How to Make Southern Thai Curry Paste (วิธีทำเครื่องแกงเผ็ดใต้)

By Mark Wiens 33 Comments
วิธีทำเครื่องแกงเผ็ดใต้
Southern Thai curry paste

I’ve already mentioned this a few times before, but Thai curry pastes are the foundation of Thai cuisine.

They are not only used in making a different variety of Thai curries, but they are also the spice and herb mixture that gives flavor to soups, and many different Thai stir fried dishes as well.

You already know how to make Thai red curry paste, but since my wife is from the south of Thailand, one of the most common Thai curry pastes we have sitting around our home in Thailand on a daily basis (and a paste my mother in-law cooks with frequently) is called kreung gaeng ped dai (เครื่องแกงเผ็ดใต้) – or southern Thai style curry paste.

NOTE: The south of Thailand is the Malay peninsula part of the country, usually beginning in the Prachuap Khiri Khan province, and all the way south to Malaysia.

turmeric rhizome
You’ll need some fresh turmeric

While many of the ingredients are similar to that of other curry pastes in Thai cuisine, you can normally recognize southern Thai curry paste because of its distinct yellow color, a result of adding fresh turmeric to the mixture.

As I start to share more southern Thai recipes, you’ll start to see that southern Thai cuisine makes frequent use of fresh turmeric – especially in soups and curries and pastes, and even in fried fish.

shrimp paste
Shrimp paste is essential

Another distinction between southern Thai curry paste and other curry pastes is that it usually contains a higher amount of shrimp paste, which is a popular flavor enhancing ingredient in the south of Thailand.

Thai shrimp paste
Here’s the shrimp paste out of the tub

Thai shrimp paste gives the curry paste its salty component, and although it might smell quite strong on its own, it really combines well with all the other ingredients and you’ll hardly smell or taste that pungent fermented shrimp paste when you’re cooking with it.

All that to say, don’t omit or substitute the shrimp paste, it’s essential.

Thai recipes
Dry black peppercorns

Normal dry black peppercorns are also one of the main ingredients in this recipe, providing a bit of extra heat, and that wonderful strong black peppery flavor.

พริกแห้ง
Thai dry bird chilies (พริกแห้ง)

One of the things I love about southern curry paste is that the recipe includes both dry Thai chilies, known in Thai as prik haeng (พริกแห้ง), as well as fresh Thai bird chilies.

This gives the curry paste not only that dry smokey flavor, but also that fresh green chili flavor as well.

พริกขี้หนู
prik kee noo (พริกขี้หนู)

The prik kee noo (พริกขี้หนู), or fresh Thai bird chilies, are not only spicy with heat, but they are also so fragrant and when pounded, they release oils and chili juice.

วิธีทำเครื่องแกงเผ็ดใต้
The ingredients you need to make southern Thai curry paste

Ok, now that we went over some of the key ingredients for this recipe, I’ll just list everything here, but you can also go below to check out the more official recipe box.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

  • 50 g. dried Thai bird chilies – these are called prik haeng in Thai
  • 30 g. fresh Thai bird chilies – prik kee noo (I used about a small handful)
  • 50 g. garlic (it was about 2 full heads)
  • 50 g. turmeric
  • 50 g. galangal (One 2 inch chunk)
  • 25 g. shallots (in Thailand the shallots are small, so I used about 5 small shallots)
  • 5 stalks of lemongrass
  • ½ kaffir lime – and we’re only going to use the skin for this recipe
  • 2 tbsp. dry peppercorns (you could also use coarsely ground pepper if that’s what you have)
  • ½ tbsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. shrimp paste (you should be able to buy this at any Asian supermarket)

That’s all for the ingredients, now let’s get started making it.

Thai curry paste recipes
Southern Thai curry paste recipe

Preparing the curry paste

Just like other Thai curry paste recipes, the method of preparation is actually quite simple, it’s just time consuming – it takes a long time to get that smooth buttery paste that you’re looking for.

วิธีทำเครื่องแกงเผ็ดใต้
Slice all the ingredients to make them easier to pound

Basically just take all the ingredients, slice them into thin small pieces, and then start pounded away, until all the ingredients have turned into a paste.

start pounding
Now just starting pounding

I often start with the chilies, and then keep adding other ingredients as I go along, but really, as long as everything is in there and blended together, it doesn’t really matter what order you add everything.

In the video (watch it below), you’ll probably notice that I actually have to take my mortar and pestle down to the floor, in order to get more leverage and be able to pound from above – it really helps.

Thai curry paste recipe
Keep on pounding and keep on adding

There is one exception though… you don’t want to add the fermented shrimp paste until the very end, when you’re just about done pounding.

The shrimp paste is already a paste, so it doesn’t need more pounding, and as soon as you add it, you’ll find that your curry paste gets extremely sticky and thick and takes a lot more power to pound.

