I have a bone to pick with most ginger garlic pastes — one normally uses a blender to make them, so one needs a simply giant amount of ginger and garlic to make the blades go, and, one has to use water to make it slushy.
But who wants slushy ginger-garlic paste while cooking? And, who wants a simply giant amount of paste situated in the fridge, week after week, slowly oxidizing, and stinking up the air each time you open the fridge?
I often resort to the blender method, but I do believe this method is way superior — here we use the mortar and pestle. Aside from looking decorative, you make only as much as you need, and seriously, it doesn’t take that long.
No precise ingredients in this one. Use as much as you think you will need.
Step 1: Peel, destem and chop ginger, garlic, and chili. No need to go super fine.
Step 2: Place all ingredients in the bowl of a mortar (or is it pestle? I can never remember).
Step 3: Sprinkle with a bit of salt and wait a few minutes. Salt has three functions here. If you use kosher or sea salt, it will add a bit of roughage, all the better to grind with. Second, salt draws out moisture, and once again, this helps the grinding. Third, salt actually starts to cook certain foods. You can notice this specially with garlic — raw garlic has a sharp and aggressive taste; but if you salt it for a few minutes, it mellows out considerably, just like it does with cooking.
Step 4: Pound away with the pestle (or the mortar, I can’t remember which is which). It will not be a super smooth paste, but that’s where the rustic charm comes in.