Homemade Thai Red Curry Paste; Growing Chilis and using them.
In 2009 I began growing some chili plants in my room at Uni, however, when I moved back to my parents for the summer holiday I decided to plant them in the garden rather then take them home and risk breaking their stems during a 3 hour car journey. I started growing them too late and left them out in the cold for too long, they never flowered even after nearly a year of growth.
So in spring 2010, I decided to try again, using the same seeds (a Thai variety known as Bird’s Eye or Mouse Poo chili) and some given to me by a hippie saying they were probably jalapeños but he wasn’t sure. I planted both types in seed trays around April, then potted the healthiest seedlings 3 per pot, before culling the weakest two from each pot. I took them back to my parents house in the car when I moved, fed them lots of tomato fertilizer, kept half in mums greenhouse, half on a windowsill. Spent several weeks fertilizing them every few days with cotton buds before taking them to my new flat in Exeter. Each plant produced 50+ flowers, and every fertilized flower produces a chili so I got quite a good crop. The Thai ones are extremely hot and exactly to my liking, but the others were a bit bland and disappointing, although they had a nice shape and colour.
I got two periods of cropping in total, I used most of the first lot to make Thai Red Curry paste, sliced into little cubes them frozen for easy use later (see recipe below) and have decided to dry the second lot (dried chili is also an ingredient in the curry paste recipe, although, for the sake of my stomach I used a mild type, this is a very hot recipe!). Drying is a very easy task when you are using thin skinned chili’s with a low moisture content like these. Thick skinned or high water content chili’s are better used making sauces, they are more likely to rot if you try to air dry them. For the chili’s I grew to dry, they simply need to be left in a dry airy place. I tied some together by the stems and hung them by the window, and put the others in a small cloth sack, which I also hung by the window. Simple and easy, just leave them a few weeks.
Thai Red Curry Paste: makes enough for about 8-12 servings, depending on taste
- 20 De-seeded Dried Long Red Chili’s (I used Yidu Chili’s from my local Chinese supermarket, Yidu probably just means dried, but I don’t know), very long, very red, and fairly mild
- 20 Fresh Birds Eye Chili’s, as hot as you can take them
- 2 Tablespoons Coriander Seeds
- 4 Cardamom pods
- 1 Teaspoon Black Peppercorns
- 1 Teaspoon salt
- 1 Inch Galangal (go to an Asian Supermarket) or Ginger, chopped
- 1 Lemongrass stalk, peeled and chopped
- Juice of a Kaffir Lime, or a normal Lime if you can’t find any, I can’t!
- 2 tablespoons chopped Coriander
- 1 / 2 Cup chopped Shallots
- 6 Large Garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 Teaspoons Fish Sauce
- Soak Dried Chili’s in warm water for 10 mins
- Separately toast the coriander, cardamom and pepper corns till fragrant. Do not burn! throw away and start again if you do. Crush in a pestle and mortar, set aside.
- Add all the remaining ingredients into the pestle and mortar and pound (in stages unless you happen to own a giant mortar) until you have a paste, it doesn’t have to be completely even.
- Stir in the spices
- Chop then blend everything, the texture is a lot more boring.
Should you want to keep the paste for a while rather then use it straight away, fry it for 2 – 4 mins, and then either seal in an airtight jar and refrigerate for up to two weeks or freeze indefinitely, its a good idea to spit it into roughly 2 ” cubed portions before freezing so you only have to defrost the amounts you need to use.
If any people like this, I will happily do a post on different meals that can be made with Red Curry paste, like ‘Pork and Green Beans in Red Curry’ or other types of Thai food I especially like, such as ‘Thai style fried Fish’ and ‘Green Curry’.