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.
Massaman is usually eaten with rice, in a meal together with other dishes.
Citizens, this is a fantastic dish that I hope you will enjoy as the holiday gift from TFD to you! 🙂
Battle on – The Generalissimo
2 ¼ pounds beef (I use Chateubriand, but chuck is traditional)
1 tsp Ginger, grated
2 cups 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!
2 tbsp top-quality Fish sauce
For the curry paste:
15 small dried red chili peppers, stemmed – I use Chinese dried peppers or Chiles de Arbol
2 ½ teaspoons freshly ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander seed
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon mace
¾ teaspoon microplaned nutmeg
¾ teaspoon freshly ground star anise
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground cardamom
½ teaspoon freshly ground cloves
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup coarsely chopped onion
½ cup chopped garlic
3 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass, lower third part only (about 3 stalks)
1 tablespoon minced fresh galangal (TFD note – this is what you really should use) or fresh ginger
1 teaspoon fine shrimp paste – I use Koon Chun brand
Few tablespoons coconut water
Place a plate by the stove to hold the spices. In a small, dry frying pan, toast the spices listed as “freshly ground” BEFORE they are powdered and the chiles over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes, stirring often, until fragrant and slightly darkened. Remove from the heat and tip out onto the plate. Use a spice grinder to grind the whole spices and chiles to a powder and combine with the salt, nutmeg, mace and turmeric.
In a blender or mini food processor, combine the onion, garlic, lemongrass, galangal or ginger, 2 tablespoons coconut water, shrimp paste and the ground spices. Process to a smooth, evenly-colored paste, stopping often to scrape down the sides and grind everything well. Add a little more coconut water as needed to keep the blades moving.
Transfer the curry paste to a jar and seal airtight – you’ll probably use all of it. Refrigerate until needed for up to 1 month.
To finish the curry
1 tbsp cardamom powder
⅔ cup peanuts (TFD likes to use Virginia peanuts flavored with Garlic)
1 thinly sliced poblano or green bell pepper
1 thinly sliced red bell pepper
1 carrot, thinly slice on the diagonal
5 whole shallots, peeled and sliced
¼ cup palm sugar (preferred) or light brown sugar
1 tbsp tamarind syrup
Several shakes of Tabasco
3 Bay leaves
Several sprigs of Cilantro
First you marinate the beef:
Cut the beef into strips and marinate in the coconut milk and julienned ginger. Set aside for at least 30 minutes before proceeding to the next step. Simmer the beef chunks in the marinade for another 7-10 minutes if using Chateaubriand, half an hour if chuck.
Heat up half a large wok or sautée pan with 2 tbsp oil, add the massaman paste and cook for a few minutes, stirring vigorously.
Add the beef and marinade to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the paste is completely dissolved into the coconut cream. Let the mixture bubble for a few minutes until a layer of oil begins to separate from the mixture.
Add all other ingredients and continue to simmer until the beef is tender – if using chateaubriand, this won’t take long at all.
Be careful not to let the curry boil too vigorously at this stage as the coconut cream will curdle. Just let the pot simmer gently until the beef is tender.
Check the seasoning before turning off the stove. The taste should be spicy (not too hot, but very spicy flavorful), salty, sweet, with an ever so slightly sour aftertaste, in this order. Do not let it be cloyingly sweet – adjust with Tabasco, tamarind and palm sugar as needed.
Garnish with cilantro and serve with freshly steamed Thai jasmine rice, or Naan bread.