Thai Test Kitchen: Which brand of curry paste is best?Ever since the boyfriend’s parents introduced me to Mae Anong curry pastes, I haven’t had the urge to try any other brand.  Mae Anong has many different varieties of pastes available, they all taste great, and I can find them easily at my local Thai market.  However, one of the most frequent questions that comes up on this blog is which brand of curry paste is the best.  And since I hadn’t tried all of the curry paste brands out there, I never felt like I could answer in confidence….  that is, until now!

Read on for our next Thai Test Kitchen challenge: a side-by-side comparison of six Thai curry paste brands.

 Thai Test Kitchen: Which brand of curry paste is best?

For this curry paste showdown, I chose to compare the brands that are the most widely available in the U.S., but still maintain some sense of being Thai, such as being a product of Thailand or having a respectable ingredient list.  I also went with only green curry pastes and followed the same recipe for a curry with pork, green beans, and Thai eggplant to make sure that the playing field was even.  The brands compared were: 1) Thai Kitchen, 2) Lobo, 3) Aroy-D, 4) Maesri, 5) Mae Ploy, and 6) Mae Anong.

 Thai Test Kitchen: Which brand of curry paste is best?Immediately upon opening the packages, differences in color and texture of the various brands were apparent.  Thai Kitchen (1), Aroy-D (3), and Maesri (4) had a more yellow tint than the other brands, whereas Mae Ploy (5) and Mae Anong (6) had a crumblier texture than the others.  And perhaps as a signal of what was to come, I also felt that the Thai Kitchen paste had a somewhat unpleasant aroma as compared to the others.

Thai Test Kitchen: Which brand of curry paste is best?After our initial inspection, it was time to start making curries!  This ended up being quite the production, using all four burners on the stove for the initial four curries, then hurrying to make the last two before the first set got cold…

You’ll notice in the photos below that the Thai Kitchen (1) curry separated more than the others.  It also required more water to maintain a decent consistency, as did the Lobo (2) curry.  I think this was mostly a reflection of the different pots I was using, and not because of an inherent difference in how the curry paste cooked.  Despite this, you can see that the first three curries ended up being more green in color than the last three, with the Mae Anong (6) curry looking almost gray.

Thai Test Kitchen: Which brand of curry paste is best?

Next came the taste test.  The boyfriend and I recruited friends to be our guinea pigs and sample these curries, side by side, with plenty of water and rice in between to cleanse our palates.

Thai Test Kitchen: Which brand of curry paste is best?The results were as follows:

1. Somewhat surprisingly to me, all of the curries were ranked as being decent.  There were definitely favorites, but overall, our friends decided that any of these curries would be passable as a Thai green curry.

2. The top three brands were Mae Anong, Mae Ploy, and Maesri.  Mae Anong and Maesri were described as having smooth, round flavors with Mae Anong being slightly more flavorful than Maesri.  Mae Ploy ended up being too salty for the boyfriend and me after the addition of fish sauce as called for in my recipe, but it did have a nice heat and depth of green curry flavor.

3. The bottom three brands were Thai Kitchen, Lobo, and Aroy-D.  Thai Kitchen was described as having a somewhat unpleasant, slightly bitter taste, but still tasting like green curry.  Lobo had a distinctive lime (but not kaffir lime) flavor and Aroy-D tasted more like an Indian curry with a prominent turmeric taste.  These three were also less flavorful than the top three brands.

Thai Test Kitchen: Which brand of curry paste is best?I have to say that my favorite brand of curry paste is still Mae Anong, even though it doesn’t make for as pretty pictures given its grayish hue.  But, I’ll definitely be more willing to substitute Mae Ploy or Maesri in the future should the need arise.

This little experiment also reconfirmed for me that the amount of fish sauce needed for your curry depends upon the paste you’re using, and the amount of water necessary to achieve a nice consistency is dependent upon many factors, including your pan and how quickly it heats.  Also, you simply can’t skip out on Thai basil and kaffir lime leaves, as they make all of the difference in creating a fantastic Thai green curry, regardless of the paste used.

So now the question of which Thai curry paste is best has been resolved, and we have enough green curry to last us for a long while!   Luckily it freezes well…  Do these results coincide with your experiences?  Which brand of Thai curry paste is your favorite?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

More Thai Recipes:

Tamarind Candy | Makham Gao | มะขามแก้ว thumbnail

Tamarind Candy | Makham Gao | มะขามแก้ว

Tamarind Drink | Nam Makham | น้ำมะขามสด thumbnail

Tamarind Drink | Nam Makham | น้ำมะขามสด

Pork-Stuffed Squash Blossoms | Dawg Fugtong Tod | ดอกฟักทองทอด

Pork-Stuffed Squash Blossoms | Dawg Fugtong Tod | ดอกฟักทองทอด

Noodles with Fish Curry | Khanom Jeen Nam Ya | ขนมจีนน้ำยา thumbnail

Noodles with Fish Curry | Khanom Jeen Nam Ya | ขนมจีนน้ำยา

{ 17 comments… add one }

  • Bibs @ Tasteometer March 1, 2014, 9:51 am

    Wow, that all sounds like hard work but a fun experiment. I’ve not tried all those curry pastes but I always buy Mae Ploy. I find that I add a lot less fish sauce though as it’s too salty. But, I have a kaffir lime tree so I always add some kaffir lime leaves, lime juice and palm sugar. Then taste and adjust as necessary until perfect. Loved reading your post, very interesting.

