)

1/2 tsp ground roasted coriander seeds (dhanya powder)

1/2 tsp white pepper powder

1/2 shrimp paste (you can eliminate this if you are a vegetarian)


In a mortar, pound all the ingredients together until they become a smooth paste. Avoid using a food processor as pounding with a mortal and pestle gives out stronger flavours.

So a trivia from my cooking instructor: According to Thai tradition, before a man selected his wife, he would go to her kitchen to see how she pounds her spices. If she made too much noise while pounding the spices with the pestle, it would mean that she isn’t a good cook and therefore not a wife material.

Now, I am sure when you try it, this piece of random information will play on your mind. 😉 Anyway, you can store this paste for upto 2 weeks in the refrigerator in an air tight container or for upto 4 weeks, if you keep it in the freezer. If you need to store it for longer, add extra salt and then refrigerate. Remember to add less salt when you cook with it though.

Will share the recipe for Thai Red Curry as a separate post.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Hi Radhika, I will update the quantity. You will get about 5-6 tablespoons of the paste. So you should be able to make the Thai curry some 5 times in moderate quantities

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.