Your Thai green curry, or kaeng khiao wan, is only as good as the Thai green curry paste you start with: “When a homemade paste is used, you experience green curry at its most fragrant and herbaceous,” says Leela Punyaratabandhu, author of Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand. Nothing compares to the flavor and aroma you get when you combine fresh green chiles, galangal, lemongrass, shallots, makrut lime, coriander, and cumin—but sometimes, using a mortar and pestle to smash herbs and roots to smithereens isn’t an option. (If you’re hoping to make a slightly quicker fresh green curry paste in a blender, head over here for instructions and a recipe from Sopon Kosalanan of Khao Kang restaurant in Queens.)
If you just can’t start from scratch, though, you’re probably wondering which is the best premade Thai green curry paste to buy. So we set up a blind taste test of nine widely-available brands to figure out the best one you can get from the store (or online.) Find the winners next, or scroll down for the details on how we tested and how to use Thai green curry paste once you’ve got it.
Our Favorite Spicy Thai Green Curry Paste: Mekhala Organic Green Curry Paste
Mekhala’s fragrant green chile aroma was apparent right after opening the jar. This curry paste stood out for its fresh-tasting flavor and deep complexity, plus its ample heat. “This one is not kidding around,” one tester noted. While many of the other green curry pastes we tried lacked depth, our tasters liked Mekhala because it had an array of bright, herbaceous flavors that balanced its earthy side well. We also appreciated that it wasn’t too salty; we’d prefer to salt the final dish, rather than be stuck with whatever sodium level is in our starting base.
Mekhala is manufactured in Chiang Mai, Thailand with ingredients that are sourced from local farmers. If you don’t see it at your grocery store, you can easily find it online.
Our Favorite Widely-Available Thai Green Curry Paste: Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste
If you’re making green curry tonight, and need to choose from the brands in your local supermarket, your best option is Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste. But you should note that it isn’t the least bit spicy, so you may want to add fresh chiles to your cooking pot. Our testers enjoyed this curry paste’s earthy, garlicky character, though some felt that the flavor wasn’t quite bold enough to come through once it was combined with coconut milk.
Other Uses For Thai Green Curry Paste
Made a big batch of green curry and wondering how to use up the rest of the can, jar, or tube? While green curry paste is most important as the foundation of kaeng khiao wan (sometimes spelled gaeng khiaw wan), and “it’s traditionally never used as a stand-alone condiment or marinade,” Punyaratabandhu says, “I don't see why we shouldn't take advantage of the flavor that's in there by incorporating it into our everyday cooking wherever we see fit.” We love it in this quick salmon dinner as well as these two new Epi recipes: Green Curry Vinegar Chicken and Ginger-Scallion Meatballs with Green Curry Sauce.
What We Looked For
To find the best store-bought Thai green curry paste, we assessed each brand according to its vibrance in color, aroma, and flavor. While many of the brands we tasted were flat and bland, the best green curry pastes were fresh and fragrant. (They even appeared more vibrantly green, rather than khaki in color.) Additionally, we learned that many store-bought varieties failed to deliver a pleasant balance. Some tasted more like cumin seeds than green chiles, others were spicy without any herbal or earthy flavor, and many were way too salty.
How We Tested
We whisked five ounces of each green curry paste into two cups of warm coconut milk. No other ingredients or seasoning was added to any of the mixtures. Each sample was blind-tasted by a panel of Epicurious editors and staff. In order to prevent palate fatigue, samples were tasted in order from lowest sodium content to highest sodium content.
Other Thai Green Curry Pastes We Tasted
- Mike's Organic Curry Love
- Thai and True
- A Taste of Thai
- Mae Ploy
- Chef's Choice
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Originally Appeared on Epicurious