The Very Hungry Cook

Asian Food

February 26, 2010

Massaman Curry

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It’s been over a week since the last post.

I apologize.

I was unwell for a while, you see. But I’m on my way to feeling better! :)

The thing about convalescence though, is that I end up feeling as hungry as a tiger.

So, I made some Massaman Curry.


1. Because I am a firm believer that hungry tigers love Thai food. (No, really they do. You really don’t know anything about tigers, do you?)

2. Because my husband has been telling me that it’s been a while since I posted ‘real’ food on the blog  (Hmph. Like he’s perfect. He’s been acting that way ever since he made some killer chicken tikka masala two days ago. I’ve been trying to wheedle the recipe out of him. No luck so far though)

Now, even though I’m South Indian and have spent most of my life eating curry in some form or the other, I have to say that this is definitely on my top five curries of all time!

What I love about this (other than the fantastic flavor combination of coconut milk and peanuts) is that its perfect for cold winter days when you’re snowed in (yes, again. will this never end???).

Also, I’ve found that even if I make double the normal amount, we’re always out of this stuff by midnight.

Why double you might ask. Apparently this curry tastes even better on the second day. But I’m sorry, I really couldn’t tell you if that’s true.

Anyway, I found this recipe on one of my favorite Asian foodblogs – Rasa Malaysia. I’ve altered it a bit, because the original recipe is for a beef curry. This recipe is so good, I don’t think you’ll have to look anywhere else!! Try it and let me know!

Lets get started.

Get some chicken (boneless, skinless), peanut (or vegetable) oil and some Massaman Curry paste.

Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl. Drizzle some oil on the chicken.

Now, get the Massaman paste out. You can make this at home. I’ve never tried, but I must say the store bought paste makes really good curry. And it smells heavenly!

Mix the paste well with the chicken and oil until it looks like this.

You know, at this point, it looks so good that if it weren’t raw chicken, I’d have tried sampling some of it.

Let the chicken marinate for a while.

During this time, get all the other ingredients you’ll need for the curry.

Shallots, potatoes, basil (Thai basil, if you’re lucky, the regular kind, if you’re not), coconut milk, brown sugar, fish sauce, tamarind paste and the spices. (you will also need roasted peanuts, but mine were in the oven when this photo was taken)

Now, before I move on, a couple of things:

1. Fish sauce is not evil.

Repeat after me.

Fish sauce is not evil.


Fish sauce is probably the reason this curry tastes so amazing. Just don’t try sticking your nose in the bottle and inhaling, thats all.

2. Do not buy that rubbish that sells as ‘lite’ or ‘low fat’ coconut milk. If you’re doing this, please do this right.

Or I’ll pour a whole bottle of fish sauce on your head.

Oh, I really will.

Now for the spices.

Star anise.

I can’t begin to tell you how amazing this is. It looks beautiful and smells even better!

Cinnamon and cardamom.

Lets get started with the curry then!

Heat some oil in a heavy bottomed pan/pot/whatever you like.

Get the spices out.

I highly recommend giving the pods of cardamom a good whack with either the flat part of your knife or a mortar and pestle.

You don’t want the pods exploding when they hit the oil. You really don’t. Trust me.

Especially because I know you’ll be leaning into the pot to get a good whiff of those spices.

Hot oil up your nose = no fun.

Once the oil gets nice and hot, pop in the spices.

And let them fry for about half a minute.

In the meanwhile, peel the shallots.

If you end up with really large shallots (like I have), quarter them.

Add the shallots to the spices and stir fry on a medium/high flame until they look like this.

It’s now time to add the chicken thats been marinating and absorbing all those wonderful flavors.

Cook the chicken until it goes from looking like this….

to looking like this.

Then add the coconut milk, fish sauce and water.

Follow it up with the potato (that you’ve peeled and quartered), roasted peanuts and half the basil.

Bring the curry to a boil.

Then lower to a simmer and cook covered for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through.

After this, I like to take the lid off the pan and cook the curry down until it reaches the right thickness (it usually takes me about 3 minutes), but you don’t have to if you like the curry the way it is.

