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What makes a Thai curry paste unique

As David Thomson writes in his famous cooking book “Thai Food”, a Thai curry has 3 elements that makes each curry paste unique:

1) The ingredients in the paste

2) The way it is cooked and seasoned

3) The ingredients in the curry dish

Although curry pastes can be very different, there are common basic ingredients such as: galangal, chillies (fresh or dried), shallots, garlic, lemongrass, red shallots, garlic and shrimp paste. We can also find kaffir lime zest, coriander roots, red turmeric and dried spices.

How to make it well

A hand made paste is much superior than one made in a food processor or blender. Indeed in a machine, the ingredients will just be reduced to a puree and will not pounded. To perfect your curry paste, remember the following:

1) All the fresh ingredients must be washed, peeled and finely chopped before being transformed into a paste.

2) With the exception of peppercorns, all spices should be roasted to extract their oils and ideally each spice should be roasted individually. They should not be burnt. Then, they should be grinded very finely.

3) Salt should be added, not only as a seasoning, but as an abrasive to help grind the chillies and other ingredients and as a natural preservative.

4) Individual ingredients should be added gradually in a given order FROM THE HARDEST AND DRIEST TO THE SOFTEST AND WETTEST. Each should be reduced to a pulp before the next ingredient is added to the paste.

Leftover paste can be kept in the fridge for 2 weeks  in a tight container with plastic film pressed against the surface of the past. BUT DO NOT FREEZE the paste as the paste will lose all its flavours.

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