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ISO (in search of) Thai red/green curry paste

1. Other than Thai Kitchen, what other brands are good as well?
2. Which is hotter, red or green?

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  1. Thai Kitchen is generally not a very good brand for anything, IMO. They are horribly overpriced and of low quality. The only product I've found acceptable by them is their roasted red chili paste, which is essential if you want to make "Toronto-style" cashew nut chicken.

    Mae Ploy, which comes in tubs, is considered to be excellent and seems to be the favourite for most serious Thai chefs who are looking for a ready-made paste. I personally prefer Mae Sri, which comes in convenient cans that are pretty much portion wise, provided you like things reasonably spicy, perfectly sized for your average recipe. Either one would be a great choice and both should be found at any grocery in Chinatown, and the former possibly at some of the bigger chains.

    If you truly want an amazing taste experience, though, try making your own. It is a little time consuming, but all of the ingredients are readily available in Chinatown and the end result is phenomenal. I admit to using canned curry paste about half the time out of convenience, but it's incomparable to freshly made in terms of the depth and richness of flavour and the delightful smells that will fill your kitchen during cooking. Once you've had a fresh curry paste, you will find it very difficult to go back to or settle for pre-prepared.

    Green curry paste should be hotter than red.

    This post will probably get moved to the home cooking or general chowhound sections, as there's nothing really Toronto-specific about it.

    1. Agree with the comments on Thai Kitchen. Dumbed down food, jacked up prices.

      I've found the tubs of curry paste in many of the shops on Spadina. Red, green, yellow, and fantastic nutty musaman pastes. It's important to keep in mind that there is a significant difference between the pastes and what you could make freshly. The pastes tend to focus on the chilis and the more robust spices. Much of the subtlety of the aromatics is lost. Definitely think of fine tuning your curry with some fresh lemongrass, cilantro, galangal, Kaffir lime leaves and scallions when you make it.

      Yes, fresh is better, if you've got the time, and if you can find all the ingredients. The shops on Spadina are good for finding kaffir lime and galangal (powdered just doesn't cut it). Bird chiles might be more of a challenge. I find Arbol a good sub when needed.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Snarf

        Hi Vorpal and Snarf ... thank you for the great info and replies. I agree, I bought a jar of Thai Kitchen green curry and it was bland, awful, very salty and expensive. The recipe on the jar was awful!

        Hmm ... I always thought green was more milder than red, from what the staff at Salad King told me, then again, I haven't been there in ages (rude staff, etc).

        Will give the Mae Ploy/Sri a try!

        1. re: red dragon

          I'm not going to take yet another opportunity to slam them (although it's no secret here what I think of Salad King), but the green curry at Salad King, IMO, is very - indeed, inappropriately - mild. It just tastes like chillies and little else. Hence, according to Salad King's food preparation, their claim is likely true. (I can't say for sure. I've never had any of their red curries and didn't care to go back to try one after two visits.)

          1. re: vorpal

            I don't think I could agree with you more about Salad King, I love spicy Thai food but find their way of adjusting the spice level by adding extra dried chili flakes to be abhorrent. We ate there once.....never again!

      2. Hmm, I always thought that red was hotter than green.

        I agree that making your own is a great way to go but I don't always have the time. The chef at Oliffe butcher makes an amazing red curry sauce. They sell it fresh or frozen and I often buy a tub - it's beautifully seasoned and a wonderful consistency. I mix it up with chicken or pork along with baby bok choy, tofu, spinach, scallions and chopped coriander and then add a couple of squirts of fish sauce and lime juice at the end. Delish!

        6 Replies
        1. re: peppermint pate

          Green curry is - at least theoretically - supposed to be hotter than red, and that should translate to the heat of the curry pastes as well.

          I'm curious... not that it's necessarily a bad idea, but why do you add the fish sauce at the end? I add it right after I've fried the paste in the coconut cream along with the sugar, which mellows out the taste and smell of it nicely.

          You're making me hungry :-). I'm planning on cooking up a homemade red curry tonight and now I'm ravenous for it.

          1. re: vorpal

            Hi vorpal - the sauce already has fish sauce cooked into it it but I like to add a few squirts at the end for an extra little top-note salt hit. Enjoy your red curry dinner tonight - for a slightly healthier version, I sometimes serve it over quinoa instead of rice.

            1. re: peppermint pate

              I don't think I've ever actually eaten quinoa before, now that I think about it! I should fix that sometime soon.

              I like to serve my curries on fresh rice noodles. I believe it's sometimes (or possibly often) done that way in Thailand, and in my opinion, there are never, ever enough excuses to enjoy slurpy, delicious rice noodles!

              1. re: vorpal

                I can't say that I ever saw the coloured curry dishes served with anything other than rice in Thailand but there were certainly many other slurpy, delicious rice noodle dishes, like khao soi and pad see ew to enjoy. Mmmm.

                1. re: peppermint pate

                  In the south of Thailand a staple daytime snack is thin curry, usually fish based, on fresh thin rice noodles. (Called "kanom jin", so probably Chinese in origin.) It's usually served with chunks of pineapple on the side and raw runner beans, some fresh herbs and other assorted veg. It's an awesome light meal and insanely cheap,

                  http://importfood.com/media/khanomjim...

                  1. re: koknia

                    Cool - never saw that one in the south but your pic sure makes it look good. The words "awesome (light) meal and insanely cheap" describe just about everything I ate in Thailand - IMHO, they've got some of the best food on the planet there.

        2. I have the Mae Ploy green, red and yellow curries and they are all spicy. The red is the least and the green is the most, but if you're wary of spice, Mae Ploy is not the brand to buy.

