Making the Perfect Thai Curry
Freshness is at the heart of Thai food, and the same applies to curries. So to make the perfect Thai curry it is essential that you try to use good quality fresh ingredients wherever you can. We would always recommend organic or farm-grown for a much fuller experience.
The key to the perfect Thai curry is to get the balance of flavours right, whether it is the sourness, sweetness, saltiness or spiciness. You can read more about the essential 4S of flavours in Thai cuisine in our previous blog post here. To best achieve this, the correct combination of ingredients are needed and in the right proportions. A concentrated paste is made that can be used as the basis of many dishes dish. There are many herb and spice paste recipes available online and in shops that detail the ingredients needed in each of the curries
Making your own Pastes
Getting out your pestle and mortar and applying some elbow grease is actually all you need to make your own delicious Thai curry paste. This is what I've been doing for making years, sometimes hours at a time, making various batches for occasions. The foundations of a perfect Thai curry is built from a great and fresh paste!
Try to dry pan roast your dry ingredients, as well as lightly caramelise your shallots and garlic. Remember when combining the ingredients is to blend it as well as you can, make sure you break down the more fibrous ingredients so that the paste is smooth. It's alright for it to be slightly courser but it will need to be cooked for a little longer to avoid it tasting too grainy or bitter.
Alternatively (and unsurprisingly) you can use Mae Jum Herb and Spice Thai curry pastes, which uses high-quality fresh ingredients blended to a smooth paste ready to cook with.
Getting ready before you start making the perfect Thai curry
Thai cuisine is more in the preparation than the actual cooking. To get the best out of the ingredients you need to avoid overcooking which is one reason why cooking Thai food isn't so difficult or time-consuming. Short cooking times helps retain all the natural goodness and flavour of the ingredients.
In the perfect Thai curry, the vegetables need to be cut into bite-size pieces and introduced into the curry based on the time it would take to cook, root vegetables will need longer so should be added first, while softer vegetables need to be put later, and fresh herbs and lime juice added at the very end. Meats should be thinly sliced, prawns are peeled down to the tail and butterflied. Take a look at some of our recipes here!
Making the curry sauce from the paste
Most Thai curries, other than Jungle curry, use coconut milk to add the texture and sweetness to the dish, so it is very important to use a good quality "full fat" coconut milk. The low-fat varieties are not worth the compromise. Read more about coconut milk in our blog post here!
There are many recipes I have seen, and also some Thai Pastes, that includes OIL as an ingredient, whether it is within the paste, or added to the curry as part of the process. There's no need to add ANY oil when you are using Mae Jum pastes or a fresh homemade paste as we want to keep the whole dish as healthy as we can. Any added oil is usually used to fry off the paste before adding the coconut milk, this is to bring out the flavours of the paste. If you are using Mae Jum's Thai curry paste, then some of the ingredients have already been dry pan roasted.
What I have always done is use the best coconut milk I can find, open an unshaken tin and take several tablespoons of coconut milk into a non-stick pan. Bring the coconut milk to a boil for a couple of minutes, then add and blend the paste. You will see that after 3-5 minutes, the natural coconut oil starts to slit from coconut milk.
Continue to fry your paste in this natural oil until you have a smooth thick sauce. Add the remaining coconut milk as you go along, but without over boiling it, you do not want that rest of the coconut milk to split. This is one of the ways I achieve my perfect Thai curry every time.
Adding the other ingredients
Once the sauce has blended, season to taste with fish sauce and palm sugar, then you can lower the heat. Then add the vegetables and the thinly sliced meat or seafood. This stage should not take longer than ten minutes if the ingredients have been prepared correctly, vegetables usually have a bite to them.
If you are cooking other dishes alongside your perfect Thai curry for a dinner party, I would turn off the heat after the seasoning stage and put to one side. As I mentioned above, the rest of the cooking process is done very quickly. You don't want to leave it simmering for too long, or leaving it to reheat. The only exceptions are Massaman curry, Panang or jungle curry, where beef/lamb and root vegetables are used, in cases like this, it would be beneficial to allow it to stew.
Final steps before serving your perfect Thai curry
Once the ingredients are cooked and you are ready to serve your amazing ( and hopefully) perfect Thai curry, comes the time to add any fresh herbs like red chillies, lime leaves, coriander or sweet basil, or other finishing touches like roasted peanuts, dry chilli to the pan for a gentle stir. A fresh squeeze of lime can be added as a last touch of sourness when plating. The point is to inject some freshness and texture into the dish just before eating. Plus it also looks great too.
As you can see, it isn't so difficult, and you will be amazed at just how authentic you can make your curries by following some simple principles. Fresh paste, fresh ingredients and good quality coconut milk are the things to remember when you are making your homemade perfect Thai curry. But above all, enjoy the experience, experiment with the flavour combinations, and relish in the delights when you share with your family and friends.
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