Thai Massaman Curry

Well folks, the time has come to post my most favorite-est thing to eat in the whole world except for, you know, foie gras, lobster, pecan-crusted sweetbreads, creamed corn, and a few other treats. And that chunk of tongue heaven is Massaman curry.

It is a Muslim-influenced curry with extra spices such as cardamom and cloves and less zesty lime juice and Kaffir lime typical of other Thai curries. In Thailand I ate it almost every day for an entire month. This is a great dish to make as a staple in your household, with an incredible and never-gets-old flavor and a fantastic ratio of saturated fat to unsaturated fat – a hallmark of 180-style dining.

Please don’t be deterred by the apparent complexity. Once you’ve made your curry paste you can make a small batch of Massaman curry from scratch in 20 minutes and pour it over a bowl of cold, day-old rice for an amazing meal. Eating healthy certainly can be less complicated than this, but for any food nerd, this is no sweat. Enjoy!

Massaman Curry Paste (big batch – keeps for 3-4 weeks refrigerated)

Ingredients

-2T each: cumin, cardamom, coriander, black pepper (pre-ground or ground fresh in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle as shown in video) 

– Small pinch of whole cloves or ground cloves

– 1 pack of mild red chili pepper from the Mexican food section at the store (add warm water until a paste forms)

– 2 4-inch strips of lemongrass

– Thumb-sized piece of ginger (peeled)

– 3 whole shallots or ½ yellow onion – 2 garlic cloves

– Root end of 1 bunch of cilantro

– 1T cayenne pepper

– Splash of extra virgin olive oil

Directions

1) If using whole spices, toast in a frying pan on high heat until smoke starts to roll off of them, then grind into a powder.

2) Chop cilantro, ginger, onion/shallot, and garlic into small pieces. Really cut the lemongrass well, as large pieces often remain fibrous in the curry later on.

3) Blend all ingredients in a food processor for at least 20 seconds. Scrape sides and blend again – the more it’s blended the better. Blend for up to 5 minutes.

4) Stir in a little olive oil at the end to moisten and preserve the curry paste.

 Making Massaman Curry (for 4):

1) Just like making Tom Kha Gai, begin by sautéing on medium heat (sweating) some sliced onion and sliced red bell pepper in ½ stick of butter.

2) When vegetables begin to get soft, but are not yet brown, add several tablespoons of curry paste and toast it on the bottom of the pan, stirring every few seconds. The more you add, the spicier and more powerful the finished product will be.

3) When the curry paste has cooked for a few minutes, add two cups or so of water or chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Heat on high!

4) Add ¼ cup of unflavored peanuts.

5) Next add 2-3 cans of good quality coconut milk depending on how much curry paste you added and how many people you are feeding (Chaokoh, without any emulsifiers like carageenan or guar gum is preferable). You may also add a splash of whipping cream, but that is optional.

6) Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then add chopped raw chicken, whole shrimp, sliced beef, or diced fish. Bring to a boil once more.

7) Season heavily with salt and/or fish sauce and additional cayenne pepper if needed until the flavors come up. Do not use cilantro or a lot of lime at the end like you do with other curries! Massaman should be sweeter and less sour than both Thai soup and other curries, so go easy on the sour flavors such as vinegar and lime juice. Use, at most, the juice of ½ lime at the end.

And here are the Massaman tutorial videos:

Tom Kha Gai

Tom Kha Gai (or Tom Ka Gai as I’ve seen it spelled) is a Thai coconut soup.  It’s quick.  It’s easy.  It’s fresh.  It’s simple.  It’s awesome.  Plus, the pot I made in this video, with over 1/2 stick of butter, 4-5T of heavy whipping cream, and 3 cans of coconut milk contains about 4,000 calories and a nearly unbeatable ratio of saturated fat to polyunsaturated fat.  Mainstream health might gasp at this, but they need to take a visit to Thailand to see the kind of obesity this soup and other rich curries is causing over there… um, none.   

Nutrition aside, this soup is literally the best soup I’ve ever made and had.  The theme of Thai cooking is to keep the flavors as bright as possible.  Cooking time is meant to be as minimal as possible to preserve the brightness – almost the opposite theme of other ethnic cuisines which rely on long stewing to create deep and subdued flavors. 

Anyway, you can find out more about this soup in 180 Kitchen or in the back issues of the 180 eZine, 180DegreeHealth Report.  It is  a must-make soup.  There’s a reason why a sick woman requested that I make it for her yesterday.  It’s the best thing ever. 

(Note:  At the end of the video I make mention of “my future mother-in-law.”  Don’t worry, I’m not engaged or anything.  Just making a joke… ladies).

Important Note:  Do not eat the lemongrass and ginger chunks.  They are just for flavoring.  It’s kind of annoying to have to pick them out as you eat, but that’s how Thai people do it so get used to it!