The Colors of Curry: Choosing the Best Thai Curry Paste for Your Dish
The unique flavors of Thai curry dishes simply cannot be encapsulated in a few words. Either you’re in for a sweet ride, a fiery hot adventure, or a spiced up turmeric-infused dining experience, there’s really no in-between.
Contrary to popular belief, not all curry pastes are spicy. While all Thai curries comprise of chilis, it would be a big mistake to think they’re all the same. The secret behind the vibrant colors of curry actually lies on the color of the ingredients used, particularly chili! Red curry uses red chilis, yellow curry uses yellow chili and turmeric, while green curry uses green herbs and spices. Sounds simple, right?
Not so fast. Curry-based dishes constantly evolve thanks to the introduction of several herbs and ingredients like cilantro, galangal, lemongrass, and ginger among many others. This unpredictability is exactly why Thai curry dishes have found a sweet spot in the hearts of many all around the world.
We’ll give you a lowdown on the Colors of Curry with the help of Mae Ploy's Curry Products, so you know your best curry pick when you want to spice up your meals!
Let’s start with the Thai crowd favorite and the spiciest of them all. Fresh and aromatic herbs like cilantro, lime leaf and peel, and basil have contributed to the vibrant color of green curry. Blended with some coconut milk, green chili, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, and shallots, you’ve got yourself a spicy paste that’s countered perfectly with creaminess from the coconut milk. Common Thai dishes that use this is Thai green curry chicken, beef, or green curry soup. If it’s your first time taking a dip into the world of curry flavors, go big or go home! We’re giving you the green light on green curry.
Let’s tone it down to something milder. True to its Indian roots, Thai yellow curry incorporates turmeric as one of its base ingredients, giving it its bright golden hue. Coriander seeds, cumin, lemongrass, and ginger make up the rest of its ingredients for that sweet and tangy mix of flavors. No overwhelming flavors here, just an enjoyable paste that you shouldn’t miss. Spice up your regular chicken dish with yellow curry and add some carrots and potatoes for a chicken stew that’ll pleasantly warm your tummies.
Red Curry rests comfortably between mild and spicy. Even so, the versatility of red curry is always a treat for the senses! Traditional Thai chefs use 20 different red chilis to bring out the striking red color and distinct hotness of this curry paste. Some have turned to incorporating tomato sauce for the same vibrant redness injected with a deeper flavor. Chicken curry has always been the go-to curry pairing but red curry can be used with almost any kind of meat, whether beef, pork, duck, salmon, or even tofu!
Panang Curry is a type of red curry paste that’s thick and sweet, with hints of nutty flavors. It particularly uses dried red chili peppers for maximum spiciness, along with galangal, coriander, kaffir lime zest, cumin seeds, shrimp paste, and peanuts. Thick coconut milk is usually added on top of the dish to balance out the taste. Pork and beef are the usual meat pairings for Panang curry. Don’t forget to serve it with white rice to further counter any overwhelming taste.
Massaman Curry is a rich yet relatively mild-tasting paste that is influenced by Persian cuisine. Massaman Curry is born out of a clever fusion of uncommon Thai cuisine spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cumin, bay leaves, nutmeg to the usual curry mix of dried chili peppers, coriander, lemongrass, and more. Originally used in Islamic cuisines, Massaman best goes with chicken and less commonly with pork.