    Reply
    • Rachel March 6, 2014, 3:12 pm

      Thanks Bibs! It was more fun than work :) I’m glad our results match up with your experience too.

  • chali March 1, 2014, 5:05 pm

    love your experiment with all those pastes, though i’m thai but never had enough effort to do that (like you) !!! mae sri is the only brand i can find at local asian supermarket, as i live in a very remote area :( anyhow, that really enlight me that the only brand of curry paste they carry is not bad at all :) / chali

    Reply
  • LauraNOC March 4, 2014, 9:31 am

    I’ve always used the Mae Ploy brand, because that’s what my Thai friend recommended, but I recently ran out of red curry paste and I bought another brand. I must say your article makes me regret not sticking to what I knew works. The Green Curry from Mae Ploy is indeed very salty and requires very little fish sauce. I probably don’t eat as spicy as you do, although my cooking is considered too spicy by most Dutch people. Thanks for an informative post!

    Reply
  • Fawn @ Cowen Park Kitchen March 4, 2014, 11:46 pm

    I love this type of science! (the delicious kind)
    Speaking of curry variables, I’ve recently switched from Chaokoh to Natural Value coconut milk (flavor is just as good if not better, and it doesn’t come with emulsifiers, preservatives or BPA can, which is cool). Have you ever tried that brand? It’s kind of hard to find, at least in my area.

    Reply
    • Rachel March 6, 2014, 3:15 pm

      Thanks Fawn! That’s actually in queue for another Thai Test Kitchen post :)

  • Kelli March 5, 2014, 3:47 pm

    What a great post. Thanks for this info. Love your blog! Would you expect the results to be similar with red curry paste as well?

    Reply
    • Rachel March 6, 2014, 3:18 pm

      Hi Kelli, that’s a good question. I would imagine results would be pretty similar, but I guess I can’t know for sure without doing another taste test :)

  • suzy March 11, 2014, 1:54 pm

    I have had great experience with all kinds of Mae Ploy curries, but not I will experiment with Mae Anong for sure.
    Mae Ploy curries often include some kind of umami already, so that you don’t to add any yourself. I believe it is usually oyster sauce.

    Reply
  • Carla Sue March 15, 2014, 8:55 pm

    I also find Mae Ploy to be tasty but too salty. Thanks for posting this and I’ll give Mae Anong a try.

    Reply
  • Nancy Steinman May 8, 2014, 6:45 pm

    Rachel….thank you for this wonderfully in depth taste test! I was researching Thai Pastes today since I am on a Paleo eating program and am looking for Paleo friendly products. I couldn’t find the ingredient list on the bags of Mae Anong. I believe they were probably written in Thai. Any ideas…I’m especially interested in MSG, Sugars, etc.

    Thank you!
    Nancy

    Reply
  • Nancy Steinman May 8, 2014, 6:52 pm

    Thank you….I found the ingredients right on the front of the packages.

    Thanks again,
    Nancy

    Reply
  • Tiana August 28, 2014, 4:12 am

    I cannot, for the life of me, find green curry paste ANYWHERE! I’ve concluded that any typical grocery doesn’t carry it..where else can I find it?

    Reply
  • Tiana August 28, 2014, 4:17 am

    Okay, WOW. After submitting my first comment, I took a look around your site and realized WE’RE IN THE SAME CITY. Weirdest coincidence ever. Thank YOU for letting me know where to shop for Thai groceries!!!

    Reply
  • Melvin September 4, 2014, 10:25 pm

    I find nittaya brand to be my favourite, I would definitely agree that mae ploy is too salty! I will have to try mae anong! Thanks for the great review

    Reply
  • Ian September 5, 2014, 10:24 am

    I always used Namjai but have been unable to get hold of it in the UK for a couple of years now. Maesri has been my 2nd choice ever since but I’m going to try sourcing Mae Anong now.

    Reply
  • Laura September 22, 2014, 9:38 pm

    This is exactly what I was looking for when I googled, thanks for doing this comparison! Would love love to see the same thing done with coconut milk, as you mentioned above… :)

    Reply

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