DISCLAIMER: This post is kind of a recipe but it's probably more of a curious read than something you'll actually want to make...I take NO responsibility for injuries sustained from knife cuts, pounded fingers or searing chile pepper oils...
This year I decided to make a little batch of made-from-scratch Thai Green Curry Paste for some Livingstons I know. I got this recipe and learned how to do it when I took some cooking classes in Chiangmai, Thailand 2 years ago. This certificate (which, as you can see, had some difficulty with the trip home) says I can cook Thai stuff.
I wouldn't say I completed 3 days of "healthy" Thai cooking....I guess it's healthy compared to, say, a triple bacon burger and fries but we did our fair share of frying. My classmates those three days were all Filipino (it's right, my spellcheck says so!!) culinary students who, rather than read about Thai cooking in a textbook, they hop a quick and cheap flight to Thailand and do this. Pretty awesome.
Anyway, all that to say I consider myself some semblance of a Thai chef :-)
The first few things you have to do in order to make your own green curry paste are:
1) enjoy pain
2) enjoy tedious work
3) realize that you can buy pre made curry paste for cheap and come to terms with that
4) identify a really good Asian grocery store
I don't actually enjoy either of the first two, but I get it done. The fourth is REALLY important. We're lucky in Houston...it's a big city and there are Asian stores everywhere. My mother in law who lived in Indonesia and Malaysia says it's easier to make Asian food in Houston than it is in those countries! Fun times for wierdos like me. Anyway, find your Asian store and get your ingredients!
Here's your ingredient list for the paste. I'll include some tips for non-Asians...for the 2 of you who might actually try this mess
INGREDIENTS: (makes a little ball that serves about 3-I usually end up tripling it or more)
15 fresh green chiles (small hot ones about 2 inches long-not jalapeños!!)
3 tbs diced shallots
1 tbs minced garlic
1/4 cup peeled chopped galangal (like a mustardy tasting Ginger but you can't substitute regular Ginger, gotta find it!)
1/2 tbs chopped lemongrass
1 tsp ginger (regular Chinese ginger)
1 tsp shrimp paste (comes in a jar, sometimes labelled shrimp sauce...use the same amount of salt if you can't find it but you'll miss the taste if it's not there. It smells like the inside of a fish tank but it mellows when its cooked)
1/2 tsp chopped kaffir lime peel (i can almost NEVER find these limes even in Houston, regular lime peel has to do)
1 tsp chopped cilantro STEMS
1 tsp peeled chopped turmeric root (looks like caterpillars with bright orange insides...the same amount of turmeric powder will do but you lose some intensity)
WARNING: I would use rubber gloves for most of this process...a biohazard suit would ensure your complete protection from flying chile pepper juices)
1) Put garlic, chiles, and turmeric into a (rough granit-y type) mortar and pestle and pound well
2) Add lemongrass, galangal (good luck with chopping that stuff by the way...hope you don't have arthritis. I recommend a date with a heavy duty food processor) cilantro stems, and lime peel and pound well
3) Add shallots and ginger and pound well
4) Add shrimp paste and pound the @&)#% out of it until your hands fall off. Seriously.
To do it right, you should pound it until it's a smooth paste. I just can't do that so I pound it until I'm sick of doing it and then put it in the food processor for a few minutes. The pounding is important to really gel the flavors together (not just chop them up together), but there's a limit, people.
You could put it in the fridge now but it would spoil in a couple of days so you need to cook it. Heat a wok to blistering hot, add some vegetable oil and swirl to coat the sides.
Put in the paste and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Keep it moving!! If it burns and ruins at this point, you'll want to jump off a bridge. Or lick the pestle that you beat the chiles with, it will have about the same effect on your quality of life.
Now that it's cooked, it will last up to 4 months in a closed jar in the fridge.
If you've completed this recipe and gotten to this point, congratulations, you're as insane as I am! I'll print you a certificate, but make sure and don't put it in the bottom of your backpack for an 8 hour flight.
So there! Christmas presents for the Livingstons! If you're wondering if it's worth it to do this when you can buy a can of it for a dollar, the answer is...maybe once :-). I enjoy it but I enjoy all kinds of weird stuff.
Get off your computers, find an Asian store and some arm strength and get to it!
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