The Thai Massaman Curry is the result of a culinary match made in heaven!
It comes from Southern Thailand where the majority of the population is Muslim and as such combines the freshness of a classic Thai curry with the earthy/spicy/fragrant flavors of a Middle Eastern bazaar.
It is traditionally made with beef or lamb but is also quite often served vegetarian style with tofu as the protein.
This is one Thai curry paste I never buy ready-made as the ones I have tested are all way too salty and taste as if all the spices used were well past their expiry date by the time they were mixed into the curry paste.
So do yourself the favor and make your own, from scratch. Yes it takes a little time to put it together but a little paste goes a long way so if you freeze it (I like to freeze the paste in an ice cube tray for handy portion sizes) you will have ready made curry paste for several months.
Vegetable Massaman Curry
Ingredients for the Curry Paste.
- 2 tsp whole cloves
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp black peppercorns
- 1/4 tsp white peppercorns
- 1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
- 10 cardamom pods Seeds only, pods discarded
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
- 35 large dried red chilies deseeded and roughly chopped
- 2 large fresh red chilies deseeded and roughly chopped
- 5 coriander (cilantro) roots cleaned
- 4 lemongrass stalks chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh galangal
- 8-10 garlic cloves chopped
- 2 large yellow onions chopped
- 1 tsp shrimp paste (omit if on a vegan/vegetarian diet)
Ingredients for the Curry
- 2-3 tbsp Massaman curry paste (see above)
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 tsp palm sugar
- 2 tsp fish sauce (use soy sauce if on a vegan/vegetarian diet)
- 2 tsp tamarind paste
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/4 cup water
- 2-3 medium sized potatoes cut into large chunks
- 2 carrots sliced into chunks
- About 150 g firm tofu Cut into chunks
- 4 small red onions quartered
- 1 handful raw peanuts dry roasted and roughly ground
- 1-2 tsp dark soy sauce optional. I use it to deepen the flavor when making the vegetarian version. It will not be needed if you are using beef or lamb.
Making the Curry Paste:
- In a dry wok or frying pan roast all the dry spices, including the bay leaves, over low to medium heat until fragrant, a few of minutes only. Cool and grind to a fine powder.
- Heat the oil in the wok and sauté all the chilies with the coriander roots, lemongrass, galangal, garlic, and onions for a few minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to a blender (or a tall container if you will be using a hand blender) and add the dried spices and the shrimp paste. Blend until smooth. Use or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 6 months.
Completing the dish:
- Saute the tofu in a bit of oil until slightly browned. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Heat a pot over medium heat and add the coconut milk. Stir in the curry paste and simmer for a couple of minutes until nicely fragrant.
- Add the bay leaves, sugar, fish sauce, cinnamon stick, tamarind paste, and water and stir to mix well. Taste and add the soy sauce if using. Keep in mind that the flavors will develop as the dish cooks so don’t be overly eager with the salty condiments to start with, you can always add more at the end.
- Add the potatoes, carrots, sauteed tofu, and peanuts and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through. Be careful it doesn’t boil over as this can happen quickly if the curry gets too hot too fast.
- Add the onions and continue simmering for about five minutes until the onions become soft but still keep their shape. Adjust seasoning and serve!
If you are more of a Green Curry person check out my recipe for Thai Green Curry.