Basic Red Curry Paste - Prig Gang Kua พริกแกงคั่ว

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Basic Red Curry Paste or Prig Gang Kua is the curry paste from which nearly all the other curry pastes must have evolved; red curry paste, panang curry paste, namya curry paste, choo chee curry paste, green curry paste and prig king curry paste are all riffs on or add additional ingredients to Prig Gang Kua. The ingredients in the basic curry paste are common in kitchens throughout Thailand. The paste is bright orange with the aroma of Thai herbs and spices.

Basic Red Curry Paste makes 'gang kua' or curries which is often has added grilled fish, dried smoked fish or dried shrimp. Some gang kua add sour agents like kaffir lime juice, pineapple or tamarind. Another characteristic of gang kua is that it can have a hint of sweetness from sugar. The southern gang kua has added fresh turmeric and not as watery as other regions.

See how Basic Red Curry Paste differs from Red Curry Paste.

10 Servings, Prep Time: 25 Minutes, Total Time: 25 Minutes

Tips and Techniques

  • Kaffir lime zest is optional. Some recipe calls for it and some don't. In making basic red curry paste and other curry pastes, the one most difficult-to-find ingredient is kaffir lime zest. Please do not substitute kaffir lime leaves for the zest as you would not substitute lemon leaves for lemon zest in lemon meringue pie. Kaffir lime zest has a distinct scent and flavor and regular western limes are an ineffective substitute. Skip the kaffir lime zest if you can't find the lime.
  • The technique to using a mortar and pestle is to pound down at an angle then drag it, grind and twist it up toward yourself. Use the other hand to cup the opening, to both prevent the contents from bouncing out and steady the mortar. Then pound and pound and pound. It will take a lot of grinding to make smooth curry paste.
  • In Thailand, almost every mother would teach you to seed and soak the dried chili peppers in water before pounding. However, my mother loves technologies and experiments, she found this method messy and harder to grind. Instead she puts her dried chili peppers in a toaster oven for 5 minutes to get rid of the moisture. Once when the peppers are super dried, they are crunchy and easier to grind. Without the water, it's not as messy (picture 2).
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