|Rejoice, Meatless Monday Fans! Veggies are our FRIENDS! - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
I love Thai curries, especially the spicy ones with a heavy garlic/ginger/chili kick, and I love the ease that this intense flavor can be easily added to dishes with the help of a concentrated paste. I've bought different curry pastes and I love the convenience of it, but thinking about Meatless Monday, I looked at a lot of the jarred pastes and saw that there were still creatures of the sea used for flavoring. Fail. Granted, this is part of the complexity of flavor, that unctuous depth that a fermented fish sauce or shrimp paste can add to a dish, but I wanted to see if by removing this element, a curry could still be good and Meatless Monday-friendly. And hey-yo, it was plenty tasty.
|Homemade curry paste goodness with or without meat - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
Get a good food processor, or have a lot of patience if you're doing this with a mortar and pestle. If you're Amish, maybe you'd use a mortar and pestle, but if you're Amish, you're likely not reading this blog post on the Devil's Technology Box. Don't fuss with a mortar and pestle, they're overrated. And if you think it would be all cool and foodie-like to own one, save your pennies for a good food processor and several spice grinders. I rarely use my mortar and pestle and still wonder why the hell I bought it. But getting a couple of inexpensive pepper mills isn't a bad idea -- I have one that's just full of Szechuan peppercorns, along with one for regular peppercorns. Having a spare spice mill is handy for recipes like this, if you want to use whole spices before adding everything into a food processor to fully buzz down. A food processor won't grind the spices completely, and for a paste, you should get everything as finely ground as possible. I would have buzzed this batch of red curry paste down even further, but the Mister was trying to watch TV and me running the food processor was really annoying.
Plan on making the curry paste a few days before you use it. This is where you can't hurry curry. If you're making the paste from scratch, the mixture of fresh and dried ingredients deserve some time to mingle and get to know one another before they get down their bad self in the bottom of a hot wok. Just plan on making extra paste, get a few jars' worth and keep a couple in the freezer for later use -- that's what I do. It'll taste better as everything soaks together in its flavor-mush, so let time be your BFF when making curry paste.
|So many veggies, you won't miss the meat, I promise - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
As a side note, I like adding ground turmeric to curries, just to get that strong golden color, especially since this red curry paste doesn't make the dish bright red. I personally don't notice the turmeric flavor, but I'll toast it a little in the wok with the curry paste and oil before adding the vegetables and the color just distributes with everything.
|Colorful meal and tasty over quinoa in place of rice! - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
Vegetarian Red Curry Paste (makes several cups' worth - save extra in jars and freeze for later)
1 bunch of fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped onion or shallot
1/4 cup garlic cloves
1 tablespoon cumin
4 dried red chile de arbol, stems removed, or fresh thai bird chilis (can add more if you want it super-spicy)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger
2 tablespoons salt
4 tablespoons chopped lemongrass
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
Zest and juice of 1 lime
If using whole spices, grind them down first to a fine powder. Take all the ingredients and place into a food processor to fully pulverize and combine. Make sure no one is trying to watch television, or read, or perform delicate neurosurgery in the next room because it may take a while for your food processor to get everything to a paste. It's fine if you keep it rustic, aka, chunky, just don't be surprised if you get a bite of chili pepper! Use final paste as you would in your favorite curry recipe.