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Curry Pastes: some background

If you’ve used more than a few of our curry pastes, you’ve realized how entirely different each one is from the next. There are countless varieties of Thai curry pastes ranging far and wide throughout the country and changing based on local ingredients. We are not here to be an authority on the subject of Thai curry pastes, but just wanted to put together a little guide of the types we make. Hopefully you’ll learn a little something new and even give you some fun facts to deliver at dinner next time you’re enjoying Thai curry.

GREEN CURRY PASTE (Prik Gaeng Khiao Waan): Central Thai in origin, making its debut around the 1920’s in Royal Thai Kitchens, green curry paste is essentially identical to a red curry paste (prik gaeng phet) but substituting fresh green chiles for dried red ones. Two varieties of fresh green chilies, makrut lime leaves, galangal, cilantro roots, & whole spices like coriander seed, cumin, white cardamom & white peppercorns make green curry paste spicy, bright, & floral. Typically green curry includes Thai round, green eggplants & Thai sweet basil.

SOUTHERN THAI CURRY PASTE (Prik Gaeng Pak Dtai): Southern Thai paste is the backbone of a wide variety of stir-fried dishes, dry curries, coconut milk-based curries, & water-based curries. Fresh turmeric, black peppercorns, & dried red chilies give Southern Thai paste a pretty orange hue and herbal spiciness. Use Southern Thai curry paste for dishes like Khua Kling, a dry curry made with ground meat, or Gaeng Khua Prik, a water-based curry.

KAREE (YELLOW) CURRY PASTE (Prik Gaeng Karee): Influenced by South Asian flavors, karee (yellow) curry paste is made with a curry powder blend of toasted spices like fennel seed, green cardamom, clove, cinnamon, cumin, & turmeric. Gaeng Karee typically includes potato and is finished with fried shallots. Literally translating to “curry curry paste”, karee (yellow) curry paste has many of the usual suspects like lemongrass, shallot, & garlic, but with the addition of “curry powder”, the generic blend of spices created by the British to satisfy their tastes for Indian flavors during/post colonization.

Fun Fact: There’s no such thing as “curry” in Indian cooking, that's just a British catch-all term for heavily spiced, stew-y dishes originating from the Tamil word “Kari” meaning “sauce”. ‘Karee’ or ‘Garee’ is a Thai “loan-word” for Indian/South Asian style curry.

MASSAMAN CURRY PASTE (Prik Gaeng Massaman): Massaman paste is unique in that all the aromatics are roasted before being blended with heaps of toasted warm spices like cinnamon, cumin, cloves, white cardamom, bay leaves, nutmeg, & mace; making it naturally sweet and complex. It’s widely believed that massaman curry was introduced by Persian traders in the 17th century. ‘massaman’ is derived from the archaic Persian word ‘mosalman’, meaning ‘Muslim’. The final consistency ranges from thin & soupy to thick and gravy-like. In Muslim-Thai communities, this curry is typically made with beef, goat, or mutton.

PANANG CURRY PASTE (Prik Gaeng Panang): A red curry paste with the addition of roasted peanuts & nutmeg give panang paste a nutty flavor and rich, smooth texture. Panang curry is typically thicker, sweeter, and creamier than other curries. It’s thought that ‘panang’ is a word derived from ancient Khmer language meaning “cross”, as in “sitting cross-legged”. One theory is that panang curry originated from a dish where whole chickens, legs crossed, were cooked our fire and brushed with thick curry paste. Over time, the dish began being cooked in a pot instead.



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