What’s the difference between Thailand’s infamous curries?

By - herve
25.09.19 05:42 AM
25th September 2019
Thailand has undoubtedly established its food as one of the world’s most popular cuisines. 
Most notably, Thai curries have become one of Thai cuisine’s most beloved dishes. What most people don’t realise is that these renowned dishes were actually influenced by the Portuguese missionaries who introduced chillies in Thailand through trade. 

Since then various forms of curry have taken shape and risen to global culinary acclaim.
Thai curries are distinguishable by their colour. 

There are four main curry colours, you will typically hear of green, red, yellow and Massaman (a luscious shade of orange) curry.  You would assume that the hottest curry is the red one, but counter-intuitively the spiciest curry happens to be the green one, followed by the red, the yellow, and the mildest curry is the Massaman. 
Fresh curry pastes at Bang Rak market

Basically the colour doesn’t give away the level of spiciness but rather denotes which ingredients, in particular which chillies were used to make the curry. 

The green curry’s deep green hue is obtained from the combination of green chillies with fresh coriander, kaffir lime leaf, and fresh basil. 

The red curry gets its fiery consistency from red chillies; traditional Thai chefs can add up to 20 red chillies at a time to give it that colour. 

Green curry paste uses green "bird eye" chilies

The yellow curry is cooked with turmeric which is what gives it that delicious golden-yellow glow. 

And the Massaman curry is made up of several roasted spices which turn it a delicious deep orange colour, the focus is less on the chillies in this one which is why it is usually the least spicy of these four curries, expect it to be quite sweet and slightly sour. 

One thing that all these curries have in common however is that the bulk of the sauce is made using scrumptious and copious amounts of coconut milk, giving them all that signature creamy texture. 

And what's interesting is that all these curries can easily be made into a vegetarian dish, they are extremely versatile and can accommodate all kinds of vegetables!

Use a mortar and pestle to pound the fresh curry paste from scratch

Curries are more commonly associated to India but Indian curries are vastly different to those prepared in Thailand. 

Dissimilarly to Indian curries, Thai cooking uses only fresh ingredients, you won’t see any dried products being thrown into a Thai curry if it’s authentic unlike in Indian curry recipes which call for dried spices. 

This gives Thai curries a much spicier initial kick whereas the bite in Indian curries usually comes later, it takes a few mouthfuls for the dry spices to really make an impression on your tastebuds. 

All the ingredients are assembled into a mortar and pounded together with a pestle until they form a paste. The pestle and mortar method allows the flavours of each ingredient to blend into one.  

These utensils are particularly handy for curry recipes, because each paste’s preparation requires some softer ingredients like the chillies, but you’ll also need to throw in more robust ingredients like the galangal root or lemongrass which the pestle and mortar can break into easily.

Each curry recipe begins with a paste, which actually makes preparing these curries quite simple. 

So even if you’re unable to track down each individual ingredient and you don’t own a trusty pestle and mortar then fear not, if you can just get your hands on the paste then you will be able to make the same authentic curry. 

You’ll be able to find these pastes in most supermarkets or lining the alleys of street food markets in Thailand. 

Curry paste market stalls are very impressive, this is where you really see how diverse the varieties of Thai curries are. They range in colour, consistency and of course in spiciness. And they come in large deep bowls, the amounts of curry paste are truly astounding, which goes to show just how vital of an ingredient they are in Thai cooking.
From humble local beginnings to global culinary stardom, Thai curries are adored by food enthusiasts all over the world. 
And it doesn't matter where you are in the world, because of how simple and efficient Thai curry recipes are you can just procure your own scrumptious Thai curry paste to kickstart your own curry. 

Get delicious and authentic results from the heart of your own kitchen!

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