Making authentic homemade Choo Chee curry paste from scratch is very simple. You'll need a handful of ingredients, and you'll be set with a fragrant and tasty curry paste that will surely be your new favorite curry!
What is Choo Chee curry paste?
Choo chee or Chu Chee curry, or Kaeng Choo chee is a Thai curry that is mild, sweet, and salty in a creamy coconut sauce, typically served with stir fry fish or seafood. This curry is red curry paste but less spicy and uses fewer ingredients. The main difference between the two pastes is the use of toasted coconut flakes, which gives this paste an extra layer of delicious taste.
The catchy name "Choo Chee" is a fun Thai name that comes from the sound of the curry paste being cooked with coconut milk in a large fry pan, usually on a high or medium-high heat, to make the Choo Chee curry sauce.
Why Make Your Own Choo Chee Curry Paste?
- It's fresh and delicious! You'll love how fragrant the fresh paste is.
- Homemade Choo Chee paste is healthier with no chemicals added to your food.
- Making your paste is easy and quick, especially when using a food processor!
- You can freeze the leftover curry paste if there's any! Choo Chee curry paste stays in the refrigerator for days and months in the freezer!
- Once you make the paste, you can make the choo chee sauce ahead of time for use later as a rich, creamy sauce to pour over all types of fish, seafood, tofu, or vegetables. It pairs well with a lighter protein.
Choo Chee Curry Paste Ingredients
These are the key ingredients you’ll need to make authentic Thai Choo Chee curry paste. You'll be able to find most of these ingredients at your local Asian markets in the fresh and frozen sections.
- Dried red chili. Use Thai bird's eye, Thai long-chili, or Serrano peppers for extra heat. For milder peppers, use large red chilies like California or Gualillo. Use more or fewer chilis per your heat level preference. For the extra red color, add sweet red bell peppers.
- White peppercorn. You can use whole or ground white peppercorn. For substitute use, black pepper instead.
- Salt. This curry paste recipe use just a little salt to help grind up the red chilis quicker.
- Toasted coconut flakes. Use unsweetened and toasted large coconut flakes to make this paste.
- Lemongrass. The smaller you cut the lemongrass, the quicker the pounding will be. Fresh is always preferred but frozen is fine too. Read more about Lemongrass and how to use it in Thai cuisine.
- Galangal. Fresh and frozen galangal can typically be found in your local Asian market. Read more about Galangal in Thai cooking here.
- Kaffir lime zest. If you cannot find fresh kaffir limes, use one teaspoon of lime zest plus 3-4 kaffir (also called, Makrut leaves). Read more about Kaffir limes and leaves and substitute here.
- Cilantro roots or stems. Cilantro roots are rare in the US, but the next best option is the stems. The largest and lowest part of the stems works great as a substitute.
- Shallot. I don’t recommend substituting red onion for making Thai curry pastes. The shallot has a stronger and spicier flavor that makes Thai curries authentic.
- Garlic. Garlic adds extra flavor and fragrance. Do not overuse it in curry paste, or it will turn bitter.
- Shrimp paste. Thai shrimp paste is a must for an authentic taste in your curry paste. Add it as a last ingredient when making Thai curry paste in a mortar and pestle. The shrimp paste will bring all the ingredients together when pounding the paste in a large mortar.
How to Make Choo Chee Curry Paste?
There are 2 easy methods to making authentic homemade Choo Chee curry paste. The first method is a very quick method using a food processor. You simply chop and blend all the ingredients, blitz them together, and have a beautiful paste for cooking in less time than using a mortar and pestle. Both are equally tasty, but one is easier, while the other takes longer but yields a more flavorful paste.
Method 1. Using a Food Processor or Blender
Step 1. Remove the stems and seeds of the chili pepper, and soak in warm water for 15-20 minutes or until soft. Cut the large chilis into smaller 1-inch chunks before soaking. You can save the water for adding to the food processor for extra flavor and spice.
Step 2. Drain, rinse and pat the chilis dry. Use kitchen scissors to cut the soaked chilis into 1-inch pieces and place them in a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and blend until the ingredients turn into a smooth paste. Add a little water if necessary.
