Su-Mei Yu's Big Four Paste (A Thai Condiment)

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READY IN: 26mins
Recipe by Jostlori

Su-Mei Yu is chef/owner of my favorite Thai restaurant in my hometown of San Diego. She has written an award winning cookbook, Cracking the Coconut. This Big Four Paste is extremely versatile - at the end of the instructions are ways to use it. This keeps, refrigerated, for a month. Instructions are provided using a mortar and pestle, or a food processor

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed
  • 2 tablespoons thai white peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 12 -15 garlic cloves, minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup cilantro (leaves and stems)


  1. Heat a 7 inch skillet over medium high heat. Add the coriander seeds and dry roast sliding the skillet back and forth over the burner, until the seeds are fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  2. Transfer the seeds to a small bowl to cool and repeat with the peppercorns. When cool, grind the coriander seeds and peppercorns separately in an electric grinder and transfer to separate bowls.
  4. Place a mortar on top of a damp towel on the kitchen counter. Add the sea salt and garlic and pound them together by holding the pestle in the center of your palm and pounding straight up and down into the center of the mortar until a paste forms, scraping down sides as needed.
  5. Add the cilantro and pound to a smooth paste.
  6. Add the coriander and peppercorn powders and pound and blend until the paste is smooth.
  7. Transfer the paste to a jar, seal, and refrigerate.
  9. In a small processor or magic bullet, add the sea salt, garlic and cilantro and pulse until finely minced, scraping down the side of the bowl frequently.
  10. Add the coriander and peppercorn powders and process to a paste. The paste will be coarser than the paste made with a mortar and pestle.
  11. Transfer the paste to a jar, seal, and refrigerate.
  13. For Grilling: Coat 1 lb meat, fish or shellfish with juice of 1 lemon and 1 tablespoons olive oil; rub generously with 1 tsp Big Four Paste; refrigerate for 1 hour; grill.
  14. For Stir-Fries: Use 1 tablespoons Big Four Paste for each 1/4 to 1/2 lb meat, fish or shellfish and 2-3 cups sliced vegetables or noodles; add the paste at the beginning of stir frying, after you've added the oil to a hot skillet.
  15. For Meatballs for soup or curry: Add 1 tablespoons Big Four Paste per lb of ground meat mixture and shape into balls. Add to the boiling broth or grill.
  16. For other uses: use to coat meat before battering and deep frying; use as a rub for roasting chicken or turkey; use in meatloaf 1 tablespoons per lb. of meat.

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