Southern Thai food
Your paste should be a beautiful orange color

At this stage of the recipe, you really don’t need to do much other than just keep on pounding and pounding.

You’ll slowly see your southern Thai curry paste going from chunky and being able to recognize all the ingredients, to smooth and oily.

And how could you not love that beautiful color of the fresh turmeric?

(Warning: Do be careful of touching the hot chilies with your hands. If you use your hands, like I did, they will burn from touching the chilies, which I don’t really mind, but if you do, be sure to use gloves)

Thai curry paste recipe
The amount of flavor packed into this paste is incredible

Why not use a blender or food processor?

You might be wondering, why not just blend up all the ingredients, or throw everything into a food processor? That’s a great question.

The reason to pound everything by hand is that when you grind and bruise all the ingredients, they slowly release all their oils, which translates to flavor. And this doesn’t happen as well when you quickly blend them all up.

However, if you don’t have an hour or two to prepare the curry paste, it would still work to use a blender or food processor.

(NOTE: If you use a blender of food processor, be aware that turmeric will stain everything you use yellow)

(If you can’t see the video, watch it here: http://youtu.be/kVldpua3uLA)

Southern Thai Curry Paste Recipe (วิธีทำเครื่องแกงเผ็ดใต้)

Time: About 1.5 hours to get a nice paste
Recipe size: This recipe makes a small soup bowl full of curry paste – which is probably about 20 tablespoons or so
Cooking utensils: Mortar and pestle
Flavors: Spicy and salty
Eat it with: We’ll use this southern Thai curry paste for a number of southern Thai recipes (more coming soon)

WARNING: Touching chilies while making curry paste can make your hand burn (feel likes it’s on fire!), so even though I didn’t wear gloves in the video, it’s best to wear gloves if you can.

For more Thai recipes click here.

4.8 from 10 reviews
How to Make Southern Thai Curry Paste
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Thai curry pastes are essential in preparing Thai cuisine. Today I'm going to show you a recipe for a southern style of Thai curry paste, which makes the base of a number of different popular Thai dishes in the south of Thailand. If you can master this recipe, you'll be cooking some extremely delicious southern Thai dishes in no time. Be sure to check out the video of this recipe here.
Author:
Recipe type: Curry Paste
Cuisine: Thai Food
Ingredients
  • 50 g. dry Thai bird chilies - prik haeng (came to a heaping handful)
  • 30 g. fresh Thai bird chilies - prik kee noo (these are the almost neon colored ones)
  • 50 g. garlic (it was about 2 full heads)
  • 50 g. turmeric rhizome
  • 50 g. galangal (I used about a 2 inch chunk)
  • 25 g. shallots (this came to 5 shallots in Thailand, but Thai shallot are pretty small)
  • 5 stalks of lemongrass
  • ½ kaffir lime - we're only going to use the outer skin for this Thai curry paste
  • 2 tbsp. peppercorns (I think coarsely ground black pepper would work fine as well)
  • ½ tbsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. shrimp paste (don't omit this!)
Instructions
The first steps are just to prepare a few of the ingredients to be pounded.
  1. Take the turmeric root, galangal, and shallots, and dice them all into small pieces. Doesn’t need to be too small or evenly cut, this is just going to make it easier to pound. Set them all aside on a plate.
  2. For the lemongrass, first remove two or three of the outermost layers (the outer layers of the lemongrass are tough and not flavorful). Start from the bottom (thicker side) of the stalk and cut off the end, and then slice it into thin slivers, about half the way to the top. Toss out the top half of the lemongrass stalk as its not flavorful and it’s tough also. Set it aside.
  3. Take your kaffir lime and carefully slice off the outer green bumpy skin. You want to slice only the outer green skin, without getting the white pith. Cut the green skin off about half of the lime.
  4. Using a mortar and pestle, start pounding the dry Thai chilies first. They might be a little bouncy as they are dry, but the more you keep on pounding them, the more they will loosen up and their oils will start to form.
  5. Once you’ve pounded the dry chilies for about 10 minutes, add the fresh Thai bird chilies - you can add the stem and all. This may help add some moisture to your curry paste. Keep pounding, maybe for about 15 minutes or so, until the chilies are broken down.
  6. Start adding pieces of turmeric, garlic, and shallots to your curry paste, and keep on pounding and pounding. If your mortar and pestle isn’t big enough, you may need to put some of your paste into a separate bowl and do a couple batches.
  7. Gradually add in all the lemongrass and the kaffir lime peel and keep on pounding. It took me over an hour to pound this southern Thai curry paste. You don’t want any chunks, and you want to fully release the oils of all the ingredients - that’s when you’re going to get the best flavor out of your paste.
  8. Your curry paste should be a nice oily buttery consistency and quite smooth when you're done. Then add the black peppercorns, and salt, and keep pounding until the peppercorns are completely pounded in. Keep on pounding until you have a beautiful pasty blob.
  9. The final step is to add the shrimp paste. Pound it slowly, more mashing it into the paste. It should get quite a bit stickier and dryer with the addition of the shrimp paste. Once the shrimp paste is fully mixed in, your curry paste is ready.
Notes
Making southern Thai curry paste is not too difficult, but it is just time consuming and it does take some serious arm energy. Basically for this recipe, all you just need to do is take all the ingredients mentioned above, and pound them using a mortar and pestle until they become a buttery paste. Though it does take some time and effort, I can assure you, the end result will be nothing short of incredible flavor.

