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Base Genep (Balinese Spice Paste)

Base Genep (Balinese Spice Paste) 20.000

Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Feb 1, 2023

In Balinese, base genep (pronounced baa-ser geh-nep) means “complete spice paste.” While Balinese cuisine has several different spice pastes, base genep — true to its name — is the most common and versatile. It is used to flavor meats and seafood, or to make soups and curries. While spice pastes are traditionally made with a mortar and pestle, food writer Pat Tanumihardja uses a food processor, though if you’d like to flex your muscles, by all means go for it. (Chef Yudiawan, from whom Tanumihardja adapted the recipe, recommends a small-to-medium food processor to pulse — not puree — the ingredients.)

If using a mortar and pestle, don’t grind the harder herbs: Instead, slice the galangal into 1/4-inch rounds, smash the lemongrass bulbs and add them when frying the paste. Tanumihardja prefers to keep the skin on the rhizomes as it’s believed the skin has extra nutrients and medicinal qualities, but feel free to peel, if preferred.

Active time: 40 mins; Total time: 1 hour

Storage Notes: Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Where to Buy: Fresh turmeric, galangal, makrut lime leaves and shrimp paste can be found at Asian markets.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 20 servings; makes 1 1/4 cups

  • 5 ounces shallots (about 4 small), peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 long, fresh red chiles, such as Fresno or cayenne, stemmed and seeded, if desired
  • 4 fresh red Thai chiles, stemmed and seeded, if desired
  • One (4-inch) piece fresh turmeric, coarsely chopped
  • One (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
  • One (1/2-inch) piece galangal, coarsely chopped
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, outer layer removed, tops and bottom root ends sliced off (reserve the tops), tender white bulbs chopped into thin slices
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil, divided (may substitute with another neutral oil such as canola or safflower)
  • 1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste (optional; may substitute with fish sauce)
  • 2 makrut lime leaves
  • 4 cloves, finely ground
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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In the bowl of a food processor, combine the shallots, garlic, red and Thai chiles, turmeric, ginger, galangal, chopped lemongrass bulb, 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and shrimp paste, if using. Pulse (don’t process) until a smooth paste resembling cooked oatmeal is formed — a few coarse bits here and there are fine.

In a large skillet or wok over medium heat, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Add the spice paste and cook, tossing constantly to ensure it doesn’t burn, until fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the reserved lemongrass tops, lime leaves (crumpled to release their essential oils), cloves, nutmeg and black pepper and continue cooking, stirring every few minutes and adjusting the heat as needed to prevent the paste from burning, until it turns several shades darker to golden brown/ocher, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Discard any large herbs, transfer to a lidded jar and refrigerate until needed.

Recipe Source

Recipe adapted by food writer Pat Tanumihardja from chef and Hindu priest Jero Mangku Dalem Suci Gede Yudiawan of the restaurant Dapur Bali Mula in Desa Les, Bali.

Tested by Jim Webster.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (1 tablespoon): 49

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 3g 5%

Saturated Fat: 2g 10%

Cholesterol: 0mg 0%

Sodium: 4mg 0%

Total Carbohydrates: 6g 2%

Dietary Fiber: 1g 4%

Sugar: 1g

Protein: 1g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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