Many Thai dishes begin with a thick, pungent paste, typically combining chilies, garlic, shallots and sometimes dried spices. These pastes are known as phrik kaeng or khrueang kaeng, and in the past, were made at home, using a mortar and pestle. Nowadays, at least in Bangkok, most people skip this time-consuming step and buy pre-made pastes. There are lots of brands out there, but if you're lucky enough to live near Banglamphu, you can get yours at Nittaya.
Having made curry pastes for several decades now, Nittaya has quite a reputation. They've got everything here, from ready-to-go matsaman paste, to an excellent nam phrik phao. The curry pastes are kept in covered containers:
although this does little to mask the...delicious odour. They're sold by weight, and the staff can even put your choice into a leak-proof tube.
Nittaya also sells heaps of prepared curries and other dishes:
(To see a larger version of this pic, go here.)
Nittaya Curry Shop (Google Maps link)
136-40 Th Chakhraphong
02 282 8212