One of the fondest memories of my cooking school experience was the alumni trip to Thailand we took just after graduation.  We had a few opportunities to cook on that trip, and learned to grind up our own chili pastes to make Pad Thai and Green Curry.  The delicate balance of sweet/salt/sour/spicy was a taste experience I have never forgotten.

Now, you can go out and buy yourself a jar of curry paste, add a few ingredients and satisfy a mid-week craving for the flavors of Thailand….


You can take a little more time and make your OWN green curry paste, freezing it in cubes for a fresher-tasting, more customized approach.  It’s not hard, and the results are more than worth it.

Everything on the ingredient list is available at almost any urban grocery store, except things like Thai basil and galangal; substitutions are offered.  I left out some of the more esoteric items, like shrimp paste, but if you are familiar with it, by all means add it in.  The key ingredients are the FRESH cilantro, basil, lime and ginger.  Lemongrass is in every grocery store I visit, but it’s not always particularly fresh, so I often buy the already-pulverized product in a tube.  You could plan a field trip to your local Oriental specialty store to find specialty items –it’s interesting, and you only have to go about twice a year to stock up.  Take a friend.  Plan a party!

Thai Green Curry Paste


All quantities are suggestions – you can adjust any of the flavorful ingredients to suit your own palate.  If you taste it, remember it’s raw, so it’s going to pack more punch than it will once you have cooked it. 

  • 2  stalks of lemongrass, just the tender centre part (or about 3 Tbsp pre-ground in the squeeze tube)
  • 2-3 Tbsp finely diced jalapeno, or 3 small whole little chilies like Thai Birds, or to taste
  • 1 Shallot, sliced or diced
  • 4 Garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 Tbsp sliced peeled fresh ginger (or galangal – look it up)
  • 1 bunch cilantro (2 – 3 cups, lightly packed)
  • ½ cup (packed) fresh basil, or Thai basil (Thai basil is more pungent)
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper (or black pepper, but white is hotter)
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 3 Tbsp fish sauce (I like the brand with the three crabs on the bottle)  (Vegetarians can use soy sauce)
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • Zest of one lime
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (or palm sugar)
  • 3-4 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil to assist with the blending.

Generally speaking, the smaller the chili, the hotter it is – Serranos, for instance, are hotter than jalapenos.  Avoid habaneros (Scotch bonnet), or “Ghost Chilis” as they are too fiery to play nicely with the rest of the ingredients.  You can always add more,but you can’t remove what you have already committed to the blender, so be careful.

Herbs, garlic and lemongrass “in a tube” products are not a bad thing.  Neither is bottled lime juice.  If you can’t get fresh products, the stuff in the tube or bottle is better than nothing.  Fresh is going to taste best, though, and the texture will be better too.  Stuff in a tube tends to be just a little slimy and salty, but it’s better than dried garlic or herbs, and definitely better than whatever you have been keeping on the spice shelf for two years…throw that out.


If you love to use a mortar and pestle, this is your big opportunity. Chop up those herbs by hand, and then go to town! Otherwise, put everything in a blender or small food processor.  Pulse and process until smooth-ish.

Your chili paste is ready to use right away.  Freeze leftovers in 1-Tablespoon quantities in a covered ice-cube tray, or other airtight container.

Single Serving Thai Green Curry

(or “Hurry Up, I’m Hungry” Curry)

Have some cooked noodles or rice ready.  You have rice or noodles in the freezer, right?  In single serving portions?  Alternatively, you can soak some rice noodles, either the vermicelli or the ones for Pad Thai, in very hot tap water while you’re prepping.


  • A splash of oil
  • Some kind of onion, in the quantity you want – a couple of green onions, a sliced small shallot, thinly sliced yellow or red onion or (gasp) you could use a sprinkle of onion/garlic dry herb blend if you’re really bereft in the fridge department.
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp Green Curry Paste – less if you’re using the commercial stuff in the jar (it’s a little harsh), more if you’re using your own blend
  • Extra garlic, if you want it.  Garlic fades in the freezer, so if your own chili paste is getting old, you might want to give it an assist.
  • Peeled raw shrimp, or stir-fry-cut chicken or pork in the quantity you want (3 oz. or so), or firm tofu, or NO PROTEIN AT ALL if you just want a veggie treat
  • Up to 1 cup of veggies of choice – broccoli, cauliflower (it’s the new kale, did you know?), zucchini, celery, carrots, squash, bell peppers, even mushrooms – all nicely and thinly sliced.  You could add a few grape tomatoes, if you wanted, whole or halved.  Spinach, kale, or cabbage, sliced in ribbons, can be added too.  If you have no veggies, or don’t want any veggies, just cook the protein (but you really should have some veggies).
  • Coconut milk – full fat or “lite”, enough to sauce everything, somewhere between ¼ and ½ cup.  Shake or stir it up very thoroughly. Leftover coconut milk freezes very well in half-cup containers.
  • Have fish sauce and lime juice handy for balancing the seasoning.  Fish sauce is your “salt”.
  • Fresh cilantro and/or basil to garnish, which is important if you’re entertaining, not so important if you need to eat NOW.


Just a reminder – this curry cooks up really quickly.  Heat your rice or cooked noodles first, and keep them warm while you stir-fry. 

Heat the splash of oil over medium-high heat in a skillet big enough to handle the volume of your protein and veg.

Add the onion, garlic and curry paste; stir-fry briefly.

If you’re cooking chicken or pork, add it now and stir fry until the outside is opaque, which may take a minute or two.

If you’re cooking shrimp, add them now.  Continue cooking until they just start to turn pink, which will be less than a minute.

Your protein will continue to cook while you add everything else, so UNDERCOOK it at this point, please.

Add the veggies and continue stirring until they are hot and beginning to soften, less than a minute if they’re cut small or thin.

If you wanted to throw in some thinly-sliced fresh spinach, kale or cabbage, add it after the harder vegetables have softened.

Add coconut milk in a quantity sufficient to sauce everything to your liking.  Let it all bubble away for about 15 seconds so everybody gets hot and acquainted.

If you soaked some dry rice noodles,  drain them and add them with the coconut milk, stirring and cooking until they soften to a nice al dente.  It takes almost no time at all.

Quickly taste and adjust seasoning with lime juice, fish sauce, or more curry paste, as you choose.  Garnish, if you have the wherewithal and the time.

Eat immediately.  That’s the whole point, isn’t it?  With a little practice and a bit of advance planning, you can get this on the plate in less than 15 minutes.  And it’s WAY better than take-out, I promise!