This is the perfect time to get the jasmine rice cooking.

I love jasmine rice.

Its smells divine… Sigh… Total knee buckling moment whenever I open the jar and inhale.

After 30 minutes of cooking, take the pan off the flame.

Add the tamarind paste, brown sugar and the remaining basil.

Check the seasoning.

I always find I need to add just a little bit of salt, but thats totally up to you.

Serve hot with steaming jasmine rice.

And let me know if you have any left over for the second day!

I bet you won’t though!!



chicken breast                                    -      1 pound (boneless, skinless)

massaman curry paste                     -       3 tbspns

cardamom                                           -      8

cinnamon                                            -      2 sticks

star anise                                             -      3

shallots                                                 -     6 small/3 large (peeled, quartered if large)

coconut milk                                       -     2 cans

water                                                     -     1 cup

fish sauce                                              -     1 and 1/2 tbsp

potatoes                                               -     2 medium (peeled, quartered)

tamarind paste                                   -     1/2 tbsp

brown sugar                                       -     1 tbsp

peanuts                                                -     3-4 tbsp (roasted, unsalted)

peanut/vegetable oil                         -      2 tbsp

Thai basil leaves                                -      a handful, chopped.

Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.

Add 1 tbsp of the oil and the massaman curry paste to the chicken. Mix well, and set aside to marinate.

Heat the remaining oil in a pan.

Once the oil is hot, fry the cinnamon, cardamom and star anise in it for 30 seconds.

Add the shallots and fry until golden-brown.

Then add the chicken, lower the flame and let it cook for 3-5 minutes.

Add coconut milk, fish sauce, water, potatoes, peanuts and half the basil.

Bring the mixture to a boil.

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through.

If needed, remove the lid and cook until the curry reaches desired thickness.

Check seasoning.

Remove the pan from the flame.

Stir in the tamarind paste, brown sugar and remaining basil.

Serve hot with jasmine rice.

  1. Yum! must try!

    ( and why is your blog telling me that the line above was too short a comment? :P )

    Comment by Sid — February 26, 2010 @ 6:03 pm
  2. Am so going to try this recipe!
    Looks YUM!

    Comment by Miss M — February 27, 2010 @ 4:00 am
  3. I love massaman curry. It makes a refreshing change from the more popular green and red thai curries. The only thing is that it is not to be recommended to those on a calorie controlled diet!

    Comment by The NRI — February 27, 2010 @ 5:20 am
  4. @ sid – you SHOULD try it! :) and im sorry i have no idea why it did that! ill look into it :)
    @Miss M – thank you! let me know if you do try it!
    @ The NRI – Haha! Life is too short! And Massaman curry irresistible. bad combination yknow.

    Comment by Rajika — February 27, 2010 @ 9:40 am
  5. you need to make up a yummy vegetarian version of this quickly and mail it to me ! Oh man i cant resist jasmine rice either…

    Comment by laya — February 27, 2010 @ 10:04 pm
  6. Grrrrrrr. Thats tiger speak for I could go for a bowl of this right now.

    Comment by Lori — March 1, 2010 @ 7:31 pm
  7. This looks divine!

    Comment by Marisa — March 10, 2010 @ 3:37 am
  8. Hi there, looks very yummy. but i have noticed that you are using a premade matsaman curry paste. on my site i show a video on how to prepare authentic Thai matsaman curry from scratch. i hope you would like it.

    Comment by Thaifoodmaster — March 17, 2010 @ 6:36 am
  9. yummm..however finding that curry paste in chennai is not going to be an easy feat!

    Comment by Aditya Swaminathan — March 19, 2010 @ 5:24 am
  10. thank you all!! :)
    @ thaifoodmaster and adi – now i feel like HAVE to make my own paste :) soon!! im very excited!!

