Before you make a Massaman Curry in the Thai book I’m working through, you need to make a constituent ingredient – the paste. And that requires quite a few ingredients, some of them esoteric. They are:
- Jalapeno peppers, 4, dehydrated
- Onions, 1/2 cup, chopped
- Garlic, 1/2 cup, chopped
- Lemon grass, 1 tablespoon, chopped
- Shallots, 2
- Galangal, 2 thin slices
- Star anise powder, 1 tablespoon
- Cumin, 1 tablespoon
- Cinnamon, 1 teaspoon
- Cilantro, dried, 2 tablespoons
- Kaffir lime skin, 1/4 teaspoon
- Oil, 5 tablespoons
For instance, the recipe called for star anise powder. I didn’t happen to have any powder handy, but I do have the star anise. So it was a simple matter of using our spice grinder to create the powder we needed.
Similarly, with the cilantro. I didn’t have any already dried, so I dried some myself, like so:
Galangal can also be hard to get. It’s a ginger-like root that I’ve only ever found in Asian markets. The last time I got any, I got a lot, and froze the excess. Some I froze as slices – seen here – and the rest as shredded galangal. As for the jalapenos, I tried drying some myself – both in the oven and in the open air. But that didn’t work so well, so I had to order these from Amazon.
The Kaffir lime zest was the hardest to acquire. Normal lime zest simply won’t do; the Kaffir limes have an entirely different flavor, as does their zest. They’re one of the flavors that make certain Thai dishes – and Thai pastes, like this one – taste the way they do. But no matter where I looked, no one carries Kaffir limes – not even the Asian markets I’ve visited.
Fortunately, I found a grower in California that will ship you a box of fresh Kaffir limes – if the season is right. I ordered mine in December, and now that it’s January, I see that they’re still available. This is their 5-pound box:
Preparing the limes was an involved process – I had five pounds, after all. First, I washed them. Then, I zested with a microplane. Finally, it made no sense to throw away the lime juice, so I squeezed them all and froze the juice – enough for two complete batches of carnitas.
I froze the zest as well, to retrieve and use later, as required.
With all that prelude out of the way, making the paste was relatively straightforward. You prepare the onions and garlic, like so:
Then you melt the oil (I used coconut, but you don’t have to).
Add the onions, garlic, and dried jalapeno, and fry until golden brown.
Then add everything – first the other ingredients, and the stuff you just fried – into a blender, and blend, blend, blend. Once you do, then you’re done, and you can put it in a jar and put that in your fridge or freezer, as you like.