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For the curry paste, soak the chillies in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain (reserve the soaking liquid) and place the chillies into the bowl of a food processor. Add all the remaining curry paste ingredients except the turmeric. Blend until smooth (add 1-2 tablespoons of the chilli soaking liquid if necessary to get a smooth blend). Transfer the paste to a bowl and stir through the turmeric.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add half the curry paste (keep the other half in the freezer to use another time). Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes to allow the aromatics to soften and mellow. Then add the coconut milk, ½ cup water, fish sauce and palm sugar. Simmer for 2 minutes to allow the palm sugar to dissolve. Stir through the crab meat and simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more fish sauce and/or palm sugar if needed. Stir through the betel or basil leaves.
Serve alongside vermicelli noodles.
Traditionally it’s customary to use betel leaves but I often use Thai basil or even Italian basil to get a similar herbaceous flavour.
Frozen curry paste will last up to 6 months in the freezer. Thaw overnight before using.
Use less curry paste for a milder curry.