Southern Thai Curry Paste


Thai curry pastes are essential in preparing Thai cuisine. Today I’m going to show you a recipe for a southern style of Thai curry paste, which makes the base of a number of different popular Thai dishes in the south of Thailand. If you can master this recipe, you’ll be cooking some extremely delicious southern Thai dishes in no time. Be sure to check out the video of this recipe here.

  • 50 g. dry Thai bird chilies – prik haeng (came to a heaping handful)
  • 30 g. fresh Thai bird chilies – prik kee noo (these are the almost neon colored ones)
  • 50 g. garlic (it was about 2 full heads)
  • 50 g. turmeric rhizome
  • 50 g. galangal (I used about a 2 inch chunk)
  • 25 g. shallots (this came to 5 shallots in Thailand, but Thai shallot are pretty small)
  • 5 stalks of lemongrass
  • ½ kaffir lime – we’re only going to use the outer skin for this Thai curry paste
  • 2 tbsp. peppercorns (I think coarsely ground black pepper would work fine as well)
  • ½ tbsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. shrimp paste (don’t omit this!)


The first steps are just to prepare a few of the ingredients to be pounded.

  1. Take the turmeric root, galangal, and shallots, and dice them all into small pieces. Doesn’t need to be too small or evenly cut, this is just going to make it easier to pound. Set them all aside on a plate.
  2. For the lemongrass, first remove two or three of the outermost layers (the outer layers of the lemongrass are tough and not flavorful). Start from the bottom (thicker side) of the stalk and cut off the end, and then slice it into thin slivers, about half the way to the top. Toss out the top half of the lemongrass stalk as its not flavorful and it’s tough also. Set it aside.
  3. Take your kaffir lime and carefully slice off the outer green bumpy skin. You want to slice only the outer green skin, without getting the white pith. Cut the green skin off about half of the lime.
  4. Using a mortar and pestle, start pounding the dry Thai chilies first. They might be a little bouncy as they are dry, but the more you keep on pounding them, the more they will loosen up and their oils will start to form.
  5. Once you’ve pounded the dry chilies for about 10 minutes, add the fresh Thai bird chilies – you can add the stem and all. This may help add some moisture to your curry paste. Keep pounding, maybe for about 15 minutes or so, until the chilies are broken down.
  6. Start adding pieces of turmeric, garlic, and shallots to your curry paste, and keep on pounding and pounding. If your mortar and pestle isn’t big enough, you may need to put some of your paste into a separate bowl and do a couple batches.
  7. Gradually add in all the lemongrass and the kaffir lime peel and keep on pounding. It took me over an hour to pound this southern Thai curry paste. You don’t want any chunks, and you want to fully release the oils of all the ingredients – that’s when you’re going to get the best flavor out of your paste.
  8. Your curry paste should be a nice oily buttery consistency and quite smooth when you’re done. Then add the black peppercorns, and salt, and keep pounding until the peppercorns are completely pounded in. Keep on pounding until you have a beautiful pasty blob.
  9. The final step is to add the shrimp paste. Pound it slowly, more mashing it into the paste. It should get quite a bit stickier and dryer with the addition of the shrimp paste. Once the shrimp paste is fully mixed in, your curry paste is ready.

Making southern Thai curry paste is not too difficult, but it is just time consuming and it does take some serious arm energy. Basically for this recipe, all you just need to do is take all the ingredients mentioned above, and pound them using a mortar and pestle until they become a buttery paste. Though it does take some time and effort, I can assure you, the end result will be nothing short of incredible flavor.

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