Thai Red Curry Paste vs. Sauces
Dish with three examples of Curry Paste [Krueng Gaeng Peht (Paste)]

Red Curry is the most popular in Thailand. It is made using a Red Curry Paste, in hotness half way between Green Curry Paste (hotter) and Yellow Curry Paste (less hot). On this page, I would have liked to compare the Clovegarden recipe to commercial products, but I have yet to find actual Red Curry Paste in the kind of markets most Americans shop at - What I've found is "Thai Red Curry Sauce", two of which are in the photo. I will add pastes when I find them.

"Sauce" products of this sort are not native to Thailand, but both these brands claim to let you make "authentic" Thai curries. Neither will work in actual Thai recipes, nor any Thai recipe on the Clovegarden site. The first step in making a real Thai Red Curry is to heat Coconut Cream, scooped from the top of coconut milk (fresh or canned). The curry paste is then stirred in and cooked, stirring until oil begins to separate. Then other ingredients are stirred in. These "sauces" try to eliminate this first step by including dehydrated coconut milk in the products. You start as a stir fry, and add the sauce near the end of cooking. In my opinion, this trades a small amount of work for a significant compromise in flavor.

More on Salt, Seasonings & Additives

Clovegarden Red Curry Paste:   Left in photo. This is a true Curry Paste you can make at home. It's made with fresh ingredients in accordance with Thai practice (except for some use of modern equipment). It is redolent with fresh flavors, has enough chili heat to be effective in a recipe, and is actually red. Our recipe will be found at Thai Red Curry Paste. Ingred: Lemon Grass, Galangal, Kaffir Lime Peel, Cilantro Stems, Garlic, Shallots, Coriander Seeds, Cumin Seeds, Peppercorns, Thai Chilis, California Chilis (for color), Shrimp Paste, Salt.

Kikkoman Thai Red Curry Sauce:   Center in photo. This product has a reasonable amount of regional flavor, some body, and a tiny bit of texture, but is quite weak in chili heat. It can be used in modified Thai recipes, but not "as written". While it strives, with reasonable success, for authentic flavor, this is done with minimum resort to fresh ingredients. Ing: Coconut MIlk Powder (Coconut Milk [Tree Nut], Maltodextrin, Sodium Caseinate [Milk]), Red Curry Paste (Chili Pepper, Salt, Roasted Garlic, Onion Puree, Canola Oil, Spices, Citric Acid, Kaffir Lime Oil, Lemongrass Oil, Natural Extractives of Chilie Peppers), Sugar, Soybean Oil, Garlic, Contains 2% or less of the following: Modified Corn Starch, Alcohol, Fish Sauce (Anchovy Extract, Salt, Water), Vinegar, Paprika, Onion, Jalapeno Pepper, Sodium Acid Sulphate, Dehydrated Onion, Soy Lecithin, Yeast Extract, Salt, Cultured Dextrose, Xanthan Gum, Spice, Turmeric, Citric Acid, Stevia Extract. 2017 US $3.79 / 10.9 ounces

Trader Joe's Thai Red Curry Sauce:   Right in photo. This product is lamentable - the bottle declares "delicate blend" of flavors, but "weak" would be more appropriate. It lacks authentic ingredients, even as oils or extracts, has only faint chili heat, and is sorely lacking in the flavors of Thailand. It does contain some ginger and onion, but galangal and shallots are the correct flavors. It tastes kind of like some "secret sauce" used on a fast food hamburger, or a thick salad dressing. Ingred: Water, Dehydrated Coconut Milk (Coconut, Sodium Caseinate [Milk]), Red Chili Puree, Onion, Garlic, Sugar, Canola Oil, Salt, Cornstarch, Spices, Ginger, Autolized Yeast Extract, Onion Powder, Egg Yolks, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Xanthan Gum. 2017 US $2.99 / 11 oz.

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