What’s that smell?

Did you notice that every country, and town has its unique smell? A friend of mine brought it to my attention. I never noticed it before until I travelled to Thailand. Besides the humidity smell [mold] typical in tropical countries, and the smug surrounding Bangkok, spices is the predominant smell in Thailand.

It took me some time to identify one particular smell that was prevalent at every street corner: shrimp paste salt. It is used to make curry paste, and was detectable everywhere. Although I did not really care for it, that smell was overpowered by Lemon Grass that is also widely used in Thai Cuisine.

The trip to the indoor market was eye opening. The sheer volume of Thai Ginger getting ready to be sold to restaurants and stores was striking. Thai Cuisine places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components, and known for being spicy. Thai food is known for its balance of the four fundamental taste senses in each dish or overall meal: sour, sweet, salty, and bitter.

We took a cooking class to better understand those fundamentals. Curry paste is the basis for most Thai dishes. There are few variations of curry recipes. All start with the basic curry paste below:

Green or Red Curry Paste

From this basic paste, you can make 3 other paste curry used in various recipes.
Prep Time 30 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Thai


  • 10 Fresh Green Chilies
  • 2 stalk Sweet basil for Green Curry Paste
  • 10 Red Dried Big Chilies Chopped and Boiled for Red Curry Paste
  • 3 tbsp Chopped Shallots
  • 2 tbsp Minced Fresh Garlic
  • 1 tbsp Chopped Galangal Thai Ginger
  • 1 tbsp Chopped Lemon Grass
  • 1 tbsp Thai Ginseng
  • 1 tbsp Shrimp Paste or 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp Chopped Kaffir Lime Peel
  • 1 tbsp Fresh or Dried Coriander root Optional
  • 1 tbsp Turmeric Optional


  • Put all ingredients in a blender and blend well or pound all ingredients together with a mortar until smooth.


Yellow Curry Paste:
  • Red Curry Base
  • ½ tsp of coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp of cumin seeds
  • ¼ tsp of dry pepper corn
  • 1 tsp of curry powder
Phanang Curry Paste:
  • Yellow curry paste
  • ½ tsp of roasted peanut powder
Jungle Curry Paste:
  • Red Curry base
  • A fresh chili and dry small chili.
Pound it together.

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