It’s actually incredibly quick and easy to make a Thai Red Curry Paste at home that’ll knock whatever you can get from the shop out of the park.
My vegan Thai Red Curry paste substitutes rather than omits the traditional shrimp paste and/or fish sauce, so you don’t miss out on that umami they add. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – vegetarians and vegans you need a bottle of vegetarian fish sauce in your cupboard!
This recipe owes a lot to the very wonderful RecipeTin Eats, which is where I learned about using dried chillies instead of fresh. It’s the way to go! I also find that I’m better able to control the spiciness with dried chillies – with fresh I find it can sometimes be a bit like Russian roulette.
What can you use Thai Red Curry Paste for?
Combined with coconut milk, additional seasonings, some vegetables and tofu, this paste will make a delicious vegan Thai Red Curry, but it’s by no means limited to that!
Here are a few of my favourite was to use this paste:
- Fried rice (as pictured)
- Noodle soup (also pictured!)
- Scrambled eggs – just fry off a little paste and stir in the eggs, delicious!
- Compound butter
- Veggie “fish” cakes
It also freezes well if you have any leftover paste you’d like to keep for quick and easy meals in the future!
How spicy is this paste?
How spicy the paste is will really depend on the type of chilli as well as the quantity of paste you use in a recipe. I’ve used a combination of Sichuan Long Dried Chilli and fresh Bird’s Eye, which gives the paste a good kick but not too much. However, spice tolerance varies, so if you’re sensitive you can use milder chillies or less paste – but keep in mind that using fewer chillies can affect the colour of your paste and chillies aren’t just adding heat, they’re adding flavour. I’d suggest using a smaller amount of paste over reducing the chilli quantity!
Top tip: if you find a dish is too spicy then lime juice, coconut milk, sugar and MSG are good options for mellowing it.
The umami element
Fish sauce is a really fundamental ingredient in Thai cooking, but obviously not suitable for vegetarians or vegans. Thai Red Curry Paste usually includes either shrimp paste or fish sauce and, in my opinion, omitting that entirely rather than using a vegan/vegetarian-friendly substitute really loses something.
I’ve used vegetarian fish sauce and kombu flakes (I used the Mara Seaweed brand), which I think works as a great replacement. Feel free to use just one or the other, but don’t lose out on umami by omitting both!
Vegan Thai Red Curry Paste
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1/2tsp black peppercorns
- 13 dried chillies
- 1 red bird's eye chilli(optional)
- 2 banana shallots roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic peeled
- 1stalk lemongrass top and bottom trimmed off
- 15 grams ginger or galangal
- 1 handful fresh coriander
- 1 tbsp vegetarian fish sauce
- 1/2 tsp seaweed flakes
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- Deseed your dried chillies by chopping off the tops of each and shaking out the seeds. Place them into a bowl and cover with about 300ml boiling water. Let soak for about 20-30 minutes while you get on with the rest of the ingredients.
- In a frying pan over medium heat add the cumin, coriander, and black peppercorns and toast for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Add to a spice grinder or pestle and mortar and grind to a powder.
- Add the bird's eye chilli, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger/galangal, fresh coriander, vegetarian fish sauce, seaweed flakes and lime juice to a blender or food processer along with the spice mix and the rehydrated chillies and around 50ml of the soaking liquid.
- Blitz and add more of the chilli soaking liquid if necessary until everything comes together as a paste.
- Your paste is now ready for using! This amount will make around 6 servings of Thai Red Curry.