Prik Khing Curry Paste Is the Pantry Ingredient I Count on for Flavorful Dinners

published Jul 24, 2020
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Can of Maesri Prik Khing Curry Paste on wooden counter top
Credit: Photo: Tara Donne | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Of all the places I have traveled to in Asia, Thailand is one of my favorites. The food, the people, the culture — there is so much to love. While I was in Bangkok, my friend, former colleague, and Executive Chef of Bangkok’s Little Donkey, Steve Doucakis, took me on a few proper food tours, but the one place we went twice was Samyan Market. Samyan is a large wet market lined with individually owned meat, fish, and produce stands. You can find every local fish and native tropical fruits, produce, and spices there. One stand in particular showcased mounds upon mounds of different flavored curry pastes.

Upon returning to the United States, I missed being able to buy curry paste in bulk like that. When I have a Thai curry craving now, I rely on the canned pastes to get me through. But I have found some brands of Thai curry paste to be underwhelming — not quite hitting all those aromatic notes the way they do in Thailand. The Maesri brand, in my opinion, has the most authentic flavor profiles of domestic-bought curry paste. They are a Thai-based company that has been in business for over 50 years. They use all-natural ingredients and zero preservatives.

And one style of Maesri’s curry paste that I have recently become enamored of is their prik khing curry.

What Is Prik Khing Curry?

If you know and love Thai food in the U.S., then you likely know about the more commonly used green curry, red curry, and massaman curry. But if you haven’t tried prik khing curry yet, I urge you to do so. In Thai, prik translates to chili and khing translates to ginger: chili ginger curry paste. After doing some research I found this curry paste style actually utilizes galangal, lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, and garlic. 

In Thailand, a common dish with this paste is stir-fried pork or tofu and green beans (mu phat phrik khing). The “dry” curry paste is first fried in oil, and then an ingredient like tofu, pork, or vegetable is added. Unlike other “wet” curry pastes you may be familiar with, this one is not traditionally used with coconut milk, but rather coconut milk that has been reduced down into an oil and fried in that fat. 

I found first found Maesri’s prik khing curry while browsing the aisles at Kalustyan’s, but for those who don’t live in New York City, I’ve also seen this brand at Whole Foods and you can order it online.

Credit: Amelia Rampe

My Favorite Ways to Use Prik Khing

In my home, prik khing paste gets utilized in many ways. I add it to all kinds of dishes when I really want to amp up flavor without a lot of work. It’s mildly spicy, with all the aromas that make southeast Asian cuisine so wonderful; gingery with subtle lemongrass notes. The curry paste does most of the work for you.

One four-ounce can goes a long way; I can usually get three or four meals out of it. (Keep it stored in an airtight container with plastic pressed into the surface of the paste to keep it from oxidizing!) With any pre-made paste, it’s always important to read the ingredients. If I am going to add an aromatic base to my cooking, I want to make sure I’m using the same ingredients listed. I often add whatever I happen to have available — a tablespoon each of finely chopped shallots, garlic, ginger (or galangal), and pounded lemongrass. I’ll soften those aromatics in oil then add 1 or 2 tablespoons of the paste, depending on how intense you like the flavor. I usually end up using around 2 tablespoons total paste for my dishes.

There are so many ways prik khing curry can enhance and liven up your dinner routine. I encourage you to find out what your favorite way is. Here are some ways I like to use it.

  • One of my favorite weeknight dishes is a ground pork with prik khing paste and cherry tomatoes and hearty greens. Once the oil is infused with all those lovely aromas, I brown the ground pork in the skillet, then I add cherry tomatoes and fresh greens or spinach.
  • I love to add curry paste to a pot of clams. I cook the paste with the aromatics in coconut oil, then steam the clams. This aromatic base is the perfect complement to the steamed clams. I serve the clams with whatever garnishes are in my fridge like finely chopped garlic, scallion greens, cilantro, or Thai basil. 
  • I also use it when I grill eggplant and other vegetables. I infuse the curry paste in coconut oil, then rub that oil onto the eggplant and grill them until they are lightly charred and custardy. These are great as side dishes, or stuffed in a sandwich or topped with herbs.
Credit: Amelia Rampe

There are countless ingredients clamoring for space in your kitchen. Taste Makers are the ones that actually make a dish amazing. Each month, we’re exploring one ingredient that has earned its place in our small kitchens and will make even simple food taste spectacular.

Your turn: What’s your favorite underrated ingredient in your pantry? What do you reach for when you want to elevate your cooking quickly and easily? Tell us in the comments below! We may give it the star treatment in an upcoming edition of Taste Makers.