Red Thai Curry Paste
I wonder sometimes how it is to be working as a housemaid/ help at someone’s place in India. Pardon me if the usage of the word is inappropriate and please educate me if there is a better term to refer to women/ men who come to do our household chores.
Ever since Nitesh and I moved to India, we have been told by family and friends to hire a person on a full-time basis who can do all the miscellaneous work (basically make sure you don’t have to move a thing)- a stay at home househelp of sorts. And that has put me in a conundrum that I’m unable to resolve.
The confusion that I have is with the day-to-day management of the inequalities in our lives- what do you do when you have guests over (do you get them to share your meal on the same table? Even if I do it in private, there would be older people who just wouldn’t sit on the same table), what do you do when you’re going on a holiday or to a high-end restaurant (would it make him/her feel out of place considering their family members clearly might not be able to afford that, would that make them think of their families who struggle to make their ends meet?), would I get an air-conditioner for him/her if it gets too hot, so on and so forth.
Now one can argue that there isn’t much difference between a part-time worker and a full-time one. For that, I feel I can completely shut myself from her life once he/ she leaves or years of watching these women come home and work part-time has conditioned me to be comfortable with status quo. And I admit my shortcoming here!
It might also give us solace in our own bubble to think that they are better off at our houses than their place. I’m not even sure about that. We think that they don’t get to eat at their homes and so it is legitimate to serve them whatever is left. I have seen many families who continuously serve them left-over food or make them eat after everyone has eaten. How can that not be problematic? How can their dignity be dependent on that one accident when the child was born into a poor family and her chances in life was decided almost irrevocably?
Many of us who have wealth and privilege are convinced that they do what they do because they deserve it or because they are lazy, addicted to drinking, don’t want to study, lack ambition etc. Will our generation take interest and come out of the bubble and understand what it takes to come out of that vicious cycle of poverty and lack of opportunities? Even if we do, how will the knowledge translate into action and how can our actions address those everyday questions?
I wonder how an outsider would feel when they see us with our house-helps. I’d think they would be bewildered by middle-class India’s capacity to look away when confronted with such enormous injustice and how our society is culturally trained to be comfortable or apathetic towards inequality!
If you are looking for answers here, I don’t have those buddy! I’m looking for answers too. But I know that I’m asking the right questions and I’m determined to find my answers to these. I’m determined to leave behind a world that is better than I was born into.
I will give you the recipe for the Red Thai Curry Paste:
- Dried red chillies (Kashmiri):12-14 (if using small red chillies 7-8)- this paste is on the milder side of hotness. If you’d like to make it hotter, add red chilli powder and black pepper in the curry after tasting
- Galangal (thai ginger), chopped: 2 tbsp
- Lemon grass, chopped: 3 stalk
- Garlic: 10-12 cloves (almost a whole garlic)
- Fresh coriander stalks, chopped: 2 tbsp (with roots, after washing it thoroughly)
- Onion, chopped: 1 small
- Lemon leaves: 8-9 (kafir). If leaves are big, use 6-7
- Salt- 1.5 tsp
- Coriander seeds, roasted: 4 tbsp (roast until aromatic, don’t darken)
- Cumin seeds, roasted: 1.5 tsp
- Black peppercorn: 25
- Degi mirch- ¼ (optional), for the color – if you do not get Kashmiri chillies
- Oil- 2 tbsp, while grinding
- Sugar- 1 tsp
- Readymade red curry paste – 2 tbsp (optional) [I use the brands Nanjai for Non-vegetarian and Real Thai for vegetarian]
- Crack the dried red chillies, shake out the seeds. Soak the chilli pods in boiling hot water for 20 minutes until soft.
- Roast coriander and cumin seeds till aromatic and keep aside.
- Put all the ingredients in a grinder with little water and oil and churn. Grind till the smooth paste is ready.
- Do not use the water which you used to soak the chillies, it might contain dirt.
- Use the paste as required. It can be stored as it is for 3-4 days.
- For longer use, it can be frozen and used for 2 months. If you wish to do that, use as little water as possible, instead use oil.