How to make southern Thai curry paste recipe
Southern Thai curry paste (เครื่องแกงเผ็ดใต้)

Conclusion

Although making Thai curry paste by hand is time consuming and takes plenty of energy, the end result of the flavor will not disappoint you.

All those chilies, the garlic, shallots, pepper, lemongrass, turmeric, and galangal, and all their oils mingled together is a combination that can make anything you cook with it taste incredible.

Once you have made this recipe for southern Thai curry paste, you can then go on to make a number of other southern Thai dishes you’ll love:

Hope you enjoyed this recipe!

If you loved this recipe, I would be extremely grateful if you would give it a 5-star rating, leave a comment below, and share it with one of your friends who loves cooking Thai food too.

Thank you in advance.



33 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Anushree Seksaria

    3 months ago

    Hey. I am a vegetarian from India. I can find all the ingredients here, but i seriously cannot and do not want to use the shrimp paste. Please help me out – give me an explanation pls as i do understand when u mentioned not to subsitute or omit it. I kno i wont get hte flavour without it. so what else can i do? i dont want an average curry paste.

  • Kim

    3 months ago

    Here in Portland, Oregon we have several large Asian markets on the south east side, and some great Thai restaurants. My favorite is Chicken noodle, and I get green curry sauce on the side. They make it with wide rice noodles, and I got those at the market, but the recipes I’ve found are for things that look like soup. Would love to make it if someone (like you) could post a video. It has green onions, lettuce, chicken, and noodles . It’s not soup like at all.

  • Kim

    3 months ago

    Watched your mother in law make that wild duck. I bet it smelled wonderful but the peppers would have burned my face off.

  • Robert

    5 months ago

    Hey Mark,
    Being based in Scotland, I am trying to source all the ingredients that I would need to have a go at making this but I am struggling to get access to Kaffir Lime peel. do you have any idea’s on what would a suitable replacement for it? Other than this i am pretty much ready to go ahead, buy all the ingredients (and a pestle & mortar!) and give this a try.
    Love the site, keep up the awesome work.

  • rose

    5 months ago

    Thankyou for the detailed recipe. Have tried making it and its delish!

  • Gilbert Wong

    5 months ago

    This is an awesome recipe Mark. An hour and a half of pounding for this Southern Thai Curry recipe. Hard work pays off in a delicious curry.

  • Sean

    6 months ago

    I’ve been making ‘authentic’ dishes at home for some months now and luckily as I have dipped my toes into it I had access to pastes that aren’t generic off the shelf variety (including southern and sour pastes), but I was still nervous to try making my own paste, until yesterday! Awesome explanation and because I love southern Thai food so much this was the first paste I made myself, so thanks a million!! One question though; your recipe made quite a bit of paste, so any other recipe ideas other than the two you mention? My wife can’t eat legumes so that one is out, and I would love to try something else instead of khua kling. Thanks!

  • Kalorin

    7 months ago

    OMG! This looks like work but I am so SO excited to try it! Your whole blog is amazing….Book marked you already lol.. Thanks for sharing! Been craving this dish for dayssssss..

  • Kris bellekens

    8 months ago

    Hi Mark,
    I love wath your doing here, great recipes and noce photos.
    If I cannot find turmeric root, can I use turmeric powder instead !
    Keep up the good work !
    Greetz Kris, Belgium

    • Mark Wiens

      8 months ago

      Hi Kris, good to hear from you, thank you very much. Hmmm, I think turmeric powder should work, but you’d lack the oils from the fresh turmeric, but I think it will still work alright. Enjoy!

  • Cindy

    8 months ago

    I am so so happy I found you!!! You are just awesome, way better than any other celebrity foodies out there because you share recipes I can actually fOllow! Everytime I see your videos i want to eat. Thanks for sharing and keep up the excellent work!!!!

    • Mark Wiens

      8 months ago

      Hey Cindy, thanks for the kind words, and awesome to hear that you can follow these recipes. Thank you and enjoy!

  • John

    8 months ago

    Do I need to peel all the veggies?

    • Mark Wiens

      8 months ago

      Hey John, normally I would only peel the garlic and shallots, but not the root herbs.

