I must have really been missing Asia this week because I decided it was time to attempt my first batch of kimchi (BIG fail) and break out the giant wooden mortar and pestle to make some curry paste (FTW!)
By the way, was that a proper application of FTW? I still don’t really get it, but if the 10 year olds I work with and tons of people out in blog-land are using it I figure I should probably attempt to figure it out.
So yes, we hauled a huge wooden mortar and pestle all the way home from Bangkok, and honestly, I’m really happy about it. Of course, you can make curry paste in a blender but there’s just something supremely satisfying about pounding the crap out of a bunch of shallots, lemongrass, and chiles using this. It also comes in very handy for papaya salad, which I’ve professed my love for many times.
I borrowed from the recipes I learned in both the Khmer and Thai cooking classes I took last year and it turned out beautifully. Last night I fried about a tablespoon of it in some oil, added half a cup of coconut milk, and simmered for a few minutes. Then I poured that sauce over some roasted kabocha squash and was happier than I’ve been in quite some time. Mike even said “this totally takes me back to Thailand!” so I figure I must have done something right.
This recipe is obviously extremely adaptable. You can add more or less of anything depending on your preferences, and if you can find some keffir lime leaves (I couldn’t, but I hear they’re available frozen online) then use them! I just used the zest of one lime and it tasted alright to me!
zest of 1 lime
3 thai chiles, stems removed
4 1/4″ slices of fresh turmeric
4 1/4″ slices of galangal
1 shallot, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 stalk lemongrass, thinly sliced
Chop all ingredients very finely, then either mash everything together in a wooden mortar and pestle like the one pictured, or puree in the blender with a few tablespoons of water.