As the name suggests, Thai green curry paste is a paste used to make a curry originating from Thailand. Its creamy green colour comes from the use of green Chillies and coconut milk. There are many curry pastes available in the UK, including red curry paste made with red chillis. However, Thai cuisine also includes yellow curries made with a milder paste, made yellow by Turmeric. Naming Thai curries by their colour, however, seems to be a Western invention.
How are Thai Green Curry Paste Traditionally Made?
Thai curry pastes are traditionally pounded in a pestle and mortar and then cooked in coconut milk. The use of coconut milk and sugar makes Thai green curries sweeter than curries from power places such as India. However, the use of green Chillies gives the curry a strong kick, tempered by sugar. Overall, the dish is sweet and spicy like this halloumi and broccoli sweet chilli stir-fry.
However, grinding everything in a pestle and mortar is an arduous task and hardly seems necessary with modern inventions. Traditionalists might decry the use of technology and stick with the manual task of pounding everything together, but I use a food processor for ease.
Thai Green Chillies
Thai Green Chillies are also known as birds’ eye Chillies and are used throughout Southeast Asia. However, like all Chillies, they first originated in Mexico and Central America, before the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors spread them throughout the world.
The flavour of a Thai Green Chilli is quite fruity although it packs an extreme punch. They are spicier than jalapenos but fall short of matching the Spice level of a habanero. On the Scoville scale, Thai green Chillies measure around 50, 000 to 100,000 SHU.
Shrimp Paste or Fish Sauce in Thai Green Curry Paste
Shrimp paste is an East Asian condiment made from chopped fermented Shrimp mixed with salt and left to ferment for weeks. While it’s an uncommon ingredient in UK supermarkets, it can be found in markets aimed at Asian communities as it features in many Southeast Asian Recipes. It has a strong unpleasant smell and flavour that evaporates away during cooking leaving behind a powerful sense of umami.
Shrimp paste is used similarly to Thai Fish Sauce in Thai cooking. In Thailand, fish sauce is known as “Nam Pla.” Unlike shrimp paste, most Fish Sauces in the UK use fermented Anchovies. However, both offer a salty umami flavour once the unpleasant pungent flavour has been cooked out. Because shrimp paste is often unavailable near me, I’ve opted to use fish sauce instead.
Galangal, Not Ginger
Galangal is a rhizome related closely to Ginger. It’s often used interchangeably with ginger, but it varies considerably in flavour. They both taste citrusy, but Galangal is stronger with earthier notes. It’s important to note that galangal is the more traditional of the two when making Thai green curry paste. But if Galangal is unavailable, then swap it for the same amount of Ginger.
Thai Basil is a type of Basil from southeast Asia but despite its name, isn’t like what we think of as Basil at all. It’s sometimes called liquorice basil since it has an aniseed-like flavour. If you can’t find Thai basil, don’t panic, a small handful of spinach or coriander can be used as its primary function here is to improve the green vibrancy of the paste and finished curry.
Thai Green Curry Paste
- 4 Green Birds Eye Chillies
- 3 Garlic Cloves
- 2 Shallots Peeled
- 1 Lemongrass Tough Outer Skins Removed
- Thumb-Sized Piece of Galangal or Ginger
- 15 g of Coriander Stalks
- Zest & Juice of ½ Lime
- ½ Tsp of Ground Coriander
- ½ Tsp of Ground Cumin
- ½ Tsp of Ground White Pepper
- 10 g Thai Basil Leaves
- 2 Tbsp Veg Oil
- 2 Tbsp Fish Sauce
- Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until everything is chopped and resembles a paste. Remove and set aside until needed for a curry.