Massaman Curry

This is a delicious, mild curry that my whole family enjoy. Although having said that I did ramp up the heat last time I made it, and while it was a little too hot for the kids, it was still fairly mild. All the flavour punch comes from the curry paste, so if you have the time I would urge you to roast and grind the dry spices yourself, and a food processor is all you need to whizz up the paste itself. You can certainly use a ready bought Massaman curry paste, which I have done in the past, but home made is where the knockout flavour really comes from. Otherwise you could save time by buying ground spices and just add them to the food processor with the other ingredients.

I have used beef here, which is traditional, but I don’t see why you couldn’t use chicken, lamb, duck or even fish. Remember to adjust the cooking time accordingly.


For the Massaman curry paste:

  • 3 tsp cumin seeds (or ground)
  • 4 tsp coriander seeds (or ground)
  • 6 cardamom pods (or 1 tsp ground)
  • 6 cloves (or 1 tsp ground)
  • 2 sticks cinnamon (or 1 tsp ground)
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns (or 1 tsp ground)
  • 4 dried red chillies
  • 1 large brown onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • coriander roots and stems, from one bunch of coriander
  • rind of one lime
  • 2 lemongrass stalks
  • 2 tsp shrimp paste
  • 2 tbsp grated palm sugar
  • 50 ml fish sauce
  • 50 ml tamarind puree or concentrate
  • vegetable oil

For the curry:

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 brown onion, sliced into wedges
  • 1 kg cubed beef, chuck or similar suited to slow cooking
  • 500 ml beef stock
  • 800 ml coconut milk
  • 1 kg potatoes, either halved baby potatoes or large potatoes cut into chunky cubes
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 tbs palm or brown sugar

1. Heat a frypan over a high heat. Put the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, and chillies in the fry pan. Heat until they become fragrant and darken just slightly in colour. This should take about five minutes or so. Transfer to a spice grinder and pulse until ground. You could also use a pestle and mortar and pound until they are coarsely ground. Next put the spices into the bowl of your food processor.

2. To the food processor bowl add the remaining curry paste ingredients. Whizz until a paste forms, drizzling in a few tablespoons of the vegetable oil until it’s smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

3. Heat a wok or large pan over a medium to high heat. Add the oil and fry the onions for a few minutes, until they start to turn golden. Remove from the pan. Turning the heat up to high, fry the curry paste until it is fragrant and starting to darken in colour, about five minutes. Return the onions to the pan and add the cubed beef. Stir and toss so that the beef and onion are coated in the curry paste. Fry on a high heat for a few minutes until the beef is just browned.

4. Pour the stock into the pan, and stir it through. Add the coconut milk, stir through well, and when it comes back up to the boil reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover with a lid and leave it to simmer for an hour. Stir from time to time.

5. Add the potatoes, cover again, and let it simmer for another thirty minutes, stirring occasionally. After thirty minutes check to see if it’s done. The potatoes should be cooked through and the meat should be very tender and soft. If not then cover and cook for another fifteen minutes. In the last five minutes add the fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar. Stir through and cook for a few minutes. Serve with steamed rice and fresh coriander.

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