Thai Curry Pastes


These notes on curry pastes accompany the authentic Thai recipes from Muoi Khuntilanont's Kitchen. The notes were written by Muoi's husband, Ian Philpott.


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Thai "curries" are typically made using a "curry" paste. However that is an oversimplification: firstly the word used for these dishes in Thai is kaeng (pronounced "gang") and it covers soups, stews and of course curries. A paste which is used could be used just as well for a soup as for a curry.

Secondly of course it is not true that Thais call them curry: the word for curry is kari and it is only applied to a small number of dishes: the dishes that appear on western Thai restaurant menues as "curries" are kaengs, and they are made not with curry paste but with a sauce made from prik kaeng (which in this case could be translated better as chilli paste).

There are many different prik kaeng in Thai cuisine and from them you could make a vast number of different dishes by using different protein ingredients, and vegetable ingredients and so on to the extent that it is said that most Thai housewives could cook a different kaeng every day of the year.

However if you know the four basic pastes (red, green, masaman and penaeng) and the basic techniques you can make a vast array of dishes, if not perhaps quite one per day for a year.

A rough rule of thumb is that one cup of raw chillies yields a cup or so of paste (since there is air in the chilis). Further it will keep about 3 months in a preserving jar in the fridge.

Since the average kaeng will require (depending on how hot you make it) between 2 and 8 tablespoons of paste, and since there are roughly 16 tablespoons in a cup, you can scale this recipe up to suit your needs. Suffice it to say that we make these pastes on a cycle over 8 weeks and make 6-8 portions of each of them.

As they say in US motor advertisements: your mileage may vary!

Colonel Ian F. Khuntilanont-Philpott