Which refers to the act of making Southeast Asian Curry and other types of flavor pastes. We here at de-I HQ in the Tower are blessed in that we have a very high quality Asian Grocery store close by that has just about everything one needs to cook the foods one learned in the plethora of cooking classes I've taken in such locales as Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and China.
Whereas many in my various cooking classes would wonder where they were going to get galangal root, green papaya and Szechuan peppercorns, I merely smiled knowing they were all available to me...even the weird ass Malay shrimp paste called Belecan.
I can also get a lot of stuff that is already made. So there are commercial lines of Thai curry pastes and other things. These potentially are a real time saver and I've back way off of the idea that I need to make everything from scratch as I've gotten older. For example, I found a number of Indian dried spice mixtures that are as good as anything I've made from toasting and grinding up a dozen spices.
But I've not been happy with the Thai curry pastes. In general they have way more heat/chile in them than we like to eat. So to get the curry flavor you end up making a dish that is too hot to enjoy. I've also found that purchased sambal -a Malay and Indonesian chile sauce aren't quite the same as we had in the classes. And I've yet to find a purchased harissa, a Northern African chile sauce that I like as much as what I make.
Hence this weekend I was pounding away with the mortar and pestle making Thai green and yellow curry paste. I followed the recipe from the class on the green and ended up with something that seemed imbalanced. When I made the yellow, I adjusted the recipe by putting in more of some ingredients and less than others and ending up with something that to my nose was much closer to what I was looking for.
Wife conjectures that there are big differences in the size and flavor of various ingredients here compared to the native countries and that makes sense. As is so often the case, a recipe can be a good initial guide, but a cook has to use their own judgment and experience to make things come out the way they want.