Massaman Curry, History and Recipe


Southern cuisine of Thailand is characterized by its tasty curries and its coconut milk-based soups . Visitors to Koh Samui especially love the massaman curry. But do you know what its origin is ?

Massaman is not a Thai word. It refers to "Muslim". Remember that in the South of Thailand approximately 1/4 of the population is Muslim, a proportion 10 times higher than in the rest of the country.

The massaman curry was mentioned for the first time in a recipe book at the end of the 19th century but its origins may date back to the 17th century. This curry is distinguished from others by the use of ingredients such as cardamom and cinnamon.

Since it's a muslim curry, you won't find it with pork but with chicken or beef. In Koh Samui, we don't have local beef so at the cooking school you'll prepare it with chicken. Here's bellow the recipe with chicken. You can also prepare it at home with beef or even lamb, you'll just have to cook it much longer (about 2 hours) on very low heat.

The ingredients are given to compose a paste, which will be used to prepare a curry for 4 people :

10 large dried red chilies, seeds removed 2 star anise 1 small cinnamon stick 4 cardamom pods (only the inside seeds) 2 teaspoons coriander seeds 2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 nutmeg 8 chopped garlic cloves

8 small shallots, chopped 2 lemongrass stalks, finely chopped 3 cm finely chopped galangal 2 teaspoons shrimp paste

Dry-fry the chilies until they become crispy. Take care, they burn fast !

Lightly dry-fry star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, cumin and nutmeg, to release their flavors.

Grate the nutmeg. Place the dry ingredients into a mortar and reduce them to powder.

Add little by little chilies and fresh ingredients (it's easier to pound if you add the ingredients little by little).

Pound until smooth, then add shrimp paste and pound for one more minute.

If you don't use the paste immediately, place it in a jar and cover it with oil to protect from oxidation. In the refrigerator, you can keep the paste for 1 week.

To prepare a tasty Massaman chicken curry for 4 people, the ingredients are the followings :

Massaman curry paste made according to the recipe above

4 chicken thighs

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 bay leaves

1 small cinnamon stick

2 star anise

500 ml of coconut cream

500 ml chicken stock

4 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon coconut sugar

4 tablespoons tamarind juice

2 potatoes peeled and cut into 4 cm pieces

1 large onion, sliced

12 cherry tomatoes

4 tablespoons of roasted unsalted peanuts

Heat the oil in a large pan or wok and stir-fry the curry paste with chicken thighs, bay leaves, cinnamon and star anise for about 2 minutes, stirring until it releases the flavors.

Add coconut cream, few spoons at a time. Then add stock and bring to the boil.

Add seasoning (fish sauce, coconut sugar and tamarind), potatoes and onion.

Cook on very low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste to see if any additional seasoning is necessary.

Remove from heat, then add tomatoes and peanuts.

Serve with jasmine rice.

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