Red Curry Paste - Beyond the Recipe

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I've made enough chili to understand what kind of pitfalls the beginning chili maker might encounter. Some ingredients give you far more leeway than others. For instance, too many dried chilis are not the end of the world. Too much cumin is. Too little cumin isn't good either. Garlic tends to be a bit unforgiving as well. The ratio of garlic to onion is as important as the ratio of oregano to cumin.

How would you apply this line of thinking to Thai Red Curry paste? Which ingredients are more forgiving to excess than others? Are there any other pitfalls that you could think of that a first timer might encounter?

And please, unless you are certain that you possess THE best Red Curry paste recipe on the planet, please refrain from posting recipes. I'm not looking FOR a fish, I'm hoping to learn HOW to fish (figuratively speaking :smile:)

Any observations/ideas on making Red Curry paste are more than welcome.
 

phatch

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Cook's Illustrated--for good or bad--includes discussion on how they got to their end recipe. That discussion would probably be a bit of what you're interested in. It's in their Soups and Stews cookbook.

Or later, I can paraphrase it if you're interested.

Phil
 
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I would be extremely interested to hear your paraphrased version. Or even just a point or two that you felt stood out. Thanks.
 

phatch

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Some of the highlights:

While Indian curries rely on a mix of ground spices and fresh aromatics (like ginger and garlic), Thai curries tilt the balance toward the fresh aromatics.

The aromatics usually in the form of a paste usually include garlic, galangal (ginger variant), shallots, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste and chiles.

Tranditionally pounded together in a mortar and pestle. CI prefers a food processor or mini chopper for this over blenders. For an unexplained reason, they had better results with mincing ingredients befor adding to processor. Helped it mix without adding too much oil or coconut milk? Not super clear here. The processor paste is a bit grainy, not as smooth as from the M&P.

Serranos thought to be a suitable substitute for the bird chiles, but settled on a mix of serrano or bird and some jalapeno for extra moisture and bulk (to help with processing?)

Preferred the garlic from a press for its smooth texture in the paste. 2 parts shallot to 1 garlic and 1 galangal for green curry paste.

equal parts of shallot, galangal,and chiles for red. about 2 parts lemon grass


No cilantro leaves, but the stems substitute for the roots satisfactorily. Less than 1 part of this, about 2/3. about the same for ground cumin and coriander

a touch of shrimp paste

oil

ginger and lime juice substituted for galangal

I've never made the paste. I've always used the Thai Kitchen brand.

Phil
 
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Phil, that is exactly what I was looking for, thanks.

Maybe my brain isn't working correctly at the moment, but when they say parts, are they referring to parts by weight or parts by volume?

And lastly, this is a bit off topic, but is Cook's Illustrated coming into it's own or have they always been this intelligent? This is the 4th recipe in two weeks that I've gotten from them that seemed like some real thought was put into it. I've always thought most cooking magazines were jokes when it came to well thought out recipes. Is Cook's Illustrated a breed apart?
 
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