Massaman Curry

Massaman Curry – The curry of South East Asia

Massana Curry is known to be one of the best tasting dish in the world. Its sophisticate flavour and exceptional aroma is the reason behind the success.

Where is Massaman Curry came from?

This dish is originally from Thailand and it’s believed to come from the South part of the country.

We don’t know yet when it was discovered but what we know is that this dish is influence from Muslim and Indian people who came to Thailand. According to the study of Thai cuisine and observation of how the dish is made.

Indian curry requires a long hour of stewing and uses a lot of dried spices. Thai people adopted these ideas but add freshness of Thai herbs like Lemongrass galangal and coriander roots to add more freshness and achieved unique taste.

The real beauty of Massaman Curry is the bonding between traditions and thus, produced a wonderful sophisticate dish.

The secrete of making Curry paste

Yes, making curry paste is easy. You just need to grind all of the ingredients together. But how to make it better?

In Thai cuisine, we are quite delicate about every process of cooking. To grind good curry paste you need to think about what goes first, in order to make a finest paste.

In the case of Massaman curry, the first thing that needs go in is chilies. Chilies has thick skin and it’s hard to grind every single bit of them. The method is to grind it along with salt. Salt will help to rough out the texture, therefore, chili pieces won’t slip while grinding.

After that you can add other herbs, and oh, grind your spice separately also otherwise they won’t catch the pestle because they are tiny little thing.

The last ingredients that you want to add is shallot. Shallots is soft and juicy, it’s super easy to grind but if you put it in the first thing, everything else is going to be so hard to grind because there will be water splash everywhere and you won’t be able to really grind fully.

Cracking coconut cream

The purpose of cracking coconut cream is to bring out the oil from the water content. It’s the same as when you make brown butter.

Why do we need to bring out the oil?

In the old day in Thailand, we don’t have any kind of processed oil. The processed oil came from China later on. The oil that we are using is either a hot-press or cold-press coconut oil.

When making curry, it’s important to fry the paste to bring out essential oil and aromas from the herbs and spices. Without the oil, the curry won’t be aromatic.

Pros and Cons

There are pros and cons from cracking coconut oil and use in the curry.

Let’s start with the Pros.
  1. The oil is natural
  2. Coconut oil is buttery and thick in flavour
  3. It isn’t too greasy
  1. Cracking coconut will give the result of having the oil part and the other part becomes curdy. Which isn’t a nice texture. It’s like when you over cooked coconut cream in your green curry. It’s important not the crack too much of the coconut cream because it can easily influence the whole pot of your curry.
  2. Time consuming
  3. It isn’t really effective with canned coconut.

In summary, I like to crack the coconut cream when I make Panang curry, Massaman curry and yellow curry. These curries already have a thick sauce so the curd won’t affect too much. However, when I make Green Curry or Southern Thai curries, I like to fry my curry with bottled hot-press coconut oil instead. It will bring out the same aroma with no curd. This is the Southern-Style of cooking.

Note* You can use other kinds of oil that is available in your area. I use coconut because it’s native to Thailand.

If you are using pre-made curry paste

IF you are using instant curry paste, make sure to add a little at a time because the consistency of each pastes is different. Store-bought curry paste is also a lot saltier than homemade one. If you add the same amount and what I gave you in the recipe, the curry might be too salty.

Quit note of those of you who hasn’t got much time in the kitchen

Note* You can make curry paste in advance and keep them refrigerated for up to 1 week, or 3 months in the freezer. Usually in Thai Kitchen we would make a batch and keep them in the fridge or freezer. This will make it a whole lot faster and easier when you need to make the dish.

Umami flavour

The flavour you are after in Massaman curry dish is salty sweet, follow by sour. Try not to make to too sweet and add enough tang flavour to balance out the overall taste. You can add a little of flavoured ingredients at a time and keep tasting the dish.

