When I introduced the Indonesian rhizome known as ‘Galanga’ in a recent ‘Spicery’ post, I promised to put together a spice blend that captured the basic character of the typical sorts of curry pastes used in South-east Asia, while show-casing the particular qualities of this exotic and spicy item. The other ingredients I decided upon for this particular experiment would be at home in both Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian curry recipes so, as the result favors neither one over the other and, since galanga plays such a central role, I have chosen to simply just call it ‘Galingale Curry Paste’ (thus reflecting another fairly common name for the spice)…
- 4 fresh red Chilies;
- 2” piece of fresh Galanga;
- 2” piece of fresh Ginger;
- 1 tsp. Salt;
- 1 tbsp. Cumin Seed;
- 1 tbsp. Coriander Seed;
- ¼ cup Vegetable Oil;
- 6 large Garlic cloves; and,
- 2 large strips of Lemon Peel (pith removed).
Other common ingredients for spice pastes in this region are fermented shrimp paste, Lemon grass, and, especially in Thai cuisine, Cilantro (Coriander leaf) and Coriander Root. I am aiming for a very basic (but extendable) paste so I have kept the amount of chili to a minimum and omitted the shrimp paste. I am not fond of Cilantro (and this is more used in green rather than red Thai curry pastes, anyway) so it will not make an appearance here. I have also substituted a little lemon peel for the lemon grass as it will provide something of the flavor without the rather overly assertive ‘Citronella’ taste that lemon grass can sometimes have.
First, toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan until they release their aromas and then grind them together in a mortar. Next, peel the ginger, galangal and garlic and chop them coarsely, and then finely chop the lemon peel.
Add the chopped ingredients to your food processor along with the salt and then add the oil slowly as the mixture is being processed in order to keep the blades turning and form a smooth paste. Don’t worry if some tiny pieces of chili are still visible.
Finally, turn the mixture out into an appropriate container for storage. If you will not be using the entire contents within a week or so, pour in enough oil to form a thin covering over the surface and prevent long-term contact with the air.
Using the paste
You should find, if you follow this recipe, that the result has a really heavenly aroma. The taste, however, will be a bit pungent and sharp in the raw state and you will probably only wish to use it in cooked preparations. Basically, just use it in any recipe that calls for Thai red curry paste, or similar blends, adjusting the quantity for the heat level and saltiness. If you like, you can cut down on the amount of salt I have used, but a good teaspoon is in order if you plan to store the paste for any length of time.
I will be allowing the paste to sit for a day or so to let the flavors meld and will then be using it in a couple of recipes I have mind. Keep your eyes open for those posts in due course…