It's red, but it isn't red hot. And that's why it's the sort of curry the average American is going to love.
I'm talking about red curry paste, one of a literal rainbow of intensely flavorful Southeast Asian seasonings.
To be clear, curry pastes are not the same as the curry powders most people know, though they do share some ingredients. Curry pastes — which are used in Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian and Indian cooking — combine dry spices with ground fresh herbs and roots, garlic, chiles and other ingredients to form thick pastes.
These pastes often are classified by color. Green curry paste, for example, is a fiery Thai blend that combines green chiles, lemongrass, garlic, shrimp paste and kaffir lime leaves. It usually is blended with coconut milk to season beef, pork and chicken.
Yellow curry paste is a bit milder and usually sports garlic, lemongrass, galangal (a relative of ginger), cumin, cinnamon and turmeric. It's popular for adding to soups.
But the most versatile and widely used is red curry paste, a mash of red chiles, coriander roots and leaves, shrimp paste, lemongrass, garlic, shallots and galangal.
It's got some kick, but it won't sear your mouth. It's used with everything from chicken, duck and beef to pork and shrimp. And it lands in everything from stews, curries and soups to dressings, marinades and condiments.
Conveniently, red curry paste also is the easiest variety to find at the typical American grocer. It usually is packed in small glass jars or cans and can be found in the Asian section. Once opened, the remainder can be refrigerated for months.