Green curry paste (kreung gaeng keo wahn) is a blend of fresh green chilies and herbs and is used mainly to make Green Curry. This type of paste usually includes fresh green chilies, shallots, lemongrass, white pepper, coriander root, garlic, kaffir lime rind, shrimp paste and sea salt. Sweet basil leaves, round green eggplant and kaffir lime leaves add to the overall lovely green hue in the final curry dish.
Red curry paste (kreung gaeng phet daeng), with a ruddy hue, is the most versatile of the curry pastes, being used in the widest range of dishes, including coconut milk-based Red Curry Chicken with Bamboo (Gaeng Phet Naw My Gy). Red curry paste can be made with dried long red chilies (prik chee fah), cilantro root, coriander, cumin, garlic, shallots, kaffir lime rind, white peppercorn, lemongrass, shrimp paste, sea salt and galangal.
Yellow curry (gaeng leung or gaeng karee ) is a Thai version of Indian yellow curry, including some dried spices in the curry paste. Yellow curry paste (nam prik gaeng karee) is a mellow sweet-spicy paste blend based on turmeric and curry powder pounded together with coriander, cumin, lemongrass, galangal, shrimp paste, dried red chilies, sea salt, ginger, garlic and shallots.
Panang, which is named for the island off Malaysia’s West coast and is the basis for a richer, sweeter and drier curry. Using less coconut milk then red or green curry, Panang curry is topped with thick coconut cream and usually served on a plate. Panang curry paste can include dried red long chilies, shallots, garlic, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime rind, coriander root, white pepper, salt and shrimp paste. Peanuts are also sometimes added to the curry paste, making this curry especially popular with foreigners.
Masaman curry includes Persian influenced, dried spices and is therefore rather unique amongst Thai curries. Originating in the deep South of Thailand on the border with Malaysia, where the population is largely Muslim, it is most often prepared with lamb or beef as the Islamic religion forbids the consumption of pork. Masaman curry paste combines dried red chilies, shallots, garlic, galangal, lemongrass, coriander, cumin, cloves, white pepper, salt and shrimp paste. The curry dish itself includes peanuts and whole spices such as cinnamon, white cardamom and nutmeg, which is unusual for a Thai curry. It is a thick stew-like curry, mild in taste, and slightly sweet with the taste of roasted spices.
See the original page for great suggestions on which foods to eat each with.
Indian versus Thai Curries
Curry powder is not something you will likely find in India. During the mid-17th century, members of the British East India Company became familiar with the term kari, when trading spices with Indian merchants. The mix became popular in Great Britain, where they started selling a pre-ground mix dubbed “curry powder.”
The yellow-orange powder you see in stores is commercially prepared with a mix of spices like coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek and chili peppers. It gets its yellow color from the turmeric. Many of these same ingredients closely reflect garam masala, a spice mix used in north India. You can make your own garam masala by toasting whole spices like cardamom seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, cloves, dried chilies, cinnamon and nutmeg, then grinding them into a powder. You can keep this mixture for up to a month in an airtight container, but it best used quickly while the flavors are fresh.
While Indian dishes tend to use more dry spices, Thai cuisine often uses curry paste and fresh herbs instead. Thai curries are cooked for a shorter period of time and typically include vegetables, chicken, seafood accented with fresh herbs like mint, cilantro and basil. They also tend to be soupier, thanks to the addition of coconut milk or water.
Unlike Indian curries, in which where the spice lingers on the palate, Thai curries deliver the heat upfront because of those fresh ingredients. Thai curry paste usually is made of fresh chilies, lemon grass, galangal (ginger), garlic, shallot, kefir lime leaves, cilantro roots and shrimp paste, with spices like cumin seeds, coriander seeds and turmeric.The red chilies that make red curry paste are moderate in heat; fresh green chilies give green curry pastes a spicy kick; and the yellow peppers in yellow curry paste are the most mellow.