As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~Joan Gussow

Curry Paste–Not Just From a Can Anymore

Back in July, I took a cooking class at Thai Fresh here in Austin. I was excited to finally learn some of the secrets to Thai cooking so I could create the masterpieces in my own kitchen. While at Central Market last week, I happened to find kaffir limes–a key ingredient in many Thai dishes. I threw 3 limes in the bag along with some galangal–Thai cooking was on!

I made Thai Fresh’s Red Curry. The one ingredient that I did not find (but looked for) was the kaffir lime leaves. It’s About Thyme Garden Center does sell the plants, but I talked to the owner and he won’t have any to sell again until next April. Darn.

Curry Paste

  • 5 dried red peppers (The original recipe called for “large ones, soaked and de-seeded”. I didn’t really know what large ones referred to and I couldn’t remember from the class. I ended up soaking 3 guajillo peppers, but next time will use 5 as the curry was not spicy.)
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 7 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp galangal, chopped
  • 1 tbsp  lemongrass, chopped (Grew it in a pot!)
  • 1 tsp kaffir lime zest
  • 2 tsp cilantro stems, chopped
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 1 tsp salt


  1. Put all ingredients into a food processor until a paste is formed. Some water may be added if needed.

Fresh galangal--in the ginger family, but tastes nothing like it

Kaffir lime

Curry paste ingredients from clockwise starting at 9 o'clock: cilantro stems, garlic, shallot, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime zest and peppercorns

Red Curry Recipe

  • Curry Paste you just made (or 1 can Mae Sri brand) red curry paste
  •  2 13.5 oz cans coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 cup water or stock
  • 1 1/4 lbs meat, chopped into bite sized cubes (I used one block of firm tofu, cubed)
  • 2 cups of butternut squash (or any firm veggie), cubed
  • Fish sauce to taste (about 1/4 cup) (I can’t stress HOW important fish sauce is–I would NOT have made this dish without it!)
  • Pinch of sugar (I used several pinches)
  • 1 cup Thai basil (I didn’t have any–used cilantro to garnish)
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves (Again, couldn’t find)


  1. Heat 1 cup coconut cream over medium heat (the creamy part is the top part of the canned coconut milk–do not shake the can).
  2. Stir in curry paste and turn down the heat.
  3. Simmer until fragrant and coconut cream starts to “crack some oil.”
  4. Add the rest of the coconut milk and water/stock and bring to boil.
  5. Add meat/tofu.
  6. When meat is cooked, added butternut squash (If using tofu, just add butternut squash when you add tofu.).
  7. Simmer until squash is fork-tender on medium-low heat.
  8. Add fish sauce 1 tbsp at a time to bring it to your desired taste.
  9. Add a pinch of sugar and taste. Add more if needed.
  10. Add Thai basil and kaffir lime leaves and turn off the heat after 10 seconds.
  11. Serve over rice.

All in all, I think it turned out really well, despite not having the kaffir lime leaves! Can’t wait till April to get my own tree!

Adding the curry paste to the coconut cream

Dinner is served!


2 responses

  1. Alice Rutledge

    This meal looks wonderful – especially in the black bowl!
    If you ever need a kaffir lime leaf, I have a small plant growing in a pot outside the kitchen door. You’re welcome to help yourself.

    November 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm

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