Pounding and Grinding our way to Curry Paste

The cacophony of pounding, rhythmic in it’s own special way drowned out any hopes of conversation.

Today was my third and final day at Cooking School, Craig was along for the ride and he was starving;

Bring me the food!

Bring me the food!

Today we were creating curry paste, Penang Curry paste to be more exact.

The most complicated paste in Thai Cooking, Penang paste is made up fo 12 core ingredients (six dry and six fresh).

“Make sure you make “crccck” this noise when you pound,” Pon told us, as he artfully banged the mortar into the pestle and made a clanging sound.

“Otherwise, it will take an hour and you have sore arm,” he added whilst dramatically shaking his arm.

Thai Curry Paste - the core ingredients.

Thai Curry Paste – the core ingredients.

We set out and began to add our dry ingredients; coriander pods and cumin seeds, dried chili (Only add a half), Thai dried green pepper (or Aftershock as Pon told us giggling), salt and nutmeg shells. It didn’t take all that long to pound/grind this into a powder. Then it was time to chop the fresh ingredients; garlic, lemon grass, galangal root, shallots, coriander root and soaked red chillies for colour and add them to the mix.

Now came the hard part, pounding and grinding it all into something resembling Pon’s masterpiece.

“Cover your bowl or you will…” Pon demonstrated chili flicking into his eye and dancing around. So we made sure to do that, even turning our backs to each other to prevent the hotness entering our eyes.

Craig grinds and punds his way to curry paste

Craig grinds and pounds his way to curry paste

After pounding and grinding for five minutes, the paste was created:

The End result

The End result

The paste however is only the start of creating Penang curry. The next steps were reducing Coconut Cream, so the oil poured out before combining it with our newly pounded curry paste and pork. Coconut milk is added before you leave the curry simmering for 1 – 2 minutes.

There is no down time in this kitchen, while our curry was happily chortling away on the stove, we chopped kaffir lime leaves, sweet basil and large red chili to add at the last stage of cooking.

Then our curry was poured oozing with deliciousness onto the plate:

Penang Curry made fresh

Penang Curry

As usual this first dish, although taking up a reasonable amount of time, was only the first of today’s culinary masterpieces.

Next was deep fried fish with chili and basil. It sounds simple, but the complex flavours of this dish make it seem more complicated. Luckily we did not have to deep fry our own fish, because hot oil is scary! Our golden fish was deliverd to our station while we created the topping.

Freshly chopped and ready for the coating our fried fish

Freshly chopped and ready for the coating our fried fish

Onion, Green and Red Chili and Garlic are chopped up and fried in hot oil, before a little stock and fish sauce is added. After 30 seconds chopped sweet basil, kaffir lime and coriander are combined in and the topping is drizzled over the fish, like so:

Deep fried white fish with Chili and Basil topping

Deep fried white fish with Chili and Basil topping

A curry without coconut milk and fried sweet and sour vegetables were next, and then it was lunch.

The tangy and colourful sweet and sour Vegetables

The tangy and colourful sweet and sour Vegetables

After lunch, sticky black rice and coconut cream cooled our mouths from the hot glass noodle salad we created.

Another day of culinary delight was over, our classmates had discovered that hot things come in small packages and I was now the proud recipient of a complimentary apron.

We sadly waved good bye to Noi, Pon, Rika and Fuji.

Tomorrow we are back to Bangkok for two days, before we head home.

Ginga Musings, Complete.

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