Firstly, although this is based on the one we learned in Thailand (see earlier post), I actually can't remember the exact recipe. The ingredients are right, and really, the proportions are down to your personal tastes anyway.
Step 1: Get out your mortar and pestle. Bigger is better, and stone is the only material. The others aren't heavy enough, and won't work properly. Bear in mind that I got this from a Chinese supermarket for $20NZ, but I've seen similar ones in ritzy home shops for more than $80...
Step 2: Gather the ingredients. Grow what you can - these herbs tend to be expensive if you can even get them at the supermarket. Plus, you'll feel proud of yourself for growing and making your own Thai curry.
Above: Thai basil, grown from a $3 nursery pot. It's a little different to normal basil (which I guess you could use in a pinch). It has a slightly aniseed scent behind the normal basil smell. You'll be able to tell it apart, as it has kind of purple stems. Below: Kaffir lime leaves. I grow my own little tree, from a $15 plant I got at the nursery. The leaves have two lobes, and little spikes grow on this one, like roses. Mine is thriving, but I think they need quite a bit of sun and humidity.
Below: Onion and garlic. Chop them up a little, they'll grind better.
Now, the bits I had to buy. If I can source all these in one Chinese supermarket in Auckland, you should be able to get them pretty much anywhere:
- Frozen lemongrass (this is really tough, chop it up before trying to grind it)
- Shrimp paste. Stinks like you wouldn't believe. I just chuck in about a teaspoon full.
Step 3: Chop up the ingredients a bit, so that they are easier to moosh up. Also, wear gloves, unless you want to stink like curry and possibly burn your eyes by rubbing them with a stray bit of chilli.
Step 4: Start mooshing in the mortar and pestle. I've read recipes that say you can do this in the food processor, but really....... no. That just chops stuff, you need to really crush it to get the flavour out.
I recommend crushing up the more fibrous ingredients first, and then doing the easy ones like garlic and onion, but that's just what works for me. You'll know you're doing well when the flavour hits your sinuses as you're crushing. Just keep going until it looks like each spoonful would taste the same - you don't need to atomise it!
Step 5: Use your paste! It keeps in the fridge for a few days if you wrap it in cling film.
When you're cooking, fry the paste in a little oil first to release the flavours. Add a bit of fish sauce, lime juice, and of course coconut milk (or half coconut milk, half water).