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      RECIPE TITLE "Glurh, Ka-Tiem, Prikk Thai, Rugg Pakk Chee (The Big Four Paste)" from Cracking the Coconut Copyright © 2000 by Su-Mei Yu

    yields Makes 3/4 cup time--- difficulty easy


    • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
    • 2 tablespoons Thai white peppercorns
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt
    • 12 to 15 cloves garlic, minced (1/2 cup)
    • 1 cup minced cilantro stems and roots


    The Big Four Paste, which can be made ahead and refrigerated for a month, is extremely versatile. For pungency, this ancient recipe relies on white peppercorns, which are gentler and more subtle than chiles. First you smell the wonderful aroma from the roasted peppercorns, then, as you eat, you experience a gentle rush of warmth that lingers. For a less pungent paste, decrease the peppercorns to 2 teaspoons and the coriander seeds to 1 teaspoon. If you are concerned about salt, you can leave it out, though I wouldn't advise it. Here, salt helps preserve the paste as well as brings out its flavor.

    To Prepare with a Mortar and Pestle

    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. 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 spice or coffee grinder and transfer to separate bowls.

    Place a mortar on top of a damp towel on the kitchen counter, preferably waist-high. Add the sea salt and garlic to the mortar and pound them together by holding the pestle securely in the center of your palm and pounding straight up and down into the center of the mortar. Use a spoon or spatula to scrape the ingredients from the sides into the center of the mortar as needed, and pound until a paste forms. Add the cilantro roots and stems and pound to a smooth paste.

    Add the ground coriander and peppercorn powders and pound and blend until the paste is smooth. Transfer the paste to a jar, seal, and refrigerate.

    To Prepare with a Food Processor

    Roast and grind the coriander seeds and peppercorns as above. Fit the food processor with the steel blade. Add the sea salt, garlic, and cilantro roots and stems and pulse until finely minced, scraping down the side of the bowl frequently. Add the ground spices and process a paste. Transfer to a jar, seal, and refrigerate.

    Cook's Note

    The paste made in the food processor will be coarser than paste made using the mortar and pestle.

    Using the Big Four Paste

    For Grilling: Coat 1 pound meat, fish, or shellfish with the juice of 1 lemon and 1 tablespoon olive oil; rub generously with 1 teaspoon Big Four Paste. Cover and refrigerate for an hour. Grill leaving steaks and other meats and fish whole or threading chunks on skewers.

    For Roast Chicken or Turkey: For chicken, rub a 3-pound bird with 2 tablespoons olive oil and the juice of 1 lemon, then massage 1 tablespoon Big Four Paste all over the bird, under its skin, and in the cavity. Place in a plastic bag, seal tightly, and refrigerate overnight. For a 16-pound turkey, use 1 cup olive oil, the juice of 2 lemons, and 3/4 cup Big Four Paste.

    For Stir-Fries: Use 1 tablespoon Big Four Paste for each 1/4 to 1/2 pound meat, fish, or shellfish and 2 to 3 cups sliced vegetables. Use the same amount for stir-frying 2 cups noodles, adding 1/4 to 1/2; pound each sliced meat, fish, and shellfish and 1 cup sliced vegetable. Add the Big Four Paste at the beginning of stir-frying, after you've added the oil to a hot skillet.

    For Meatballs for Soup, Curry, or Noodles: Add 1 tablespoon Big Four Paste per each pound ground meat mixture and shape into meatballs. Add to the boiling broth. Meatballs can also be grilled.

    Meat Loaf: Add 1 tablespoon Big Four Paste for each pound of ground meat, mixing it in with the other ingredients.

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