Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Thai Massaman Beef Curry: A Culinary Classic

Massaman Curry is a Thai dish of Muslim origin, which according to one theory, originated in central Thailand at the court of Ayutthaya in the 16th-century through a Persian envoy and trader. According to another theory, it originated in southern Thailand due to contacts with Arab traders. In light of the recipe's Muslim roots, this coconut-based curry is most commonly made with beef, but can also be made with lamb, duck, tofu, chicken, or even pork. The flavouring for the curry usually includes coconut milk, potatoes, and roasted peanuts or cashews, in addition to a range of other aromatic ingredients which include ginger, garlic, lime leaves, lemongrass, cilantro, chilies, onions, cumin seeds, cardamom, palm sugar, fish sauce, shrimp paste and tamarind sauce, however lime juice works just as well. I prefer to make my own paste and sauce rather than using a store-bought version, as it produces fresher more vibrant results.

2 pounds of stewing beef, beef stock, smashed lemongrass, chopped onions and Kaffir lime leaves are simmered, partially covered for 80 minutes

Massaman Beef Curry is fragrant and flavourful. Although the list of ingredients may seem long, the sauce is very easy to make. Just toss them all into the curry as you prepare them and cook gently with the meat. Tra­ditionally, this dish is slowly simmered for about 2 hours, to thicken the co­conut milk and intensify the flavours, but it’s definitely worth the wait. In the meantime, you can sit back and relax while the curry simmers away, the beef turns meltingly tender and the intoxicating aromas fill the kitchen. Ranked as being one of the 'World's 50 Most Delicious Foods', Massaman Curry was quipped as being "the king of curries — spicy, coconutty, sweet and savoury, its combination of flavours has more personality than a Thai election!"

An array of dry aromatic spices, chopped cashews, garlic, red chili flakes, lime juice, 
brown sugar, shrimp paste and fish sauce are added

The spices are all blended in, and the diced potatoes added

Coconut milk is added...

...and stirred in

The mixture is brought to a boil and then simmered uncovered for another 30-40 minutes

The curry reduces and the flavours become richer and more complex

 Chopped cilantro is added at the end

The Massaman Curry is then served with extra cilantro, some dried red chilis 
and a few star anise

Massaman Beef Curry
Serves 4-6

2 lb beef, cut into cubes 
2 1/2 cups beef stock
1/3 cup diced onion
2 stalks lemongrass, smashed
3 kaffir lime leaves
2 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves

Curry Sauce:
1 thumb-piece ginger, grated
4-5 cloves garlic, slivered
1/2 tsp chili flakes 
1/4 cup chopped cashews
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp ground cardamon
6 star anise
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp shrimp paste 
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 14 oz can coconut milk

Place stock in a large pot over high heat and add the the beef, onion, lemongrass and lime leaves. Bring to a boil and reduce to low. Partially cover and simmer 60 to 80 minutes, stirring occasionally until meat is tender.

Add all the curry sauce ingredients plus the potatoes, stirring with each addition, holding back a few tablespoons of the coconut milk for serving, if desired. Return to a boil, then continue to simmer uncovered for 30 more minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.

Transfer the curry to a serving bowl or individual dinner bowls and garnish with fresh cilantro and some additional nuts if desired. Drizzle with reserved coconut milk and serve with Thai jasmine rice. 

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