Massaman Curry with Chicken – Gaeng Massaman Gai – มัสมั่นไก่
A trip down to Trang last week rekindled my love for Massaman curry after I had a fantastic version at the De Tara Beach Resort.
It’s not often you get a proper slow cooked, authentic masaman on a Thai Island. It took me back to when I first travelled Thailand in 2009 and was taught how to make this creamy Thai curry by a lady in Surat Thani. I thought it was about time I shared this family recipe with you guys.
Now a massaman curry cannot be cooked quickly, this is a thing of beauty and takes time; at least an hour, more if you are using beef. The massaman’s long cooking time is the reason most people who holiday on Thai islands haven’t tried a real massaman. Too many restaurants cook them as they would a red or green curry – ready in 10 minutes from start to finish using chicken breast. This beautiful, vibrant curry deserves more of your time, and if you give it that time, I promise you will be richly rewarded!
Massaman curry comes from the Muslim populated south of Thailand and uses a lot of Indian spices which is what sets it apart from the other Thai curries. The other difference is that all the ingredients in the paste are dry fried until charred. This gives a real depth of flavour to the finished dish. It’s like a Thai/Indian hybrid curry and definitely my favourite. My version is not as sweet as a lot of restaurant style massamans so feel free to adjust the sugar levels to suit your taste.
Take time to get your paste ingredients charred nicely.
One thing that’s not necessarily traditional is my use of a blender to make the paste. Now purists will say that you must use a pestle and mortar to grind your paste as it breaks down all the fibers in the ingredients and releases more flavour and that you cannot reproduce this in a food processor. While I do agree with this, I think a blender is an excellent alternative as it completely breaks down whatever you put in it as long as you have some liquid to get it going. That’s where the oil and coconut cream comes into play. See, most Thai curry recipes call for you to cook the paste in coconut cream before or oil adding the milk so by blitzing the paste ingredients in oil or coconut cream then cooking it out, you’re doing the same thing. Plus you save an hour of your day that otherwise would be spent pounding ingredients!
If you don’t have a blender and you’re going to be following my recipes then get your hands on one, preferably with a spice/coffee grinder attachment as we will be making our own spice blends. There are some great ones for around the £20 mark, and it will be one of the best investments in your kitchen you can make I promise! I’ve put a link below to an excellent value starter blender with all the attachments you need.
Chicken on the bone is essential for flavour in a masaman, so we’re going to be using thighs, but a mixture of thigh and drumsticks would also work well. Just try and get the best quality chicken you can – free range at a minimum.
This curry tastes even better if you make it a day ahead to give the spices a chance to infuse into the potatoes and chicken.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Please feel free to comment below and let me know what you think.
For the Paste:
For the curry: