Every once in a while I’ll spend a Sunday afternoon making some Thai curry paste. Like I mentioned in my recipe for panang curry paste, a quick trip to the Asian market for a few hard to find ingredients and about an hour in the kitchen with your mortar and pestle will set you up for a good month of authentic Thai cooking at home.

As far as I’m concerned, this stuff is money in the bank.  It keeps for a  up to a month in the fridge and is perfect for pulling together a bona fide Thai meal in minutes.  Stir-fry the paste, some meat and a few handfuls of seasonal vegetables in your favorite wok, add in some stock, palm sugar, fish sauce and Thai basil, throw it all on top of some sticky rice and you’ll be set up for some truly delicious eating.

Unlike a red, green or yellow curry, phrik khing is considered a “dry-style” curry, free of any coconut milk.  Instead, the paste is fried in oil and moistened with a bit of stock to create a sauce that clings to the protein and veggies.  The resulting dish can be characterized as smooth and a bit peppery with fragrant notes of galangal and lemongrass throughout.

So, next time you’re looking for something to cook on a lazy Sunday afternoon, consider making some homemade curry paste and look forward to reaping the rich culinary dividends of delicious Thai meals in the weeks that follow.


From True Thai: The Modern Art of Thai Cooking

Do yourself a favor and get your mise en place in order before setting out to make this paste.  Soak your chiles, wrap your shrimp paste in foil, zest your limes and peel your shallots and you’ll be able to pull the paste together in and efficient, organized fashion.  The guajillo chiles used here are mild and fruity, so if you’re looking for a paste with a bit more heat, feel free to add in some fresh or dried Thai chiles to the mix.  This recipe calls for the use of a mortar and pestle as well as food processor, but you can certainly get away with just using one or the other.  Store it in the fridge for about a month and in the freezer for up to three.


  • 6 large dried Guajillo chilies
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste, wrapped neatly in a double layer of aluminum foil
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh Kaffir lime peel or domestic lime peel
  • 1 large stalk lemongrass, outer leaves discarded, lower stalk trimmed to 3 inches and finely sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped, peeled fresh galangal, or common ginger
  • 1/4 cup chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup shallots


  1. Stem the chilies and shake out most of the seeds. Cut the chilies in half lengthwise and remove any tough, dried ribs. Cut them crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces and put in a bowl. Cover with water and soak for 30 minutes. Set a small skillet on medium heat. Place the foil-wrapped shrimp paste in the skilled and cook for about 5 minutes, until aromatic, turning the packet over once or twice. Remove the packet from the skillet and set aside to cool.
  2. Put the peppercorns in a large, heavy mortar and grind them to a powder. Transfer ground pepper to the bowl of a food processor. Add the salt.
  3. Combine the minced lime peel, lemongrass and ginger in the mortar and pound for a minute to break down the fibers. Pound the garlic and shallots in the mortar just until crushed and transfer to the food processor. Unwrap the shrimp paste and add it to the food processor. Drain the chilies, reserving about 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid. Add the chilies to the food processor.
  4. Process the ingredients until a rich, moist paste forms, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Add a few tablespoons of the chili-soaking liquid now and then, if needed to ease the grinding.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

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  1. Fantastic. Love the idea of using guajillos.

  2. This looks so amazing- I love the beautiful red colour!

    • Ramon
    • September 22nd, 2010

    Frickin good!

  3. True Thai is one of my favourite go to books as validation of a recipe I am making! I first ate at his/their restaurant Siamese Princess over 20 years ago. It was located in LA.

    Victor is now in New Orleans

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