I love Thailand, and one of my favourite memories is of attending a cooking school in Bangkok, where we shopped for fresh ingredients at the markets, before cooking meal after meal in a beautiful old colonial house. We practised all the well-known classics of the Thai kitchen and got plenty of exercise grinding up curry pastes in huge stone mortar and pestles. Green, red and yellow curry, we made them all, but my favourite Thai curry has to be the wonderfully aromatic Thai Massaman Beef Curry.
This is a curious curry as it is real fusion cuisine, mixing some of the classic Thai ingredients with Indian. It’s a relatively mild curry, but it makes up for that by being rich with fragrant spices and full of tender beef. It’s believed the recipe was brought to Thailand by Muslim traders sometime in the 17th century, as the base spices; cumin, cinnamon and cardamom are unusual for a Thai dish. Whatever the origin, this is a wonderfully comforting dish.
I’ve given the recipe here for a simple massaman curry paste, though it is perfectly alright to use a good quality store-bought paste if you are in a hurry. If you’re using a store-bought paste, do keep an eye on the sodium content as some are extremely salty! As with most Thai curries, you can swap out the beef for other meats if you like, chicken will need a shorter cooking time.
I think it’s important with a curry to adjust the flavouring to your taste, so I’d recommend tasting it when it comes out of the oven and adding more spice to suit. I like it a bit spicer so I add chilli at the end, and a squeeze of fresh lime to lift the flavours. It’s not traditional but I love coriander so I add plenty of that too.
What’s your favourite curry? Have you been to a cooking class overseas? Let me know in the comments below! Take care out there and happy cooking. x J
Let me know if you try this recipe in the comments below, or using the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram. Happy cooking!
Thai Massaman Beef Curry
The richest and most comforting of all the Thai curries, it’s believed the recipe for Thai Massaman Beef Curry was brought to Thailand by Persian traders in the 17th century. It’s so aromatic and not too spicy which makes it perfect for families.
- 750g chuck or flank steak
- 3 tsp cornflour / cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp neutral oil
- 400ml tin coconut milk, chilled in the tin
- 3-4 Tbsp massaman curry paste
- 250ml beef stock (see note)
- 100g roasted peanuts, rinsed if salted
- 300g small new potatoes, halved or quartered
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp tamarind paste
- 1 Tbsp fish sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp cardamom pods, crushed
- 1 cinnamon stick
- basmati or jasmine rice
- extra chilli
- coriander leaves
Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°G / Gas 4. Cut the steak into large cubes, roughly 5cm each. They will shrink on cooking. Dry with a paper towel, then dust with the cornflour. Heat the oil in a heavy-based, oven-proof casserole dish. Brown the beef in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan, otherwise the meat will stew rather than brown. Remove each batch to a plate and proceed with the next.
When the meat is browned, open the coconut milk and spoon 3 tablespoons of the thick, set cream on top into the pan. Stir well, using a wooden spoon to scrape up all the browned on flavour on the bottom of the pan. Add the curry paste and cook for one minute, stirring.
Return the beef and any resting juices to the pan, stir to coat in the coconut, then add all remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Remove from the heat, cover with a tightly fitting lid and cook in the preheated oven for 2 hours, removing the lid for the last 30 minutes of cooking time.
Meanwhile, cook the rice and enjoy the amazing aroma wafting through the house.
When the curry has cooked, the meat should be beautifully tender. Divide between 4 plates and serve immediately.
If you are using a store-bought paste, they can be full of salt. Check the ingredients and if there is a lot of salt either use sodium-reduced beef stock or make it half strength from powder or cubes. If you have made your paste from the recipe here there is no additional salt so you can add it as you like.
If you would prefer a thicker curry, don’t try to reduce the sauce as this will just toughen the meat. When you take the curry out of the oven, mix 1-2 tsp of cornflour / cornstarch with 2 Tbsp of cold water, stirring until smooth. Place the curry over medium heat, add the cornflour mixture and stir until thickened.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1218Total Fat: 67gSaturated Fat: 31gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 30gCholesterol: 244mgSodium: 1423mgCarbohydrates: 68gFiber: 6gSugar: 11gProtein: 94g
Nutrition information is calculated automatically and isn’t always accurate.
Thai Massaman Curry Paste
I think Massaman curry paste is one of the easier curry pastes to make at home, with the ingredients being fairly easy to come by. Galangal looks a bit like ginger and can be found in Asian or Indian shops as well as some well-stocked supermarkets.
- 6 long, dried chillies
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 3 cloves
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp shrimp paste (see note)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 stem lemongrass, halved and finely
- 4cm galangal, peeled and chopped
Cut the tops off the chillies, then shake out all the seeds and discard. Put the chillies in a heatproof bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Allow to soften for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, dry fry the coriander, cumin, cloves and peppercorns in a small frying pan until aromatic. Grind in a mortar and pestle. Spoon the shrimp paste onto a small square of tinfoil, pinch the edges closed, then fry in the same pan for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
When the chillies have softened, drain and place in a small food processor with the blade attachment fitted. Add the ground spices, shrimp paste, cinnamon, garlic, onion, lemongrass and galangal with 3 Tbsp of water and process on high until you have a rough paste. Scrape down the sides once or twice to make sure everything is incorporated.
Transfer to a small jar and refrigerate until needed. Keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 3-6 months.
If you can’t get shrimp paste, use 1 Tbsp fish sauce instead.
Galangal is a root that looks a little like ginger, you can find it in Asian or Indian shops as well as some well-stocked supermarkets.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can I use other meats to make Massaman Curry?
Yes! As it was a Muslim dish, pork would be unusual but perfectly tasty, chicken or even tofu are fine. You’ll need to adjust the cooking times as beef takes the longest to cook.
I’m allergic to peanuts! Can I leave them out of the Massaman Curry?
Of course! Either substitute with other nuts if you can or leave them out entirely.
Can I use low-fat coconut milk to make Massaman Curry?
You can, but I wouldn’t recommend it, low-fat coconut milk is often full of stabilisers to make it thick, and they can curdle during long cooking.