I don’t use commercial curry pastes or powders very often as I much prefer to blend my own. However, Patak’s Hot Curry Paste is a product I usually keep on hand and it is worth a mention here.
When I was about 8 years old and living in Britain, my father took me into London one afternoon (to see a movie, I think) and we ended up having dinner in an Indian restaurant. I remember very little of that meal except for a dish of prawns in a reddish gravy. That taste is still with me over 40 years later. Once I started cooking for myself in my twenties, I tried and tried to reproduce that memorable dish but I was never, ever able to get close until I stumbled across this particular product. I still can’t identify the specific component of the paste that is responsible for the unique taste I remember, but I keep a jar on hand for whenever I want to cook that prawn dish as part of an Indian meal. I also find it useful for when I just want to add a little curried spiciness to some preparation or other but don’t want to spend the time blending something up from scratch.
Patak’s has a very nice line of Indian food products (see them here). One of our local stores used to carry a lot of them some years back but they haven’t had any for quite a while now, for some reason. Accordingly, I pick up a jar or two of the hot curry paste when I’m down south. In addition to curry pastes, Patak’s also has a good variety of pickles and chutneys. My wife is very partial to the Green Chili Pickle they produce and she uses it as a condiment with lots of things. I like it myself and I would have to say that of all the various brand-names of Indian food products, Patak’s definitely stands out in my mind as being of good quality.