  • Tim Pearson

    8 months ago

    Hi Mark, love receiving you posts, find them very inspiring and makes me want cook the dishes (and visit Thailand!) which I will in May. Love Thai food thanks for the inspiration.

    • Mark Wiens

      8 months ago

      Hey Tim, thank you very much. Wow, great news that you’ll be visiting Thailand soon!

  • Emmet

    8 months ago

    How long will this paste keep in the fridge? Great photography.

    • Mark Wiens

      8 months ago

      Hey Emmet, it should keep for a couple weeks in the fridge. Thanks!

      • Rachel

        2 months ago

        Hi Mike very impressive I like to try new recipes but I don’t know if Thai stores in Dallas Tx have all your ingredients. Veil find out. Can this paste be kept in fridge with olive cooking oil floating on top in tight closed glass container for several months? I have been able to preserve fried chillies for many months using olive oil

  • jonathan

    9 months ago

    SHRIMP PASTE not essential I eaten and made Curry for years.. And I am highly Allergic to Shrimp… For unknown Reasons The allergy become very common (perhaps due to pollution) .Fish paste is used as commonly in Thai cooking and easily replaced with Anchovy Paist.

  • Elvira

    1 year ago

    Hi Mark,
    This looks wonderful. I tried making it but here in the Netherlands you can’t find those beautiful ingredients so easily. I found fresh bird eye chills, but they were green, and the dry ones I could not find, so I used something else, they were a type of small chillies from Sudan and I assume that they are much hotter then the dried bird eye chillies, much much hotter, because when I was frying it , all I could smell was hot chillies, and I was coughing like crazy, there were deffintly no beautiful aromas of lemon grass or any other ingredient except chilli. I was wondering if you can my be recommend a replacement to the bird eye chillies, I had no experience with them so I would not how they taste or how hot they are.

    Thanks, and keep up the good work,
    Greetings from the Netherlands
    Elvira

  • Vanessa

    1 year ago

    Hi Mark,

    Absolutely fantastic! Everytime I read your blog, the pictures just make me hungry!

  • Kirti Patel

    1 year ago

    Very tasty southern Thai curry paste,&very very useful in making many different curries. I liked it very much and request you may send me many more recipes at my email address
    Thank you very much.

  • Kiki

    3 years ago

    Hello I was just wondering how should I store the paste and how long for? Thanks

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hi Kiki, you can store it in either an airtight plastic bag or plastic box. I think it’s best to use it within 3 – 5 days because of the fresh chilies and garlic in the recipe, but you may be able to use it up to a week or so.

      • Jane on Whidbey

        2 years ago

        With that much work, it’s freezer time for me. I live alone, and would have to use a lot of it, daily, and every meal. lol I’ve gotten very fond of the tiny frozen garlic, cilantro, and I forgot from Trader Joe’s. I’ve been collecting tiny and huge ice cube trays lately for pesto, stock, pastes, etc. I love my freezer.

  • Amy

    3 years ago

    Your blog and this recipe is amazing! I’m gonna have to try this out sometime!
    I actually saw you on YouTube last year while I was trying to show my british friends how Malaysian food looks like while I was studying in UK. I’m so estatic that you’ve got ur own website on Thai Food and all the amazing recipes. Thank you Mark!

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hey Amy, great to hear from you, thank you for your words of encouragement. Happy cooking!

  • Neil Mitchell

    3 years ago

    Mark, you’re going to have to get some software that recognizes my name and blocks my posts! Sorry for writing in so often but sometimes I just can’t help myself, like when I read your Thai southern curry article. I am very impressed with the way you and Ying have done the recipes and it makes for a great experience for the reader. First of all, you guys take lots of good pictures with a good camera which is awesome because a good picture is always worth a thousand words. If I see a tantalizing photo of a dish my mouth waters and I want to make it immediately. Secondly, you start from the very beginning with a pile of raw ingredients and then chronologically head through the recipe, the excellent photos and helpful hints and tips continuing all the way. I have plodded through the internet for many years now looking for good food stuff, but yours is the best I’ve seen and I am now a true fan of you, your videos, posts, and recipes. The Thai southern curry post like so many others of yours I’ve seen is absolutely excellent and I learned a ton from reading through it, the video link adding much like a Christmas present, additional glee. Continued success with your site and all your culinary endeavours Mark, I really enjoy your stuff and think you guys rock! I’ll only post once in a while from now on so you and Ying don’t think I’m a stalker..

    Regards,
    Neil

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hey Neil, it’s great to hear from you, thank you for your extremely kind words and for your helpful feedback. So glad that you love to cook and eat Thai food, just a I do as well. We appreciate your support and we’ll continue to make more recipes and keep making videos about Thai food!

  • DC

    3 years ago

    I love to marinate fish with tumeric powder and a little salt and deep fry it! Yum!

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      That sounds great DC. Turmeric is one of the finest ingredients.