Method 2. Using the Mortar and Pestle
The second method is a traditional way of making Thai curry paste by using a mortar and pestle. The ingredients are pounded together to help release the oils from the ingredients. Though it takes slightly more time than method one, the flavors and fragrances are worth the time and effort!
Step 1. Remove the stems and seeds of the chili pepper, and soak in warm water for 15-20 minutes or until soft. Cut the large chilis into smaller 1-inch chunks before soaking.
Step 2. Drain, rinse and pat dry the chilis. Use kitchen scissors to cut the soaked chilis into 1-inch pieces and place them in the mortar. Add the garlic and salt and pound the three ingredients together in a mortar and pestle until you form a nice paste.
Step 3. Add the lemongrass and galangal and keep pounding until smooth. Adding only 2-3 fibrous ingredients makes the pounding easier.
Step 4. Adding shallots, cilantro stems, and kaffir lime zest next. Repeat the pounding until you get a smooth paste.
Step 5. Add the ground white pepper and toasted coconut flakes. Pound away until the entire paste is smooth. Almost done! (:
Step 6. Add the shrimp paste last and pound everything well until nice paste forms. Remove the paste and use it immediately for a curry. Refrigerate for up to 10 days. Freeze the paste for 4-6 months.
Tools Needed for Making Homemade Thai Red Curry Paste
- A solid stone mortar and pestle with at least a 6-inch opening
- Food processor or blender
- Spice grinder
- Kitchen scissor
- Small glass jars for storing any leftovers
- Food labeling
A note on the mortar and pestle.
A stone mortar and pestle with an opening of six inches are highly recommended for making Choo Chee curry paste. Investing in a solid stone mortar and pestle is a great idea if you have Thai food and want to make more authentic Thai dishes.
I found mine at my local Asian market and have had it for years. I also use mortar as a beautiful serving bowl, especially if I make a dipping or chili sauce. It's a great conversation starter piece too!
Extra tips for a Successful Homemade Choo Chee Curry Paste
- For a quick shortcut, microwave the chilis and water for 2-3 minutes until the chilis are softened.
- Choo Chee curry paste is a soft orange color paste. For a brighter red curry sauce, add a few pieces of red bell peppers.
- Adjust the spiciness of your curry paste by the number of chilis used. The more you use, the spicier your paste will be.
- The longer the chilis are soaked, the more vibrant red my paste turns.
- This is VERY important: Use kitchen gloves when handling smaller chilis like Thai bird eye chilis. They are very hot and can cause burning to the skin!
Other Thai Recipes You'll Love
- Authentic homemade Thai red curry paste
- Thai red curry with chicken and kabocha squash
- Authentic Thai red curry recipe
- Easy red curry green beans with shrimp, Pad Prik Khing
- Pad Prik Khing with pork belly
- Lemongrass and how to use it in Thai cuisine
- Galangal in Thai cooking
- Kaffir lime leaves and substitute
Is Choo Chee curry spicy?
Choo chee curry is not as spicy as other Thai curries like red, green, and jungle.
What does Choo Chee curry taste like?
Choo Chee curry paste is mild with savory, rich, creamy sauce from coconut cream and milk. Its rich sauce is lightly sweet and salty and the perfect thick sauce to pour over baked, grilled, or fried seafood.
Choo Chee curry paste vs. red curry paste
Choo chee and red curry paste have similar ingredients. Choo Chee has fewer chilis, uses more dry spices, and has delicious toasted coconut flakes. Red curry paste is also spicier and doesn't have coconut flakes.
Can You Freeze Homemade choo chee Curry Paste?
Homemade curry pastes last up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator and can freeze for up to 4-6 months! If freezing, divide the paste into small portions for easy measurement, so you don’t have to thaw out the entire batch before measuring.
What Can I Substitute for choo Curry Paste?
If you cannot find all the ingredients to make your own Choo Chee paste, use Thai red curry paste but mix in toasted coconut flakes before making the sauce on a stovetop. Also, add extra toasted coconut flakes to the sauce and garnish with more if you want the strong coconut flakes' texture.
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