Penang Curry Paste

nam prik kaeng Penaeng

This is an authentic Thai recipe from Muoi Khuntilanont's Kitchen. The recipe was written up by Muoi's husband, Ian Philpott.


You can buy prepared curry pastes in many shops, but for the full flavour you should seriously consider the little effort involved in making your own. This was a back breaking chore when the pastes were prepared in a heavy mortar and pestle, but these days you can come very close to the same result using a food processor. You can reduce the number of chillies used if you want a milder curry, but I don't recommend going to less than 10 chillies.

  • 25-30 dried red chillies, discard the excess seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallots (purple onions)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced lemon grass
  • 1 tablespoon grated galangal (use ginger if you can't find galangal)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chopped coriander root
  • 1 tablespoon kapi (shrimp paste)
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped freshly roasted peanuts


Mix together to a fine paste in a food processor. This paste will keep under refrigeration. You can also freeze it; I suggest placing it in an old ice cube tray to make into curry paste cubes for ease of measurement later. The prepared paste should be allowed to mature for two or three days before use to bring out the full flavour.

Note that it is better to make the paste milder than to use less than about 2 tablespoons in the final recipe.