color by numbers

mindless musings of a semi-creative guy

Tasty Tuesday – Massaman Curry

If you like potatoes and beef, you will probably like Massaman Curry. Check it out.

I forgot to take a shot of my own bowl, so I've borrowed this one from the internet.

I forgot to take a shot of my own bowl, so I've borrowed this one from the internet.

Let’s start with the name – Massaman Curry.  The term Massaman actually comes from an old word meaning “Muslim.”  Though known as a Southern Thai dish, the spices that are used to make the curry paste for this meal are thought to have come to Thailand long, long ago by way of Muslim traders from India.  Thus, the name Massaman Curry.

When you hear the word “curry,” do you automatically think of Indian food as I also once did?  The term essentially means to stew or cook something slowly in a pot.  That’s exactly what you do in both Indian and Thai curries.  However, the thing that sets each set of flavors apart are the spices typically used in the pastes and powders used to create these dishes.  Curries throughout both Thailand and India, of course, vary from region to region – even family to family – but there are some common spices included in each, no matter what the type of curry.  Here’s a list of typical spices and seasonings present in each country’s curries:

  • India – cumin, fenugreek, coriander seed, fennel, cardamon, asafoteida, turmeric.
  • Thailand – galangal, kaffir, lemongrass, basil, fish sauce, shrimp paste, chilies, coconut milk.

Sadly, the inclusion of cumin (especially fresh ground or whole seeds) makes me unable to eat the copious amounts of Indian food that I would like to.  Large amounts of that particular spice cause a rather unfriendly reaction in my body.  I can take it in smaller amounts, such as in homemade Mexican food (pre-ground or spice mixes that have naturally lost their intensity), thankfully!

Ok, so back to the Thai food.  Thailand has a wide range of curries that are classified by color – red, green, or yellow – depending on the type of chilies used in making the curry paste, or the addition of turmeric (as in the case of the yellow curries).  Massaman tends to fit moreso in the yellow category, as the spices used to make its paste are different in nature from the rest of Thai curried dishes.  The Massman paste is comprised of dried chili, black peppercorns, coriander seeds and roots, cloves, cardamon, (a small amount of) cumin, lemongrass, galangal (similar to ginger), shallots, garlic, tamarind, and shrimp paste.  It’s a sort of fusion between Thai and Indian food.  Can you smell it already?

Massaman Curry Paste

Massaman Curry Paste

To make the curry, all you need to do is add a bit of Massaman curry paste to coconut milk and simmer it along with some cardamom pods, a cinnamon stick, and your choice of Thai basil or dried Bay leaves.  Add in some onion, chunked up beef, and diced white or sweet potatoes and let it cook for a couple of hours.  Some people even add in some star anise for an added boost of flavor.  This really is a very aromatic meal, mixing so many flavors together.  Surprisingly though, it isn’t overwhelmingly spicy or hot.  It’s just right, and just plain delicious.  You can either eat is straight from a bowl, or do like I do and spoon it over a plateful of rice.  Either way, it’s really good.


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June 15, 2010 - Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays, Thailand

1 Comment »

  1. Mmmmmm…. :o)!

    Comment by mom | June 15, 2010 | Reply


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