Which is hotter, Thai red curry or Thai green curry?

by Nitsa Raymond

This question had never occurred to me until recently. As a Thai this was not even up for consideration. Green curries are hot, red curries less so.It had always been so, that is simply the way it is. Therefore, I was surprised to find out that in the West the reverse was often thought to be the case. That Thai red curry is the spiciest with the Thai green curry being much milder. I wondered how this came about since I had never encountered a single Thai who would think like this, I wondered just how this message got out there. I did what many of us do when seeking the answer to a question; I googled it. Well that shook me up a bit I can tell you. I was amazed to see how many people confidently asserted that red was the spiciest of Thai curries. Well it just ain't so. A green curry in authentic Thai cuisine will always be hotter than a red curry and the heat will also differ between the regions, green curry from the South of Thailand (excepting the tourist areas) tends to be much more fiery due to the addition of Bird's Eye chillies. Genuine bird chillies are much smaller and far spicier than the varieties that UK supermarkets often mistakenly label as bird chillies. 

southern-thai-green-curry

I wondered how this misconception that green was hotter than red came to be. Sure, you know that on sites like Yahoo answers you would take any information given is as likely to be wrong, as it is right. However, there are other sites out there handing out exactly the same misinformation. After I had read through a few of these I started to get a nagging feeling that I was reading the same thing over and over again, sometimes almost word for word all over again. A blogger friend demystified it for me. Apparently, some of the larger sites earn their money from the advertising that they carry and employ people to write articles about anything and everything. They don’t have to know anything about the subject they are writing about, just be good at assembling information and making it look like they know what they are writing about! So, much like a rumour, an incorrect statement is endlessly repeated. Now I was beginning to understand why people did not only know which was the spiciest Thai curry but were getting incredibly confused trying to find the right answer. 

Bangkok Style Thai Green Curry Paste

However where I truly started shaking my head was when I started reading some of the recipes for Thai red curry making the paste from scratch.The top listing on Google not only used fresh red chillies but also tomato ketchup! I don’t know what I find more surprising, the use of fresh red chillies or the use of tomato ketchup. You see we would never use fresh red chillies to make a Thai red curry paste. ( no tomato ketchup either!) We use dried red chillies that we soak. We do this as it extracts some of the harshness and heat from the chilli but allows us to concentrate the flavour. (Chillies are not all about heat!) Doing it this way means we can use more chillies in the paste with more flavour, which will come out in the curry. Even if we were to take away the tomato ketchup, there were still surprising amounts of recipes using fresh red chillies. Maybe this is because people find it easier to buy fresh red chillies, I really don’t know. However, what I do know is that in Thailand a Thai red curry is never made this way. Call it what you want, just don’t call it Thai.

Thai Red Curry Paste

 







Nitsa Raymond
Nitsa Raymond

Author


5 Responses

Dan
Dan

October 06, 2016

I’d always heard that green curries were hotter, and personal experience eating them seemed to back that up. I think it’s that usually peppers get hotter as they ripen, so logically red would seem to indicate more heat. Must be the ratio of pepper to other ingredients or the variety of pepper. Thanks for the verification.

Katy jeske
Katy jeske

August 11, 2016

Thank you so much for your post! I’ve always wondered and you just blew my mind!

Richard Chambers
Richard Chambers

April 06, 2016

Only a couple of years ago, the labels on jars of curry sauce sold by Sainsbury’s used to rate the spiciness from 1 chilli (mild) to 3 or even 4 chillies (very hot). Unfortunately, they no longer provide this information, for some reason known only to Sainsbury’s. Your article has been useful to me, because I could never remember which was the spicier.

Bridget Robson
Bridget Robson

March 31, 2016

I am so glad that I read your article! I have always been under the impression that Thai red curry was hotter than the green, presumably the ‘red for danger’ idea…….How wrong can you be?! Well, I am a novice at making Thai curries and have just made a green chicken curry. The recipe was for RED Thai curry paste but for some reason I picked up the GREEN paste…….Hope it doesn’t t blow everyone’s head off!!! ???

Shellie-Ann Kerns
Shellie-Ann Kerns

March 26, 2016

Thank you for this insight. I

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