    Comment by Rajika — March 19, 2010 @ 4:31 pm
  11. Today I decided to switch the eternal pasta for a massaman curry and stumbled on this website. It’s simmering right now…

    And I’ll have everything for tomorrow since I am eating out today – couldn’t wait preparing this ;)

    Comment by dutch pastaman — April 17, 2010 @ 9:22 am
  12. I always am careful the fish sauce when I used canned curry paste… canned pastes are usually full of salt.. and too much fish sauce can kill the final product beyond retrieval.

    canned paste gives you 70% of the flavor… like a 128kb .mp3 file gives you the gist of the music… but the remaining sizzling, sparkling notes only come out with the fresh-pounded, handmade paste

    Comment by Brett Borders — June 14, 2010 @ 10:04 pm
  13. I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of Massaman curry until last week! Since then I’ve had it twice and plan to make it soon. I’m hunting for Massaman curry paste today but I have two questions for you – 1. Can I use less coconut milk? I’m really not a fan of the stuff. In fact, when I make peanut satay sauce I always use dairy milk (sorry!). 2. I like mine peanut buttery so I plan to add quite a bit of peanut butter (check my site) – do you think this could replace some of that coconut milk as far as the sauce is concerned?

    Comment by Nick — June 24, 2010 @ 5:18 am
  14. That looks amazing! Massaman curry is one of my favorite things to get at the thai food place we go too, I should really learn to make it. Theirs has pineapple and carrots in it as well… I love the added sweetness with the pineapple. Yep, I’ll have to try this! Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by Amy — July 22, 2010 @ 9:58 pm
  15. I just made this and it was DELICIOUS!!! Thank you so much for posting. And thank you for the photos. They were inspiring and reassuring.


    Comment by Amy — September 25, 2010 @ 6:37 pm
  16. Gosh, I can’t believe I’ll have to wait another half hour till my Massaman curry is ready, now that it’s boiling – I’m sure it will be worth the wait though! :)

    Comment by Jen — October 19, 2010 @ 1:38 pm
  17. I made this tonight and while I did not have all of the ingredients it was still AMAZING!!!

    I want to go eat more, but it’s past the fattening hour!

    Comment by Norma — October 20, 2010 @ 6:21 pm
  18. Me again. This recipe has become date night for me and my husband (yes, that is grammatically correct). We’ve backed off the money spent at restaurants or a movie almost every week and turned to cooking and devouring this wonderful, delicious, heavenly dish. ~sigh~ I love it. Thank you, Rajika, for starting your blog and posting this recipe. Please never stop (even though it has been two entire months since your last post – I suppose school has you pre-occupied, which it should).

    Comment by Amy — October 21, 2010 @ 2:24 pm
  19. Hi,for how many servings is this recipe ?txs

    Comment by ann — November 3, 2010 @ 6:15 am
  20. Oh, my, I’m so excited about making this. I’m going to give it a shot this weekend, after I get my kitchen clean. (You don’t want to know.) It’s one of my favorite dishes, and I don’t know why I haven’t made it at home before. Thanks!

    Comment by Serene — November 5, 2010 @ 8:13 pm
  21. @ Serene : Haha, I know ALL about messy kitchens love! :D Mine looks like a tornado hit it at the moment!! :D Let me know how it goes!

    Comment by Rajika — November 8, 2010 @ 8:27 am
  22. @ Ann : Um.. Good question – 2-3 generous portions I think… :D

    Comment by Rajika — November 8, 2010 @ 8:28 am
  23. Made this last night,was an absolute hit with my very fussy family! Loved that I had everything (barr the thai basil)in my pantry. Really enjoy the way you set out the recipe with photos to follow progress. Excellent

    Comment by barbara — January 10, 2011 @ 5:07 pm
  24. you need to make up a yummy vegetarian version of this quickly and mail it to me ! Oh man i cant resist jasmine rice either…

    Comment by havuz — January 15, 2011 @ 10:22 am
  25. Great Thanks from Russia! I’ve dreamed about this Curry for about half a year since I returned from Thailand… And now I’m finally cooked it! Yummmmmmmmmmmmmm

    Comment by Tatiana — January 25, 2011 @ 3:24 pm
  26. This was fantastic and so easy! I made it with tofu. The key is to use extra firm tofu and get rid of all the excess water in it by putting the tofu on a plate and putting something very heavy (like another plate with a kettle full of water on it) on top of the tofu for some time. This presses the water out. Then you can quickly fry it (I used hot sesame oil) before marinating it in the curry paste…this will help it keep it shape and not fall apart. Thanks for the great recipe!

