Green Curry Paste:
Bang Bang Boogie (Part 1)
Ok, so the title is a little obscure. That comes from a phone prank I downloaded from the world wide web probably 10 years ago. This guy refers to himself as Thai but then lets slip he's from Taiwan (which he's obvioulsy not from either due to the horrible accent). He's ordering from a Thai restaurant and everything he's asking for is actually and rapper or rap group. Ten years ago, this was the funniest thing I ever heard. Yes. I am easily amused. And proud of it. It just makes life so much easier.
I have been a fan of Thai food for many a moon and have always wanted to try making it at home. The thing you have to understand, if you've never made any "exotic" cuisine at home, is that if you want it to be right, you gotta do it right. It's the same as with any cuisine from any other place. You're gonna find that some of the ingredients aren't readily available. Do yourself a favor and take the time and effort to hunt down the stuff you can't get at the local grocery. Those are the things that make it so good in the restaurants. Skip them and your dish suffers. Usually to the point of chucking it in the bin. Yes, there's a bit of a commitment both financially (a few bucks) and time-wise but when you're diggin' on it at the dinner table, you'll thank yourself for the extra effort.
One of my favorite dishes is curry. Especially Thai curry with coconut milk. However, being a vegetarian, it's a bit difficult to get around some of the ingredients that typically go into making it. In many of the recipes I've studied, you'll find a calling for fish sauce. And, it turns out, a lot of curry pastes contain shrimp paste. But fear not my friends, I have tracked down very suitable substitutes for these items.
Again, how easily you can find these items depends upon your geographic location. I'm lucky enough to reside in an area of cultural diversity. For example, I have an Asian supermarket, an Indian supermarket and a Mexican supermarket all within a few miles of my house which certainly makes tracking some of this stuff down much easier. But what you can't find in your area, you can find online. And I've done my share of ordering stuff online, believe you me.
I think the toughest ingredient to find for me was kaffir lime leaves. But I found them. You can get them online and they freeze nicely. They are a must in this recipe. As far as vegetarian substitutes are concerned, I read that you can swap fermented bean paste for the shrimp paste. And, as a Japanese friend informed me, that's basically just miso. The one I used ended up being a Korean bean paste (miso) and it worked beautifully. And the last substitute in this recipe is coriander stems (cilantro) for coriander root. I have done a search for this and it's another toughy. In fact, too tough to find locally OR online. I read that stems are an acceptable substitute so that's what I used. When the whether gets better, I'm gonna head to the big home improvement stores' garden section and buy some cilantro plants, tear them out of the pot and get my cilantro root that way. But until then, stems baby, stems.
Am I scaring you? Sorry. But let me tell you, I want to take my curry to a Thai restaurant that I've been going to for years and have the owner try it. It's THAT good.
Ok. I've bored you long enough so let's get down to biz. Just don't let this stuff scare you off. This paste is easy to make and it's wonderful. It can be added to countless different dishes. It freezes well too. If you don't have a vacuum sealer, go get one. If you're too cheap, make sure you wrap your curry tight to stave off freezer burn. I use a tablespoon and scoop out tablespoon portions onto a cookie sheet, freeze them hard and then package them for longer term freezing so I can just pull the exact amount of tablespoons I need, pre-measured. How's that for anal?
Green Curry Paste
- 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fermented bean paste (miso)
- 15 fresh Thai chilies, chopped (Bird's eye chilies)
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 inch piece of galangal, peeled and chopped
- 2 lemongrass stalks, white part only, chopped
- 6 kaffir lime leaves
- 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro stems (if you can find cilantro root, use that instead)
- grated rind of one lime
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
1. Over a medium high heat and in a heavy bottomed skillet, dry fry the coriander seeds and cumin seeds stirring constantly for about 2 minutes until slightly browned. Remove from the heat and grind to a powder using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.
2. Place the ground spices, miso, and chiles in a food processor (or blender) and process until finely chopped. Add the remaining and process to a smooth paste scraping down the sides as needed. You might find that the ingredients might be too "thick" to process. If not, great. But if so, you can add up to a 1/4 cup of water to help it along. Don't add more than that.