No. 6 Mae Ploy Red Thai Curry Paste

I make Indian curries fairly frequently and I would never ever dream of using a bought sauce. Contrary to popular belief, a marinade or sauce for a curry is very easy to make, even if it involves a little advance planning.

However, Asian and far Eastern food has always rather eluded me, mainly, I think, because the authentic ingredients are harder to come by (you can buy a basic "Thai Curry Kit" in Tesco: a red chilli, a couple of Kaffir lime leaves, a stick of lemon grass, a lime and a knob of ginger), though it is getting easier to find the right things. I'm less keen on Thai food, though I did eat a very memorable Thai meal in Frankfurt in 1994 on our last night at the Frankfurt Bookfair, in the days when I worked for a publishing house. As anyone in the book trade knows, Frankfurt is the bookfair of the year, and when one is not working, schmoozing clients and trying to secure foreign co-editions, socialising is the thing. Every night there is a party somewhere: I remember gate-crashing the Taschen party at the FrankfurterHof Hotel, which was very grand indeed. By the end of a gruelling week, working 14 hours a day on the firm's exhibition stand in a vast hall like an aircraft hangar with no windows, and evenings spent gatecrashing parties, a more restrained night out at a Thai restaurant seemed a welcome break.

At the restaurant, I sat next to the very naughty Alan the Carpet Man, who chained-smoked and flirted outrageously, and who told me to order nothing: he would order for me. Thus, I tried Tom Yum hot and sour soup, Pad Thai noodles, green Thai curry and various other delicious dishes and fragrant dishes.

Mae Ploy Red Thai curry paste is a useful store-cupboard standby. It keeps for ages in the fridge, and spares you the trouble of making your own Red Thai paste. All you need is a tin of coconut milk, or the Maggi coconut milk powder (see separate post), and maybe a few vegetables to throw in towards the end. Follow the directions on the pot to make a delicious and authentic-tasting red Thai sauce. But beware! It can be very fiery, so go easy on the paste, adding more to taste. It is also quite salty, so there is no need to add more salt. There is also a green Thai version, and you can find both in the special ingredients section of the supermarket.

I often use this sauce base to make Nigella's pumpkin and seafood curry. Or a basic red prawn or chicken curry. Tonight, I'm using strips of lean beef, only because I happened to have it in the fridge and it needs to be used up.


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