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Panaeng Chile Paste

This basic recipe makes more than enough potent, nutty chile paste for the Duck in Coconut Curry. It's worth preparing this relatively large amount because the paste keeps for a month and it's delicious in coconut milk-based sauces, soups and stews.

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  • Servings: Makes about 1 cup

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  • Boiling water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 13 garlic cloves—6 coarsely chopped, 7 halved
  • 4 shallots—2 thinly sliced, 2 coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup unsalted peanuts
  • 11 large dried semi-hot chiles, such as guajillo, pasilla or New Mexico, stems and seeds discarded
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) root (See Note)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass, white bulb only (See Note)
  • 2 quarter-size slices of peeled fresh galangal
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 fresh, frozen or dried kaffir lime leaves, minced (See Note)
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin


  1. In a bowl, cover the dried chiles with boiling water and let soak until softened, about 20 minutes. Drain the chiles and coarsely chop them.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a small skillet. Add the chopped garlic and sliced shallots and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic and shallots to a plate. Add the peanuts to the skillet, reduce the heat to low and cook, shaking the pan, until toasted and browned, about 3 minutes. Add the peanuts to the plate.
  3. In a large mortar or mini-processor, grind the coriander root, lemongrass, galangal and salt to a paste. Work in the halved garlic cloves and chopped shallots. Add the soaked chiles, browned garlic mixture and lime leaves and pound to a coarse puree. Stir in the shrimp paste, cinnamon and cumin.

Make Ahead

The paste can be refrigerated for up to 1 month in a covered jar.


Coriander root, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and shrimp paste are available at Asian markets, well-stocked supermarkets and specialty food stores.

Published October 1996

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