Massaman Curry

Massaman Curry – Made from scratch

Pana Napa
Recipe include curry paste
Prep Time 40 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 20 mins
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Thai
Servings 4


Massaman Curry Paste

  • 10 Pieces Dried Bang Chang Chilies (Dried Prik Chi Fah Chilies is the same) – Chopped, seed removed
  • 10 Pieces Dried Jinda Chilies – Chopped, seed removed
  • 1 Stalk Lemongrass- Lightly grilled
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Galangal- Lightly grilled
  • 1 Tbsp Coriander root – Lightly grilled
  • 2 Tbsp Garlic – Lightly grilled
  • 2 Tbsp Shallots – Lightly grilled
  • 1 Tsp Shrimp paste – grilled
  • ½ Tsp Cumin toasted and ground
  • ½ Tsp White peppercorn toasted and ground
  • ¼ Tsp Nutmeg – Shell removed, toasted and ground
  • ¼ Tsp Mace – toasted and ground
  • 3 Pieces Cloves
  • 2 Pieces Thai Cardamom – Toasted with shell-on, then remove the shell and keep to seeds.
  • Tsp Cinnamon – Toast and ground
  • ½ Tsp Coriander seed – Toasted and ground

Massaman Curry Dish

  • 500 g Chicken Thigh, drumstick or your prefer parts You can substitute chicken with beef if you like. The stewing time for beef will be longer, depends on which part of beef you are using. The time is between 1-3 hours.
  • 4 C Skimmed coconut milk. If you are using canned coconut milk, dilute coconut milk with 1:1 water. If you are using more meet, you just need to make sure that the coconut milk is enough to cover the meat when you boil them in a pot.
  • 1 C Coconut cream
  • ¼ C Coconut sugar
  • 6 Tbsp Tamarind paste
  • 4 Tbsp Fish sauce
  • 1-2 Tsp Sea-salt
  • 250 g Potatoes – peeled and shopped in to quarters, or your preferred size
  • 2 Tbsp Freshly toasted peanuts
  • 3 Small Onion chop in half, or 1 large onion quartered
  • 3 Pieces Toasted Thai cardamom
  • 2 Bay leaves


Making Massaman Curry Paste

  • We are going to begin with making Massaman Curry Paste.
  • Soak chopped dired chilies in water for about 30mins to 1 hour, or until softened.
  • Toast and grind all of the spices and set a side. Toast the herbs mentioned in the ingredients and set aside. NOTE * Toast each one separately
    Spices and herbs
  • When chilies is soft and ready, drain out water and squeeze as much water out of the chilies. We don't want our curry paste to be too moist.
  • In a stone mortar, grind chilies and salt in to a fine paste. Add herbs and do the same. Lastly, add spices and shrimp paste and mix well together.
  • Put the curry paste in a bowl, ready to be used. You can keep the paste refrigerated for 7-10 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Making Massaman Curry

  • Stew chicken or meat of your choice in skimmed coconut milk. Approximately 1 hour, or until soft and tender.
  • Meanwhile, boil potatoes until it's just cook. Not too soft.
  • Wait until the chicken is almost ready before start cooking curry.
  • Put a pot on a stove and add ½ c. of coconut cream. Turn on the heat to medium. When the coconut cream bubble, add ⅓ C Curry paste +- and stir util everything blend well together.
  • Now, the curry will start to bubble and probably splashing. You can stir, pause and repeat. This will help the coconut cream to crack without burning bottom of the pot.
  • Slowly add more coconut cream, a dash at a time. At this point, (after 10 mins) you should see some red oil floating on the top.
  • Add the rest of the coconut cream and follow by chicken+juice from stewing. Add bay leaves, cardamom and peanut. Add onion and cook until soften before add the potatoes.
  • Cook for another 10 mins before turning of the heat.
  • Add a dash of coconut cream on the top for decoration if you wish.
Keyword herbs, massaman curry, spices, Thai curry

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