Green... the New Red

No doubt you’ve had those days too: you just can't get the exact ingredients you need to make something you’ve planned. Maybe they aren't available locally, or the store was simply out of stock. Either way, you forge ahead and do the best you can with what is at hand.

And that is what happened today. I wanted to make a Thai shrimp curry and I had most of the ingredients to make my own red curry paste except the Holland pepper.

No one at the store had even heard of Holland peppers. "I can substitute a Fresno pepper," I offered. Nope. They didn't have those either. Mark grows hot, red chiles – but they are so small that it would take 100 of them to give me the right amount, so I opted for a Serrano chile - hot, but green (the Holland and Fresno varieties are red). And thus, my red Thai curry paste is green. Green... the new red.

The color really didn't matter, because the taste was great. Next week, I will have the recipe for my Thai-inspired shrimp curry that uses this spice paste, but, for now, here is the recipe for the curry paste.

~ David

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.

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