    Comment by Sarah — January 30, 2011 @ 9:57 pm
  27. Can’t wait to try this! As a busy mom I’m all about making big batches of things and freezing them, does anybody know if this would freeze well????

    Comment by Jen — March 28, 2011 @ 11:03 am
  28. This was fantastic and so easy! I made it with tofu. The key is to use extra firm tofu and get rid of all the excess water in it by putting the tofu on a plate and putting something very heavy (like another plate with a kettle full of water on it) on top of the tofu for some time. This presses the water out. Then you can quickly fry it (I used hot sesame oil) before marinating it in the curry paste…this will help it keep it shape and not fall apart. Thanks for the great recipe! xs

    Comment by tur şirketleri — April 24, 2011 @ 5:50 am
  29. Im really excited im about to try some massaman curry from my favorite thai place… cait wait

    Comment by andrew — May 10, 2011 @ 11:54 am
  30. Thank you so much Rajika! I’m a bachelor who wasn’t taught to cook while I was growing up. But I was lucky enough to have been raised in NYC, and exposed to food from all over the world. Diverse culinary tastes coupled with a tight budget mean you HAVE to experiment at home if you want to eat well. While I’m a well-entrenched Indian curry fan and have since learned to whip up a handful that pass muster with friends and family, the Thai curry has evaded me … until now. No endeavor has come close to approximating the Thai coconut curries I’ve tasted in restaurants until I tried out your recipe. Thank you for the beautiful step-by-step photos and concise directions. This is truly the first time I’ve made a Thai coconut curry at home that was not only restaurant quality, but so delicious that I went back for seconds … and thirds … and a midnight snack. Eating the way I do, it’s no wonder I’m still a bachelor. LOL. But seriously, many thanks. I plan to use this recipe in the near future as a sort of template for a red curry made with lamb. Any suggestions?

    Comment by James — May 14, 2011 @ 2:25 pm
  31. [...] I mean who would have thought that by me avoiding the curry I usually order at Thai restaurants (Massaman curry) that I would discover my love for curries again.  I am definitely going to work on perfecting [...]

    Pingback by Cure for the Common Cold « The Chronicles of Travelling Womanists — October 3, 2011 @ 6:11 am
  32. making it right now! Last weeks Australian MasterCheaf were cooking one of those and I said I have to make one and then stumbled upon this recipe so thank you very much :) The only difference I made is I am using chicken thighs instead of breast, we think that they are much juicier and tenderer meat.
    me and my daughter (only 13 but love cooking!) are keep running to the kitchen “tasting” the sauce :) Its so gorgeous!
    Thank you!!!

    Comment by Olga — October 9, 2011 @ 11:59 am
  33. Hi Raj:

    It is a ‘visual’ pleasure visiting your blog, such pretty colors! I think I have checked out your Massaman recipe before and I ran into again yesterday and couldn’t stop myself from making a curry right away!

    Here’s my post and thank you for a wonderful recipe –
    Great work blogging, cooking and with the photography. Good luck and keep going! – Anu

    Comment by Anu — October 12, 2011 @ 9:00 am
  34. Hi!
    Thank you so much for making your recipies so lively and easy to follow! Massaman curry is one of my absolute favourites, and something I cooked many times when I lived in Japan, and I couldn’t eat fish and noodles all day. Some suggestions is to add pumpkin as well, gives a wonderful flavour, and is a nice combination with the potatoes. And I tend to use honey instead of the brown sugar, more for simplicity reasons, but I am sure the brown sugar gives a wonderful flavour.
    Thanks a lot for your post, and I’ll be coming back soon!
    My very best regards,

    Comment by Milo — October 23, 2011 @ 5:51 am
  35. I ordered this dish at a restaurant Saturday night and absolutely fell in love! So, determined to make it myself, I googled it and found your recipe. I will be making this! Thanks for sharing! :)

    Comment by Heather @ Curly Girl Kitchen — October 31, 2011 @ 9:38 pm
  36. is it 8 cardamom pods or 8 seeds?
    I just had this at a Thai place in Toronto for the first time. It was devine and I can’t wait to try it in my own kitchen. Great recipe you have shared here.

