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Red Chili Paste

Red Chili Paste

We’re getting into gardening season here in Chicagoland and as someone who is not abundantly gifted with a green thumb, I have found success with growing peppers as they as pretty easy and low-maintenance to grow. I love Thai red chilies because we love making our own Thai red curry paste. While it’s easy to buy as well, often it comes with fish sauce in it and it’s so simple to make on your own with a knife, a cutting board and a food processor. The other benefit of homemade is you can customize the flavor and heat.

This Red Curry Paste is quite hot so you only need a little bit each time you use it. Feel free to remove the seeds and membranes in the peppers for a milder paste. If you want a medium paste, remove the seeds and membranes in some and not others. In any case, please wear gloves to protect your peepers: that heat can really hurt, especially the eyes. You will need an Asian market or a good international market to find some of these ingredients but it’s worth it! The paste is great in coconut curries, vegetable and tofu stir-fries as well. 


Red Chili Paste
50 Thai red chilies
(prik kee noo), also known as Bird’s Eyes or other variety of fresh hot red chilies, stems removed
3 tablespoons fresh lemongrass*
2 tablespoons fresh garlic,
2 teaspoons ground cumin
cup cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons low-sodium tamari
4 kaffir lime leaves or 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons galangal**
or fresh ginger, skin removed and minced
cup shallots,
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and mix until combined, about a minute. Pause to scrape it down a couple of times. Store in the fridge in an airtight container. This will last a few weeks.

* To use lemongrass, remove the bottom couple of inches and outer leaves. Mince the more tender interior.

** Galangal is more traditional but less easy to find. Ginger makes a fine substitute.

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