The Black Orchid breaks it down for you - What are the differences? Which is spicier? What goes best with each dish?
Working in the service industry for well over 10 years, with multiple Thai and Pan-Asian restaurants, the most frequently asked question when taking food orders is: “What is the difference between the red and green Thai curry?”. Before I had been asked this, I hadn't given it a second thought, but after the 95846th time being asked this, I decided it was time to not answer with "one is red and the other is green...", and not be met with disheartened oh's and "can I get the pad Thai, then...?’
The obvious difference between each dish is the colour: one is red and the other is green: thats a given, but its the ingredients used in each dish that not only distinguishes the colours but also the flavours.
The ingredients used to make green curry paste are: green chillies, coriander (cilantro) roots, makrut (kaffir) leaf & peel and basil; this is what gives the paste that exquisite green colour. They are then mashed into a paste along with lemongrass, ginger, garlic, shallots, and fish sauce. Red curry paste uses the same basic components, but what gives it that vibrant red colour is the 20 (give or take a few, depending on the chef) dried red chillies, crushed into a paste.
The ingredient variation, also answers the second most common question asked: which one is spicier?
Which Is Spicier?
Green curry is known as 'Gaeng Keaw Whan' which literally translates to 'curry green sweet' What makes the green curry paste the extra sweetness is that it is made with the sweet coriander root, which is what makes the green Thai curry far milder in taste. This goes beautifully with a steamed jasmine rice (No.68), as it won't take derive the attention from the mild flavour of the green curry.
The Thai name for Red curry is 'Gaeng Phed' which means 'curry spicy' , which should answer the question in its self, but I won't stop there. As previously mentioned, the red curry paste uses around 20 dried red chillies, and just as the colour connotes, red is hot! danger! It’s going to blow your head off! which is why it is recommended to pair it with a coconut rice (No.70); it's sweetness from the coconut milk, sugar and sweetcorn diffuses the heat from the curry.
However, like every Thai dish, it all varies according to who is cooking it, and who they are cooking for. When a customer asks for their green curry to be extra spicy, be prepared to have their socks blown off. If a customer can't handle spice, then we add extra coconut milk. (What ever you want, we will do it!)
What Should You Pair With Each Dish?
This is a something that not many people always consider, however it's something that I know will be useful to you the next time you are out for dinner or feel like cooking some Thai food at home: What should you pair with each dish?
As a rule of thumb, I have always paired red paste curries, with any kind of seafood, a good example of this is The Black Orchid's succulent cod lathered in our rich red Panang curry paste (which is No.59 on our menu FYI...). The thick spicy sauce compliments the white fish beautifully as the Panang Curry gives the plain cod, that extra punch.
With green curry, the most common pairing among our customers is beef or chicken.
But at the end of the day, all it comes down to, is what your preference is, and you should also remember: Thai food goes with EVERYTHING!