In Sauces class we deviated from the classic cream/butter sauces to do something herb/spicy (the other mode of getting flavor). Specifically, Thai red curry paste!
I've only made Thai curry a handful of times, and always with packaged pastes. So making this from scratch was really exciting.
I started out with the dried spices - 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, 2 cardamom pods, 1/2 tsp black peppercorns, 1/2 tsp salt.
Ground all of that with the mortar & pestle until it was powder.
Next were some ingredients I haven't worked with before: galangal (similar to ginger), lemongrass, what is supposed to be kaffir lime (but was actually just regular lime), and what is supposed to be coriander/cilantro root (actually just the stems and leaves). Even in culinary school we have to do Americanized substitutions, haha.
We did get authentic shrimp paste though. This stuff is potent.
The recipe called for 10 dried chilies and 10 fresh chilies (I assume red bird's eye chili), but we made do with what we had. From left to right, I used 10 dried guajillos, 1 fresh fresno and 3 green bird's eye chilies.
Then there was a lot of mincing of the fresh ingredients. Clockwise from the top: 2 teaspoons lemongrass (lower portion), 1 teaspoon lime peel, fresh green chili, fresh red chili, 3 tablespoons shallots, 3 tablespoons garlic, 1 teaspoon galangal, 1 tablespoon cilantro stem, and 1 teaspoon shrimp paste in the middle.
Everything went in the mortar and pestle and was ground up. The dried chilies had to be soaked in water, de-seeded and pureed before it could go in though. All in all the yield was about 5 tablespoons.
For each tablespoon, you sautee it with some oil, add 1/2 cup coconut milk, then a dash of palm (or brown) sugar and fish sauce. We cooked chicken with red bell pepper, basil and kaffir lime leaves. It was delicious.