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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.