    Comment by colin — March 4, 2012 @ 8:17 pm
  37. I did this recipe tonight. It is good, but the recipe must be followed closely. I used pork instead of chix cuz that’s what I had. Make sure to caramelize the meat with the curry before adding the cocomilk. I also used a yellow curry paste instead of the massaman cuz that’s what I had. I added more curry paste late cuz the taste was too sweet, then after adding it became almost too spicy…if that is possible.

    I love this blog because of the way it is written. It’s very conversational. Although I had almost every spice (i was out of cin stix but got some from my friend before cooking) the recipe here is worth the effort of getting every spice and doing it right. Make sire the oil is not too hot or you’ll loose the anise quickly.

    Comment by John — March 13, 2012 @ 5:31 pm
  38. I had rice noodles with this instead of rice. They balanced the spice amazingly. Damn good. The main thing I learned was the proportion of spices in the oil. It was perfect for the blend!

    Comment by John — March 13, 2012 @ 8:08 pm
  39. Just eaten this for dinner – it’s Mother’s Day in Ireland and I wanted to cook something different. It was so tasty, absolutely delicious, everyone loved it, even my fussy 16 yr old who unfortunately got a whiff of the fish sauce and announced it would taste like pooh. God, the wit of a teen….. Anyway it is now on my menu. Thanks so much for the recipe!

    Comment by Evelyn Jones — March 18, 2012 @ 12:12 pm
  40. I’ve been looking all over the internet for a recipe that comes close to the “brown curry” I ate when I was in Thailand a few years ago. Found it!!! A million thanks for that :)
    We had this for dinner yesterday and it was simply awesome!
    I love how you can taste all of spices but none of dominates.

    Comment by Phil — August 1, 2012 @ 10:16 pm
  41. Excellent recipe. Of course I did not have all the ingredients as I am a first year university student, but thank you for the lovely meal. :)

    Comment by Craig — August 17, 2012 @ 2:20 am
  42. Thank you so much! I am so glad you were able to enjoy the curry!

    Comment by Rajika — August 18, 2012 @ 12:34 pm
  43. Wonderful beat ! I wish to apprentice even as you amend your
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    Comment by Celebration Cakes — September 20, 2012 @ 3:17 pm
  44. I made this recipe last night and I was not disappointed. It was delicious and quite filling. I would however advise anyone not fond of licorice to avoid the kitchen while this is cooking. I’m ok with the scent of licorice in small doses but actually found myself a bit nauseous until all of the ingredients came together and drowned out the anise.

    Comment by Josh — October 5, 2012 @ 6:36 am
  45. My neighbour’s friend who is Thai made this dish even though I asked her for the recipe I couldn’t wait so searched the web and found your recipe, goodness, all I can say it was delicious, I have made it twice and another neighbour has asked me to make it for her for her family who are visiting at a later date, in the meantime I am cooking up another batch for myself, I found it freeze well as I am on my own I find it necessary to freeze portions of big batch’s I cook up so I have a variety of meals to choose from when I need something easy. Thanks again

    Comment by Wendy — December 9, 2012 @ 1:20 pm
  46. Tried this..not sure what went wrong, but it was decent. Not excellent. The massaman paste was dark red, almost brown, unlike your pic. Could that be it, if so, is there a brand one cd use?
    And how much coconut milk is ‘one can’ ? We’re in India and get 100 ml tetrapacks or make fresh. Thnks.

    Comment by Anjali — December 19, 2012 @ 5:38 am
  47. AHHHH this recipe looks amazing! My boyfriend loves Asian food but can’t handle some of the spices, so this curry is his favourite and has become my favourite too.

