Citizens, here I give you an unusual and unique Thai/Indian curry fusion as a Christmas present, as it was created by Thai muslim spice traders with India – it is exceedingly tasty and delicious! 🙂
How tasty? In 2011, CNNGo ranked Massaman curry as number one in an article titled “World’s 50 most delicious foods”! Massaman curry is a rich, relatively mild Thai curry that is an interpretation of a Persian dish.
“Massaman” is not a native Thai word. It is generally thought to refer to the Muslims living in Thailand as spice traders, with earlier writers from the mid-19th century calling the dish “Mussulman curry”; Mussulman being an archaic form of the word Muslim.
Due to its Muslim roots and therefore Islamic dietary laws, this curry is typically never made with pork.
According to Thai food expert David Thompson, as well as Thai journalist and scholar Santi Sawetwimon, the dish originated in 17th century Central Thailand at the cosmopolitan court of Ayutthaya, through the Persian merchant Sheik Ahmad Qomi from whom the Thai noble family of Bunnag descends.
The curry is extolled in a poem from the end of the 18th century, attributed to Prince Itsarasunthon of Siam, the later King Rama II (1767-1824). It is dedicated to a lady who is believed to be Princess Bunrot, the later Queen Sri Suriyendra, wife of King Rama II. The second stanza of the poem reads:
มัสมั่นแกงแก้วตา หอมยี่หร่ารสร้อนแรง – Massaman, a curry made by my beloved, is fragrant of cumin and strong spices.
ชายใดได้กลืนแกง แรงอยากให้ใฝ่ฝันหา – Any man who has swallowed the curry is bound to long for her.
The flavors of the massaman curry paste (nam phrik kaeng matsaman) come from spices that are not frequently used in other Thai curries.
Cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cumin, bay leaves, nutmeg and mace would, in the 17th century, have been brought to Thailand from the Malay Archipelago and South Asia by foreigners, a trade originally dominated by Muslim traders from the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.
These are combined with local produce such as coriander seeds, lemongrass, galangal, white pepper, shrimp paste, shallots and garlic to make the massaman curry paste.
This paste is first fried with coconut cream, and only then are meat, onions, fish sauce, tamarind paste, sugar and peanuts added.
As to the coconut cream: in Thailand, the first extraction with very little, if any, addition of water is called coconut cream (Hua Gati). This compares to sort of an extra virgin pressing of olive oil. The next extraction, with added water, is called coconut milk (Hang Gati).
If you use canned coconut milk, just spoon off the thick “cream” part to separate from the milk. It is sometimes sold canned in Asian markets, but do NOT use the heavily-sweetened sweetened coconut “cream” intended for use by a bar in drinks!
Massaman is usually eaten with rice, in a meal together with other dishes.
Citizens, this is truly a superlative dish that I am fully confident you will fall in love with! 🙂
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