How To Make A Nyonya Rempah Paste

This Malaysian curry paste looks hard to make on first glance. After a few goes though you will be able to make it blindfolded  and I hope like me you find it an enjoyable process :).

I make it well ahead of time for my favourite south-east Asian curry, a sticky Nyonyan Chicken Curry (see the post here). Please give this paste recipe a try, you won’t be disappointed. The only drawback is that you might not look at store bought pastes in the same light ever again.

Look at the colourful ingredients:


  1. All my recipes have their chili quota curbed at my family’s request. I am slowly increasing the amount on the sly so don’t tell them :). Add extra chili for that authentic taste if you can get away with it.
  2. The paste freezes well.

You will need:

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 tsp table salt
    • 1 tsp brown sugar
    • 3.5 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
    • 1.5 tsp whole cumin seeds
    • 1.5 tsp whole fennel seeds
    • 1 tsp powdered kashmiri chili (at the minimum)
    • 1 Tbsp dried belacan (shrimp paste)*
    • 1 Tbsb powdered turmeric
    • 3 cloves garlic
    • 270g red shallots (sliced)
    • 1/3 cup olive oil
    • Note *: I sometimes use a treacle consistency type of belacan but it is so sticky and harder to blend than the dried version.
  • Equipment
    • a chopping board
    • a long sharp knife
    • a small bowl
    • a small plate
    • a wet blender with a very small bowl
    • a dry spice mixer or a mortar and pestle

Make the rempah


  1. Bring all of the rempah ingredients together (see What Does Mise en Place Mean?.
  2. Dry fry the  whole spices (3.5 Tbsp whole coriander seeds, 1.5 tsp whole cumin seeds and 1.5 tsp whole fennel seeds).
  3. Let them cool and add to your spice mill. Mill them in bursts to avoid cooking the spices further in the heat caused by the blades. Keep going until you get a fine powder. Add this powder to your wet mixer and enjoy the aroma.
  4. Roughly chop the 270g red shallots and 3 garlic cloves and add to the wet mixer.
  5. I use Sim Seng Lee brand dried belacan (1 Tbsp worth), it stores really well and doesn’t smell out the house! Add it to the wet mixer.
  6. Add the rest of the ingredients to the wet blender (1/3 cup olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp kashmiri chili and 1 Tbsb powdered turmeric).
  7. Blend to a smooth paste, spoon it into a bowl and place in the fridge.

Better than a store bought paste by a long shot:




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