Slice the top off large and small chillies and remove the seeds. If using fresh chilli: chop finely. If using dried chilli: Slice into small rings and soak in water for 40 mins to soften. Drain and squeeze out all the liquid (use gloves to avoid getting spicy chilli on yourself). Chop finely and set aside.
10 large dried red chillis, 10 dried red thai chillis
In a medium frying pan, gently toast all spices over a low to medium heat for a 1-2 minutes, starting with the biggest and gradually adding in the others, through to the smallest. Order should be cinnamon, star anise, cardamom pods, cloves, coriander seeds, whole black pepper seeds and finally cumin seeds.
1 cinnamon stick, 2 star anise, 10 cardamom, 10 whole cloves, 2 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tbsp black peppercorns, 2 tbsp cumin seeds
Place all the toasted spices in a stone mortar and pestle, grind into a fine powder. Remove from mortar and pestle and set aside. Note: You can speed things up and use a spice grinder here, but a mortar will give you the best result.
Add the remaining ingredients in the mortar and pestle - in sequence so that the most fibrous ingredients are added first - lemongrass, galangal (or ginger), kaffir lime rind, kaffir lime leaves, soaked large dried chillies (or fresh), soaked small dried chillies (or fresh), crushed peanuts, coriander root, shallots, garlic and finally shrimp paste. This will help you to achieve a smooth consistency. Note: You can speed things up and use a food processor here, but a mortar will give you the best result. If using a processor, you may need to add a little vegetable oil to help everything mix.
2 tbsp coriander seeds, 3 stems lemongrass, 2.5 cm galangal, 2 tsp Thai makrut / kaffir lime fruit rind, 6 Thai makrut / kaffir lime leaves, 10 large dried red chillis, 10 dried red thai chillis, 4 coriander root, 5 tbsp crushed peanuts, 5 shallots, 10 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp Thai shrimp paste
Use a spoon to scrape the ingredients from the side of the mortar and pestle down to the centre as you go. Tip: If you have a small pestle, break up the mix into portions to make it easier when grinding the paste together.
Finally add the spice powder and continue to pound until you obtain a smooth paste.