Green Curry Paste

Prik Kaeng Khiew Wan

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Makes

    ¾ cup

    pounded, slightly more if blended

Appears in

This spice paste, verdant from fresh green chilies, is one of the fundamental building blocks of Thai cookery. Kobkaew Naipinij, of the Suan Dusit University in Bangkok, is one of the most respected Thai culinary experts in the world. She took me and my former student Adam Newman (now chef) under her wing during an intensive Thai curries class there, and intimated to us that one traditional way she attains a deeper green color was to add leaves from the chili plant to the paste. Double the amount of coriander to cumin is also another tip she shared with us.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. Cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp. Coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp. White peppercorns
  • 6 small Thai bird chilies, green
  • ½ tsp. Kosher salt
  • 2 stalks Lemongrass, trimmed and sliced very thin, about 1/16 inch (.1 cm.)
  • 1 Tbsp. Finely grated galangal
  • ¼ tsp. Ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. Minced cilantro root or 1 Tbsp. minced cilantro stems
  • 2 tsp. Kaffir lime zest or 4 tsp. shredded kaffir lime leaves
  • 3 small Shallots, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3 Long green chilies, chopped (½ cup chopped) or other hot green chili
  • 1 tsp. Thai shrimp (gkapi), toasted

Method

  • In a small, dry sauté pan over low heat, individually toast cumin (dark brown), coriander seeds (light brown) and peppercorns (just until fragrant). Transfer to heatproof bowl and cool.

Make the Curry Paste

  • If using a blender: pulverize spices together in a spice grinder or blender, making them into a fine powder. Place into the blender this order: shallots, garlic, bird chilies, long chilies, salt, and ¼ cup water. Puree until smooth, scraping sides down often to stir in stray bits. BE PATIENT: resist the urge to add more water than needed to make it puree faster. Once mixture is semi-smooth, add lemongrass, galangal, spices, kaffir lime zest, cilantro root, and shrimp paste. Grind until very smooth.

    If using a mortar: Begin by pounding spices until fine. Add chilies and salt; pound until semi-smooth. Add lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, cilantro root, and kaffir lime zest; pound until lemongrass disintegrates. Add garlic, shallots, and fresh chilies; pound until a smooth even green curry paste is achieved. Pound in toasted shrimp paste. (See for more on using a mortar and pestle.)

  • Transfer to container, press small swatch of plastic wrap on surface to store in refrigerator. The fresher the better, but it can be used for up to one month.