Thai Red Curry Paste
8 dried chiles de árbol, stemmed and seeded
1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
seeds from 2 cardamom pods
2 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro (with stems)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 scant teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 large shallot, roughly chopped
1 Holland or Fresno chile, stemmed, seeded, and chopped (I used Serrano)
1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer layers discarded, finely chopped
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
Break the chiles de árbol into pieces, transfer to a small bowl, and cover with 1/2 cup boiling water. Let soak until softened, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, add coriander, cumin, peppercorns, and cardamom seeds to an 8-inch skillet over medium heat. Toast spices, swirling constantly, until very fragrant, about 4 minutes. Transfer spices to a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Set aside, but leave in the grinder.
Strain chiles de árbol through a sieve, reserving liquid. Add rehydrated chiles de árbol, ground spices, cilantro, oil, fish sauce, salt, nutmeg, shallots, fresh chile, lemongrass, and ginger to the ground spices. Purée in spice grinder until the paste is smooth, about 2 minutes. (Sprinkle in a tablespoon or two of reserved chile soaking water to help paste grind if needed. I didn’t need any extra liquid.) Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months. It will not turn hard in the freezer – you can simply spoon out the amount you need.
Makes 6-8 tablespoons curry paste.