The End of the Summer Garden: Thai Mussamun Curry Paste

It’s finally starting to look like fall here. I planted my winter garden last week – lettuce, spinach and cauliflower – and harvested three tiny jalapeños. Oh, and a quart of basil leaves!
Instead of making pesto with the basil, I ran it through the food processor with just enough water to process and froze the purée in an ice cube tray. The four cups reduced to eight basil-ice cubes. When I made Thai Tofu Noodle Soup recently, I bought a pound of prepared lemongrass at the Asian supermarket, which I also froze in ice cube trays. With such a bounty on hand, Thai curry paste seemed like a great thing to make.
I used the Mussaman curry paste recipe from Real Vegetarian Thai by Nancie McDermott as a guide, but made quite a few tweaks according to what I had on hand. Mussamun curry paste is a red curry paste with the additions of spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom. I used these, but cut them in half, and used dried cascabel peppers that I had in my garlic basket, as well as some mystery peppers – dried red serranos, I think. I also threw in the fresh jalapeños and replaced the cilantro in the original recipe with basil.
I like the curry paste recipes in this book because, while quite authentic, they don’t call for kaffir lime leaves. I know they’re sale somewhere in this city, but I haven’t found them yet. (Does anybody know where I can find kaffir lime leaves in Houston?)
The cascabel peppers I used were mild, but I guess the mystery peppers weren’t, because my curry paste came out pretty hot. Tomorrow I’ll show you the first curry I made with this.
This goes out to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Haalo of Cook Almost Anything.
 Mussamun Curry Paste

15 dried red finger-length chilies (chiles de arbol or chiles japones)
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
10 black peppercorns (or white peppercorns or 1 teaspoon pepper)
3 stalks prepared lemongrass  – 3 cubes worth if you have frozen on hand
1/2 cup basil leaves (or 1/4 cup cilantro)
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2 or 3 fresh jalapeños (optional, not in original recipe)
10-12 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped galanga or ginger
1 teaspoon finely grated lime peel
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 each cinnammon, cloves nutmeg and cardamom (originally 1 teaspoon each)Remove seeds and stems from peppers. Pour boiling water over them in a small bowl and set aside to soften, 15 minutes or more.

In a small skillet, toast coriander seeds until slightly darkened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Set aside and toast cumin seeds the same way for 1-2 minutes. Grind coriander and cumin seeds with peppercorns in a blender or spice grinder.

Drain red peppers and save the soaking water. In a food processor or blender, grind peppers with remaining ingredients. Add enough of the reserved pepper water to keep the processor blades spinning. Stop and scrape down sides of jar frequently and continue processing until smooth.

Makes 1 to 1-1/2 cups. Freeze whatever you don’t use within a few days.

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6 Responses

  1. wow!
    I absolutely must try this!
    it was impossible to find keffir lime leaves where I live (garda lake -italy)
    so I bought a plant!
    it is very small, and I put it inside in the winter, but it is still with me!

  2. A lime tree is a great idea, Brii! I’m going to look into that.

  3. I have some fresh basil and was considering my options to store it for the winter: your idea of processing it with some water sounds perfect. Your curry paste has an amazing color.

  4. Aha! Now I’ve just got to work up the courage to work with the hot peppers (love eating with them, hate working with them).

  5. I made it today for lunch and we loved it. Thanks! I made a couple of substitutions: I used all fresh chillies and skipped the soaking phase, and used a little coriander and some basil as greens. It turned out very good – the only difference is that, although I used red chillies, it did not turn out red at all, it was green-ish. Any way, it was delicious!

  6. Thanks for the feedback, Caffettiera! I’m glad you liked it.

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