Thai Massaman Curry with Beef, a Classic from Southern Thailand
Thai Massaman curry, “Gaeng Massaman,” is richly flavored but not very hot from peppers. The curry paste is made from darkly caramelized red onion and garlic and has aromatic spices like cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. These flavors reflect the dish’s origins in southern Thailand’s Muslim community, which is ancestrally Malay/Indonesian.
The classical meat for Gaeng Massaman is beef, with lamb as an occasional option. The other key ingredients are potatoes and peanuts. The meat requires long simmering in coconut milk. American Thai restaurants, though not so much Thai people themselves, make a quick stir-fried version they call “Massaman Curry,” using whatever meat you want, or even tofu, throw in a little curry paste and coconut milk and then add miscellaneous vegetables as stretchers. But that’s not a real curry.
Massaman’s a Muslim curry (that’s what its name means in Thai): do NOT make it with pork!
A common accompaniment or condiment is the Thai cucumber-shallot relish called “ajaad.” (See my blog post from XXXX for a recipe). Ajaad, including its name, has Indian and Malay ancestry.
The recipe serves six to eight. But it takes so long to make it’s worth doubling the recipe to serve to company or to keep some for later use.
Curry paste, Asian fish sauce and coconut milk are available at Asian grocery stories. (In Athens GA, it's Fooks Foods on South Milledge Avenue., near Loop 10)
2 pounds lean beef (eye of round preferred, sirloin tip, “flatiron steak,” or chuck),
1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk -- shake well before opening
1-1/2 cans of water
1-1/2 cups dry roasted skinned peanuts (unsalted or lightly salted)
1-1/2 pounds potatoes (gold or Yukon), peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
1 (4-ounce) can Massaman curry paste (I like “Maesri” brand)
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (such as “Squid” brand), plus more to taste
2 tablespoons sugar
Salt, if needed
Sprigs of cilantro plus fine shreds of a small red hot pepper for garnish
Trim fat off beef. If meat is thick, cut lengthwise with the grain into long, 2-inch wide portions. Cut meat across the grain into 1/4-inch wide strips. Set aside.
In a large pot, bring coconut milk and water to a boil. Put in a third of the beef and stir until raw color changes and the liquid returns to a boil. Do the same with the second third of the beef. When liquid comes back to a boil, add the final third. When liquid boils again, add the peanuts. Simmer, stirring from time to time, until beef is fairly tender to the bite (40-50 minutes or more depending on the cut of beef used).
Once beef is becoming tender, add the potatoes and cook with the meat, stirring occasionally, until they are becoming tender (8-12 minutes) when tested with a toothpick. Add the fish sauce and sugar. Add curry paste. Simmer 5-10 minutes, and taste for salt. Add more fish sauce or salt sufficient to make the sauce slightly salty (the beef and potatoes will continue to soak it up). Remove from the heat and let sit 10 minutes. Stir and taste again for salt.
Serve with unsalted jasmine rice (see my blog post of 8/8/2019 for cooking method). Garnish the top of the curry with a few cilantro leaves picked off the stems and a few shreds of hot red pepper.
Accompany with Ajaad condiment (see my blog post of XXXX for a recipe).