How To Make: Kaeng Massaman

Kaeng massaman, literally "Muslim curry", is a dish you'll probably find in almost every Thai cookbook. I've tried many of these recipes and have never been happy until recently. The following recipe is one that I came across in a Thai-language cookbook and adapted myself, and is by far the best I've seen. Kaeng massaman differs from most Thai curries in that it doesn't have a curry paste that's pounded up in a mortar and pestle; the ingredients, mostly dried spices, are added step by step. Keep in mind that Thai-Muslim food tends to be sweet. If you don't like sweet dinner dishes, than reduce the amount of sugar in the last step. Most people expect this dish to have peanuts; you can put them in there at the last step if you want, but I think it's oily and fatty enough already!

“Muslim” Curry with Beef Kaeng Matsaman Nuea
(Serves 4)

Beef 500 g
Thick coconut milk* 1 cup
Think coconut milk** 1 cup
Freshly roasted and ground
coriander seed 3 Tbsp
Freshly roasted and ground
cumin seed 2 tsp
Chili powder 2 Tbsp
Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
Ground pepper 2 tsp
Cooking oil 3/4 cup
Chopped shallots 1/4 cup
Cinnamon 3 pieces
Star anise 3
Thai cardamom (look krawaan) 10
Water 1/2 cup
Potatoes 200 g, quartered
Shrimp paste 1 tsp
Peppercorns 20, crushed
Shredded ginger 1/2 cup
Salt 1 1/2 Tbsp
Tamarind paste 4 Tbsp
Palm sugar 5 Tbsp
Onion 1, sliced

*Thick coconut milk is the coconut milk that comes directly from the can.
**Thin coconut milk is canned coconut milk that has been diluted, 50%, with water.

Wash beef and cut into large bite sized pieces. In a medium saucepan, cover beef with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until beef is tender, at least 40 minutes.

Combine ground coriander, ground cumin, chili powder, and ground pepper. Set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, add oil and fry shallots with cinnamon, star anise and Thai cardamom, until golden and crispy. Add dry spice mixture, stirring well to combine. When fragrant, add thick coconut milk followed by water. Bring to a slight boil and add potatoes. Simmer until potatoes are just done, about 5 minutes, and add beef. Combine shrimp paste with two Tbsp of hot curry mixture and return to saucepan, stirring to combine. Add peppercorns and ginger. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmering until fragrant and flavors have combined. Add thin coconut milk and season with salt, tamarind paste and palm sugar. Bring to a boil and add onions, simmer until onions are soft and remove from heat.

Serve hot with rice as part of a southern Thai meal.