Cheat’s Massaman Curry

Massaman Curry is known to be a confluence of Indian spices brought with traditional Thai flavors. Thai cuisine is known for it’s heavy use of fresh herbs and spices to give their recipes it’s distinct aroma and taste. However, a traditional Massaman curry uses spices like cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, cloves, bay leaves, nutmeg and mace to be ground and made into a paste with local ingredients like galangal, lemongrass, coriander, thai chillies and garlic. My recipe here, is a quick version ditching those local ingredients because of the current global situation. The easiest way to cook one is to get a store bought paste from the local supermarket. These pastes and sauces used in Asian cooking are now easily available and one should refrain from venturing to extreme distances just to procure these ingredients, at least while we are still in the midst of the pandemic.

I’ll provide an easy way to make this curry at home with both versions of the paste , store-bought or homemade, whatever tickles your fancy and whichever is convenient for you.

What you’ll need

  • 1 can of full fat coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp of oil (I used sunflower oil)
  • 2 tbsp of dark soy sauce
  • 1 small jar of massaman paste. Homemade paste recipe is below this list.
  • 1 tbsp of fish sauce (optional)

Homemade Paste Recipe

  • 1 tsp of turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp each of ground cloves, ground cinnamon, ground cumin and ground black cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp of lukewarm water. Mix all the dry ingredients together and make a slurry.
  • 2 bay leaves, to be added when oil is ready and hot

Make the curry

  • 2 medium potatoes, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 2 thai green chillies, slit in the middle (remove seeds to lower heat)
  • 1 tbsp of ginger garlic paste or bashed ginger and garlic to measure
  • 2 tbsp of coriander, chopped finely.
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp of jaggery/brown sugar

Optional Protein and Vegetable add-ons

  • Protein options – Tofu, Tempeh, shredded oyster mushroom (not clustered) or Chicken breast meat (boneless)
  • Vegetable options – Zucchini, mixed bell peppers, button mushrooms, sweet potatoes
  1. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot and add the diced onion. Once the onion turns pink and translucent, add the ginger- garlic paste and the chillies. Give this a good stir until the smell of fresh ginger and garlic fades away.
    (If using the homemade paste, at this point, add your bay leaves to the pot)
  2. Next, add the vegetables that take longer to cook like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and also chicken if making a chicken Massaman curry. Mix all the vegetables together, add 1/4th cup of water and cover with a lid for 5-7minutes. Make sure top stir in between for two or three times.
  3. Once the tougher vegetables are slightly cooked, add the soft vegetables like zucchini and mushrooms. If adding oyster mushrooms, I’d recommend to add it at this step. Mix well, and make a well in the center of the pot by moving the vegetables to the sides of the pot.
  4. Now add the soy sauce and curry paste. Add the fish sauce, if using it. Coat the vegetables in the sauce and give it a mix. Also add in the coconut milk and give it a good stir. Cover the pot with a lid and let it cook on a low-medium flame for 6-8 minutes.
  5. If you’re using tofu, it’s best to add about 5 minutes before turning the heat off.
  6. Once you see the curry bubbling, turn off the heat, check your curry for saltiness and add as per your taste. Also add the jaggery/ brown sugar and mix the curry.
  7. Garnish with coriander and serve with Serve with hot steamed jasmine rice, brown rice of rice noodles.
Massaman Curry with brown rice

Further Reading

  • If you want to make a really good batch of Massaman Curry Paste at home, this recipe by The Spruce Eats looks so good to me that I really need to make a batch at home.
  • Another lovely and fairly easy version of this curry is by Dana Shultz, the chef behind Minimalist Baker. Find her version here.

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