          Even though Mae Ploy is good, I still spruce up my curries with ginger, lemon grass and Kaffir lime leaves. And of course, try to get the best quality coconut milk you can get. It makes a huge difference. The higher the percentage of coconut milk, the better.

          7 Replies
          1. re: ctl98

            Been using Mae Ploy for years and it is, needless to say, my favourite. I always get it at Chinatown grocers.

            Like the above poster says, they are spicy. Red is less so than green. A little goes a long way. Tubs last forever, and I cook a lot of Thai curries.

            1. re: NovoCuisine

              Reply to Vorpal and fellow posters:
              I bought the Maeshri because it was in smaller cans and I wanted to try it first, before buying the big tubs. I bought both the red and green (only 99cents each). I will try the red first, as I can't take the heat as much as my husband.

              By the way, I'm not sure how to store the opended cans. The other brands came with a plastic tub, but these two are in small cans and I know I won't use them up in a week or two. Would a small glass bottle be better? I think it would stain my mini rubbermaid containers...

              TIA!

              1. re: red dragon

                A glass bottle in the fridge would be a good way to store leftovers for less than a week. Otherwise, I'd throw them in a small plastic tupperware container and put them in the freezer, although that may degrade the taste a bit more. I don't think that this would stain your container, but no guarantees.

                That was my problem with Mae Ploy... I was concerned about keeping the tubs for too long and decline in flavour from being open in the fridge. I like Mae Sri because if I make a large recipe, the whole can goes in and I can have as fresh as possible pre-prepared curry paste every time.

                1. re: vorpal

                  Hi Vorpal. I just wanted to thank you again for the tip on Maesri curry paste. I didn't mention earlier that I had a problem finding it at a local asian superstore. I went to the Thai section and walked up and down the long aisle and could not find it, but it was under the general area where curries and coconut milk were (go figure ...LOL). I tried the red curry (with pork) and my husband said it was a keeper .. good enough for company was his exact words! I have yet to try the green curry. I'm glad I did NOT follow the instructions in the mini can, which said to use the entire can! I only used 2 tsps and found it tolerable. Anyhow, thanks again!

                  1. re: red dragon

                    Glad you enjoyed it! I typically do use the whole can, but my partner and I make fairly big recipes and have a very high spice tolerance. I think that the instructions probably cater to the Thai palate :-).

                2. re: red dragon

                  I'd throw the contents into an airtight container and leave it in the fridge.

                  I keep my Mae Ploy tubs in the fridge and have never experienced a decline in the flavour.

              2. re: ctl98

                I do lot's of Thai cooking at home, I've found the best Coconut milk to use is Aroy D, available at most stores on Spadina and Sheung Thai Supermarket at Eglinton and Brimley. For savoury dishes get the brown can with For cooking in the gold star on the label. We also use Mae Ploy spices and find they keep really well for extended periods of time. We also supplement all the recipes with Kaffir lime leaves and home grown Thai basil.

                I don't want to sound like an advert for Aroy D, but their canned soups and curry sauces are also delicious when you don't have the time or energy to cook a full curry yourself.

                Now if only I could do something about Thai coconut curries and my high cholesterol?

              3. As a Montrealer, I've gotta know - what is "Toronto-style cashew nut chicken."? :-)

                Also, I have a half-dozen glass bottles of leftover commercial curry paste cluttering up my fridge that I feel bad throwing out - how long do you think they last? They're all over a month old - some well over that I'm embarassed to say - but none has any signs of mold on them.

                Thanks!

                6 Replies
                1. re: kpzoo

                  Now, please let me know if you've seen this in your fair city, but I've dined on Thai extensively in Ottawa and DC and a few smaller towns across North America, and never have I encountered it other than in Toronto.

                  When I've had cashew nut chicken, it's typically been chicken with cashews and some other ingredients (onions, frequently, and scallions, for instance) served in a thin, salty soy-based sauce. I absolutely love it.

                  When you order cashew nut chicken in Toronto, on the other hand, you get chicken with cashews served in a thick sauce mainly consisting of roasted red chili paste, with green and red peppers and pieces of orange left on the peel (with the intention that you'll take them into your mouth, nibble off the orange, and spit out the remaining peel).

                  It's perfectly delicious in and of its own right, but I've never even heard of such a variation on the dish anywhere else. I suspect that there's a very, very specific reason for this: Wandee Young, the owner of Young Thailand (which I believe was Canada's first Thai restaurant), had this specific concoction on her menu. Most of the Thai restaurants in Toronto have essentially, IMO, duplicated her (once) very successful menu almost exactly, so the trend for this particular formulation of cashew nut chicken has propagated throughout the Toronto Thai restaurant scene, hence me denoting it "Toronto-style" cashew nut chicken :-).

                  With respect to curry paste: I have gotten mold on red curry paste within about a month in the past. I also find that if you plan on keeping it for long periods of time, the flavour alters and maintains better in the freezer, although neither refrigeration nor freezing is ideal at all. This is why I insist on Mae Sri brand; the smaller cans eliminate storage problems entirely.

                  1. re: vorpal

                    Thanks, vorpal - the cashew chicken sounds yummy, I'll have to seek it out next time I'm in TO.

                    And you've convinced me to dump all my jars of curry paste and start fresh. :-) I'll look for the Mae Sri brand next time I'm at an Asian market.

                    1. re: vorpal

                      Thanks everyone for their replies on my question regarding storage of pastes.

                      1. re: vorpal

                        While it's probably tasty, Wandee's version is not how it's done at home, that's for sure! It should be quite dry.

                      2. re: kpzoo

                        You mean the small little ones - either red curry or yellow curry or green curry paste? I keep mine forever.

                        1. re: maisonbistro

                          Yes, I take the leftovers from the cans I usually buy and transfer them into small clean glass jars. So maybe there's hope for all my leftovers!