Sunday evening, we were set to go to an Italian restaurant, when I decided to “cook for the week”. I pulled out some Massamun paste from the freezer and Bee made some rice. Half an hour later, the house smelt like our fav Thai restaurant. We devoured a couple of bowlfuls and forgot about the Italian place.
Whenever we go to a Thai restaurant, Bee gets the Green Curry, I get Massamun/Massaman if it’s on the menu.
This is probably the second best Massaman curry we’ve tasted. The best was at a restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland. The chef rustled up a perfectly spiced creamy stew with potatoes and tofu for us, though it wasn’t on the menu.
“Massamun/Massaman is the heartiest of all Thai stew-like curries. This curry paste is complex and elaborate, containing more ingredients, especially dried-roasted flavors, than any other curry pastes …
Dating back to the ancient kingdom of Ayudthaya, King Narai, who was fond of Indian food, imported a chef for the royal kitchen. From the royal court, the aromatic massamun curry made its into the mainstream Thai diet, and its paste still contains an extraordinary variety of Indian herbs and spices,”
says Chat Mingkwan, in his book Buddha’s Table: Thai Feasting Vegetarian Style. This recipe has been adapted from that book, with the seasonings adjusted to suit our tastes.
Muslim, and later Portuguese, traders brought spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, cloves and nutmeg from the Middle East and India to the south coast of Thailand. The name Massaman is thought to be derived from the word “Musulman”, the older form of the word “Muslim”. (Wiki)
It’s a richer, heartier version of Thai Yellow Curry and usually features beef and potatoes or sweet potatoes. Vegetarians usually replace the beef with other starchy veggies like carrots or water chestnuts. We didn’t have any potatoes, so tofu did the trick. While the Massaman served at restaurants does not usually have pineapple, this recipe did. It add a wonderful flavour dimension.
The tamarind, coconut and spices give it a south Indian flavour.
Tamarind (Tamarindus Indica) is called ‘Indian date‘, and is the fruit of the evergreen tamarind tree. Tamarind leaves are used in a variety of preparations in India. The fruits are very tangy and a tad sweet – with notes of date and lime. Tamarind is the secret ingredient in Worcestershire sauce. Nutritional info here.
Usually, we make it using Maesri brand Massaman Curry paste. Making the paste from scratch make a huge difference to the flavour. Though the ingredient list is long they are usually items we have in our pantry and the procedure is very simple. If you have the paste in the freezer, you can use any combo of veggies to create this dish in 20 minutes.
Our PICTORIAL GLOSSARY of common Thai ingredients.
THAI MASSAMUN CURRY PASTE (Namprik Gaeng Massamun)
Makes 1 cup
6 large red dried chillies (like California, New Mexico or Guajillo)
**we used New Mexico chillies
2 tsps whole coriander seeds
2 tsps whole cumin seeds
5 whole green cardamoms
1 small cinnamon stick
half whole nutmeg
5 whole cloves
1 tsp black peppercorns
3 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 tablespoons chopped lemongrass (fleshy midsection)
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped galangal
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves and stems
2 tsps chopped kaffir lime leaves (or lime zest)
2 tsps fermented bean curds (you can leave this out)
1. Stem and seed the chillies. Chop them with kitchen scissors and soak them in hot water for 10-15 minutes. Discard the bitter water, and squeeze the chillies dry.
2. Roast the cumin and coriander seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and peppercorns until fragrant (3 to 4 minutes on medium heat in a dry pan).
3. Using a mortar and pestle, or a food processor, blend all the ingredients to a smooth paste, using a little water if necessary.
We usually freeze this paste in 1/3 cup portions.
THAI MASSAMUN CURRY (Gaeng Massamun)
In lieu of coconut cream (available in a can), you can use regular or lite coconut milk. The original recipe uses about 4 cups total coconut milk and coconut cream. I used just one 13.5 ounce can (about 2 cups). For frying the curry paste, if you don’t have canned coconut cream, just use 1 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil.
You could also use coconut milk powder. Mix 1/3 cup coconut milk powder and enough water to make 1 cup coconut milk.
Serves 6 to 8
1/3 cup namprik gaeng massamun (massamun curry paste)
**less if using storebought
1 cup coconut cream (or coconut milk)
about 1 cup coconut milk (low-fat is fine)
1 pound small new potatoes (we used cubed firm tofu)
2.5 cups assorted veggies
(we used pearl onions, carrots and green bell peppers)
1.5 cups diced pineapple (I used frozen)
1 walnut-sized ball of tamarind pulp soaked in hot water to get 1/2 cup thick paste
1/4 cup lite soy sauce (we use tamari)
2 tablespoons powdered palm sugar/jaggery/brown sugar
1 veg bouillon cube or 2 tsps Better than Bouillon vegetable base
3 whole green cardamoms
3 whole bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
salt to taste
1/2 cup whole roasted peanuts
julienned green bell peppers
1. Heat 1/2 cup of the coconut cream on medium heat and cook the curry paste in it for 3 to 5 minutes until fragrant.
2. Add everything else and bring to a boil. (Do not add salt as the tamari and bouillon have plenty. Add it only after tasting at the end.)
3. Simmer covered until the veggies are cooked.
4. Check the seasonings. Add salt if you need it, cayenne powder if you want it hotter, or coconut milk if you want it milder.
5. Stir in half of the roasted peanuts. Garnish with the remaining peanuts and julienned bell peppers and serve.
The dish is served with rice and sometimes with pickled ginger or Ajaad – a sauce made with cucumber and peppers macerated in vinegar.
Good with rice, better with Cheese-Mustard Bread.
Massaman Curry with Chicken, Chickpeas and Sweet Potatoes.
Filed Under: bell-peppers/capsicum, cardamom, Carrot, Chillies/Peppers, Cilantro/Coriander Leaves, cinnamon, clove, Coconut, coconut-milk, coriander seeds, cumin, Galangal, Garlic, India, Jaggery, Kaffir lime leaf, kaffir lime leaves, Massaman, Massamun, nutmeg, palm-jaggery, Peanut/Groundnut, peppercorn, Pineapple, Soy/Tofu/Tempeh, Tamarind, Thailand, Tof, vegan recipes, vegetarian recipes