Thai Green Curry Paste

Two of the essential ingredients of gaeng kiow wan — green curry paste — are kaffir lime leaves and galangal. There is no single recipe for a curry paste and you can change the balance and emphasis by, for example, adding more or less chillies, garlic, shallots or galangal. When made with a pestle and mortar, a true paste results, which keeps for a long time in an airtight container. On the other hand, a processor produces quite a wet purée which will not keep as well. The whole point, however, is the impact of the fresh ingredients and, when made in a food processor, the job takes minutes. Packed in jars and filmed with oil, fresh processor-made paste will keep in the fridge for a month. It may also be frozen in ice-cube trays and stored in the freezer in zip-lock bags.


  • 4 tsp belacan (shrimp paste)
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 10 small hot green chillies, chopped, with their seeds
  • 3 long green milder chillies, stems removed
  • 10 Thai red shallots, chopped
  • 10-cm / 4-inch piece of galangal, scrubbed and grated
  • 2 lemon grass stalks, outer leaves removed and sliced
  • 115 g/ 4 oz coriander, including stems and roots
  • 60 g/ 2 oz Thai holy basil
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 8 chopped lime leaves (if you don’t have any, substitute 2 tbsp fish sauce)
  • oil, for filming


Wrap the belacan in foil and grill until fragrant. In a dry pan and over a low heat, toast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and peppercorns for 2–3 minutes until they give off an aroma.

Grind to a powder in a coffee grinder and put into a food processor with the chopped small hot green chillies and their seeds, long green milder chillies, shallots, galangal, lemon grass, coriander, basil, garlic, belacan and chopped lime leaves or fish sauce. Blitz, adding 1 or 2 tablespoons of water through the feeder tube and stopping from time to time to scrape down the sides until you have a thick purée.

Store in a sterilized jar, filmed with oil, in the fridge, where it will keep for weeks. Use 1 tablespoon per 4 servings when frying the other curry ingredients. The precise amount will depend on the heat of the chillies and you really must judge this by taste.