Massaman curry is a classic Thai dish. It is a favorite among many for its flavor-packed, creamy, and aromatic combination of ingredients. With this recipe, you’ll be able to bring all the flavors of traditional Thai massaman curry right into your kitchen.
What Is Massaman Curry?
Massaman curry is a Thai dish that has gained popularity in the West due to its unique blend of flavors. It is considered a milder form of curry compared to other Thai curries. It consists of coconut milk, potatoes, onions, peanuts or cashews, bay leaves, and several seasonings.
Massaman curry is often served with steamed rice and can be adjusted for different levels of heat according to individual tastes. This dish can be prepared with beef, chicken, or pork as well as vegetarian options, such as tofu or tempeh. With its flavorful mix of ingredients combined into a one-pot dinner meal, it’s no surprise that massaman curry is a popular dish around the world.
Ingredients You’ll Need for Massaman Curry
- Chicken breasts or chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)
- Neutral-tasting oil
- Fish sauce
- Brown sugar
- Massaman curry paste
- Coconut milk
- Tamarind paste or the juice of half of a lime
- Bay leaves
- Roasted peanuts
- Cilantro leaves (for garnish)
How to Make Massaman Curry
- Add the oil and massaman curry paste to the pan. Fry on medium-low heat until it is soft and fragrant (around 1 minute).
- Add a small amount of coconut milk to dissolve the paste.
- Cut the chicken into medium-sized chunks and add them to the pan. Add the bay leaves and the remaining coconut milk. Mix well and cook for 10 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooking, peel and cut the potatoes, onion, and shallots into medium-sized chunks.
- Add the potatoes, onions, and shallots to the pan and mix well.
- If desired, grind half of the roasted peanuts in the mortar and pestle. Add the ground peanuts and the remaining whole peanuts to the pan.
- Add the fish sauce, brown sugar, tamarind paste (or lime juice), and water to the pan and mix well.
- Cook on low for 30 to 35 minutes until the potatoes are soft.
- Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve with white long-grain rice as desired.
Tips and Variations for Massaman Curry
Use the following tips and variation ideas to make the best Thai massaman curry.
- Use high-quality fish sauce, curry paste, and tamarind paste. Massaman curry is all about the flavors, so it’s essential to use high-quality ingredients when preparing your dish.
- Add in some sweetness with the coconut milk and brown sugar to balance out the savory flavors of the other ingredients. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of sweeteners like honey or palm sugar to find what works best for you.
- Make sure you have enough liquid. As long as you keep your heat low, adding extra coconut milk or water if needed can help ensure that your curry doesn’t become too thick or dry.
- Don’t forget the garnishes. Top with crunchy peanuts and cilantro leaves for added freshness. You can also try experimenting with different herbs like Thai basil or mint to give it an even more unique flavor profile.
- Consider adding more vegetables, such as cauliflower, carrots, or squash for more flavor and nutrition.
- Experiment with different types of coconut milk to find the one that adds the most body and richness.
- Adjust the spiciness and intensity by adding more curry paste. This recipe is not very spicy as written. One brand of curry paste I recommend is Aroy-D.
- Grind some of the peanuts if desired or leave all of them whole. I like to grind half of them so the peanut flavor incorporates a bit more into the rest of the flavors.
- Substitute fresh lime juice for the tamarind paste if you can’t find it. Tamarind paste has a unique flavor: a bit sweet, tangy, and tart.
- Make this recipe with beef instead of chicken. You’ll need to cook the beef a little longer. So add a bit more water so you don’t end up without sauce.
- Cook uncovered for the last 10 minutes if you want the sauce to be thicker and creamier.
Massaman Curry FAQs
What can I use if I don’t have a mortar and pestle?
A clean coffee grinder, blender, or food processor will break down ingredients into smaller pieces. If these options are not available, you can also use a rolling pin to crush the peanuts.
What are examples of neutral-tasting oils?
Examples of neutral-tasting oils include canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and grapeseed oil. These oils do not impart flavor to the food and allow other flavors to shine through.
How do I store leftovers of massaman curry?
You can store leftovers of massaman curry in an air-sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Other Thai-Inspired Recipes
- Thai Spice Dry Rub Chicken Wings
- Drunken Noodles with Prawns and Broccoli
- Thai Iced Coffee Frappe
- Thai Cashew Chicken Salad
Massaman curry is a classic Thai dish that is bursting with flavors. Filled with creamy coconut milk, aromatic spices, and tender chicken, massaman curry is a filling meal that you can serve over rice or noodles. With the tips provided here and ideas for variations, you can customize this recipe to make it your own.
Thai Massaman Curry
Thai cuisine's classic Massaman curry. Filling, creamy, aromatic, and bursting with flavors!
- 2 lbs chicken breast or chicken thighs (without the bone)
- 4 medium-sized potatoes
- 1 big onion or 2 smaller ones
- 3 shallots
- 2 tablespoons neutral-tasting oil
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons Massaman curry paste (to taste)
- 1 can of coconut milk
- 1 glass of water
- 2 teaspoons tamarind paste/juice of ½ lime
- 2 bay leaves
- Mortar and pestle
- ½ cup toasted peanuts
- cilantro leaves (for garnish)
- In the pan add the oil and the Massaman curry paste. Fry it on medium-low until soft and fragrant (around 1 minute)
- Add a bit of coconut milk to dissolve the paste.
- Cut the meat into medium-sized chunks and add it to the pan. Add the bay leaves and the rest of the coconut milk. Mix well and let cook for 10 minutes.
- While the meat cooks, peel and cut the potatoes, onion, and shallots. Cut them roughly into medium-sized chunks.
- Add the potatoes, onion, and shallots to the pan and mix well.
- In a mortar and pestle, pestle half of the roasted peanuts (optional) and add them and the whole peanuts to the pan.
- Add the fish sauce, the sugar, the tamarind paste (or lime juice in case you don’t have any tamarind), and the water and mix well.
- Let cook for 30-35 minutes on low until the potatoes are soft.
- Serve alongside white rice (long grain)
This curry is not very spicy, however, you can adjust how spicy or intense you want it by adding more curry paste.
One brand of curry paste I really recommend is Aroy-D.
You can add the peanuts whole to the curry, or pestle some or all of them, up to you. I like to pestlehalf of them so the peanut flavor incorporates a bit more into the rest of the flavors.
Tamarind paste has a very unique flavor: a bit sweet, tangy, and tart, so if you cannot find tamarind paste you can substitute it with lime juice.
Massaman curry can be also made with beef. Have in mind that in that case, you’ll need a bit more time for it to cook, hence add a bit more water so you don’t end up without sauce.
If you want to have it a bit creamier and less runny, let cook uncovered for the last 10 minutes.
It can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days in an air-sealed container.
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