    I’ve been looking for a good recipe that uses store-bought paste but adds a little extra, and this looks perfect. Absolutely delicious.

    I will definitely be using this recipe, thank you so much for this!

    Comment by MCHughes — February 20, 2013 @ 9:13 am
  48. [...] This isn’t my own recipe so I won’t take credit. I do, however, owe my thanks to The Very Hungry Cook A fantastic food blog, very wholesome, and rich in recipes that will no doubt whet your appetite. [...]

    Pingback by Massaman curry (from paste) | The Daily Miff — February 20, 2013 @ 4:23 pm
  49. well i had some mishaps (burned the shallots, doubled the chicken by accident lol). by the time i was done, it had hardly any flavor due to the doubled chicken. i didnt have another can of red curry paste so i used curry powder. added in some carrots, more fish sauce, basil, spices, curry powder lol, shallots (done right this time) and it turned out really good. i also added more peanuts and 1/3 cup of peanut butter. i added in hot pepper flakes to give it a kick. tomorrow i plan to get pineapple and throw that in there too lol. the jasmine rice turned out well- luv the nutty aroma to it. i think its best to eat this the next day due to the flavors coming together more. so yeah- i DO have more the next day lol

    Comment by Jenner — February 23, 2013 @ 12:20 am
  50. Do you eat the star anise (or remove it once the dish is cooked)? I noticed it looked whole still in your dish. Thank you!

    Comment by Linda — April 26, 2013 @ 8:21 am
  51. Just had to comment,this was awesome,have never had this before to compare,but wow loved the flavors.Thank you so much for sharing and the lovely writing made me smile while reading.
    thank you :)

    Comment by Debbie — May 10, 2013 @ 12:55 pm
  52. I’ve made this a couple times now. Absolutely adore it. However mine never quite gets the same colour once I’ve added the coconut milk and ends up looking rather bland. y suggestions?

    Comment by Della Santos — August 10, 2013 @ 6:01 am
  53. Can anyone tell me the difference between all the color cans of masaman?…I assume they increase in hotness…I’ve only tried the yellow but am guessing it is one of the least hottest….the cashier didn’t know and I scanned everyone’s comment but didn’t see anyone mention the color can they used.

    Comment by donna — August 31, 2013 @ 3:51 pm
  54. Great. Cooked it today … fantastic taste, like masaman curry in best Thai restaurant.Been there.. Didn’t have tamarind paste without seeds, so i put seeds of tamarind out from paste.. hope that was O.K.

    Comment by Andrej — September 5, 2013 @ 5:56 am
  55. I bought red curry paste. Is this the same as masaman paste? Can it be used instead? thanks

    Comment by Carla — September 7, 2013 @ 11:55 am
  56. I bought red curry paste. Is this the same as masaman curry paste? Can it be used instead? thanks

    Comment by Carla — September 7, 2013 @ 11:57 am
  57. I have same question as last 2 commentors ! I could not find
    Massaman…. So bought red curry paste instead at big Asian supermarket
    … What are the differences?

    Comment by Lisa — September 24, 2013 @ 9:16 am
  58. My family LOVES this dish, and massaman curry is a great dish to make in under 30 minutes. :) Show us your photos on your Massaman Curry dish here:

    Comment by Sophia — October 7, 2013 @ 2:04 pm
  59. Thanks so much for posting this! I had to skip a few missing ingredients tonight (I have made this half a dozen times now) but it still equals or rivals the masaman curry from my fav Thai restaurants!

    Tip: be sure to add the fish sauce at the right time – if you wait until you add the tamarind and brown sugar it doesn’t have time to blend and will require mucho doctoring to overcome :)

    Comment by Mike — October 14, 2013 @ 6:46 pm
  60. Oh, and to those asking – red curry paste is NOT the same. You usually have to go to an Asian grocery or order the Masaman paste online if you don’t live somewhere that local supermarkets cater to a large asian population. I think the masaman curry paste is essential, although I’m sure the red curry turns out quite good- it just won’t be masaman!

    Comment by Mike — October 14, 2013 @ 6:50 pm

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