Although a staple in any Thai restaurant, the Massaman Curry (also known as Massuman curry), has its origins in Persia. Did you know that the name Massaman is not a Thai word, rather a derivative of Mussulman Curry (meaning – ‘curry of the Muslims’)?.
Which is why you will notice that this curry uses spices like Cinnamon, Bay Leaves, Cumin, and Cardamom, which are generally not used in traditional Thai curries, as these spices did not reach Thailand till the 17th century. These and local condiments such as lemongrass, galangal and dried red chillies render the Thai flavours to this rich and delicious curry.
Do not be discouraged by the number of ingredients this recipe uses. The curry paste can be made in advanced and refrigerated for up to a month, or frozen for up to 6 months. Or you can just buy them from supermarkets.
While the traditional Massaman curry uses Shrimp paste and fish sauce, this vegetarian version substitutes the shrimp flavour with roasted peanuts instead.
Another curious ingredient is the Galangal – a member of the Ginger family – but oddly, the flavour it imparts has a slight hint of turmeric and is more fibrous than ginger. To substitute and expect the same flavour would be foolish, but you may safely replace with ginger and turmeric powder
First prepare the curry paste. Roast the aromatics (onion, lemongrass, galangal, garlic and chillis).
Roast and grind all the spices.
Blend everything together till you get a beautiful, yellow, fragrant and intensely flavourful paste.
You may store this paste in an airtight container for up to one month refrigerated, or up to 6 months frozen.
All that’s left to do is assemble the curry. Remember, if you are using frozen curry paste, take what you need and re-freeze the rest of the curry paste. That way, it will keep well for up to 6 months. Never re-freeze fully thawed anything. It’s basically a growth medium for bacteria by the time it’s fully thawed.
Make sure the coconut milk cooks well enough for the oil to separate. I heard from a Thai chef that it’s not massaman curry if there isn’t a red layer of oil floating on top.