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home > recipes > meat > massaman curry with chicken
1-­2 cups coconut milk (one 12-oz can is okay) 3 Tbs. massaman curry paste 2 Tbs. fish sauce (näm plah), or to taste 1 Tbs. palm or coconut sugar, or to taste 1­-2 tbs. tamarind water (about one 1/2-inch chunk of wet tamarind dissolved in 1-­2 tbs. water, pulp removed) 1 lb. boneless chicken breast or thigh meat, cut into bite-size chunks 1/2 lb. Mushrooms 8­-10 baby pearl onions, or about half a dozen small boiling onions, skin removed, or 4 or 5 diced scallions 2­-3 Tbs. unsalted roasted peanuts, ground finely 2 Tbs. whole raw peanuts 8 oz. can of pineapple, diced (juice may be used as a sweetener too) slivered fresh hot peppers as desired (can be omitted, too) 1. If using canned coconut milk, do not shake can before opening, so the cream stays on top. Spoon about 2/3 cup of this thick cream into a medium-size saucepan or wok. Heat over medium to high heat, reducing it until it is bubbly and oil begins to separate from it (3-­5 minutes). 2. Add the curry paste, mashing it to mix with the cream. Fry the paste in the cream a few minutes until it is aromatic. 3. Add the ground peanuts and some of the remaining milk, enough to make a smooth, thick sauce. 4. Season with the fish sauce and palm sugar. 5. Add the cut chicken and sauté it over medium heat in the creamy sauce, until the pieces change color and are no longer pink and raw on the outside. At this point the chicken will start to let out the juices inside. The mixture may appear wetter, but if it is still dry and there is little sauce, add more coconut milk to constitute a sauce to the lightness or thickness you desire (Although if you do add mushrooms in the next step, they will add moisture too). 6. Add the mushrooms and raw peanuts and stir into the curry mixture. Cover the saucepan with a lid and lower heat. 7. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir the curry and check its consistency. The chicken should be in a rich sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add more coconut milk. Stir in the baby pearl onions/scallions. If using boiling onions, cut in halves or in quarters, depending on their size, before adding. Cover and allow to simmer another 5­-10 minutes, or until the potatoes and onions are tender. 8. Taste the curry sauce. Sprinkle in more fish sauce and palm sugar as needed to adjust the flavors to your liking. (Some brands of paste already have a lot of salt and sugar added.) The curry should be on the sweet side. If you wish the curry to be hotter, add the slivered hot peppers. Stir in a small amount of tamarind water and simmer a minute more to blend in its flavor. Serve hot with plain steamed rice (jasmine rice if available). Notes and Pointers: As a Muslim curry, massaman curry is usually made with beef and goat meat, stewed in a rich and sweet peanut-based coconut sauce. I have adapted this recipe for chicken for those who are trying to reduce red meat in their diet, but it is delicious made with lamb. Vegetarians can try this curry with a firm, pressed tofu and string beans, or with mixed vegetables, such as eggplant, cauliflower, potatoes, mushrooms and golden squash (kabocha, banana or butternut squash). You can also make the sauce by itself to spoon over grilled fish or shrimp. In fact, by following the first few steps you can make a quick peanut sauce for your satay, but use an extra amount of ground roasted peanuts for added nuttiness. Many cookbooks advise you to use peanut butter for making peanut sauces, but I think peanut butter always tastes like peanut butter no matter what you do to it. Freshly ground, unsalted, roasted peanuts make peanut sauces that are fresher and more natural tasting. Use a clean coffee grinder to help you grind the nuts. Shake as you do this to keep the nuts as loose as possible. If you wish to make this curry with beef, use a chuck roast or stew meat. Precook the beef 1­ - 1 1/2 hours in a small volume of water, or use the light, watery part of the coconut milk at the bottom of the can. For ­2 pounds of meat, use about 1/4 cup of liquid. You won¹t need much, as beef has lots of its own juices which will cook out in a matter of minutes. Heat the meat with the liquid in a pot; cover and simmer over low heat until the meat is well cooked but still slightly chewy. Stir occasionally. Check after an hour. If the beef is stewing in a lot of juices, cook uncovered over a higher heat the balance of the time to dry up most of the juices. Follow the recipe, substituting the precooked meat and its juices for the chicken. Beef should be precooked before stewing in the curry sauce because the length of time needed to cook meat until it is tender would likely cause a breakdown in the coconut cream, making the curry oily and causing the cream to form curds. More coconut milk would have to be added later on to reconstitute the sauce to its rich, smooth texture, thereby making the curry unnecessarily high in calories. For a fuller flavored curry, I like to combine two different brands of massaman paste, Mae Ploy and Mae Anong, to take advantage of the strengths of each. But if you want to stick to only one brand, Mae Ploy makes a more pungent curry, while Mae Anong is mellow with a roasted fragrance. Pa-Siam (with a chicken as its logo) is also good and more like Mae Ploy. The preferred canned coconut milk for this recipe is the richer Mae Ploy brand. Massaman curry is not a sour curry; use only a small amount of tamarind water for a subtle fruity tang, which helps pull together some of the spice flavors and gives the curry a distinctive character. Just as the sweet flavor is often used as a balancing agent, in this case the sour, too, adds its own balance.

Massaman Curry with Chicken


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keyword: massaman
keyword: curry
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ethnicity: thai
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(posted October 13, 2004)

1-­2 cups
coconut milk (one 12-oz can is okay)
3 Tbs. massaman
curry paste
2 Tbs.
fish sauce (näm plah), or to taste
1 Tbs. palm or
coconut sugar, or to taste
1­-2 tbs.
tamarind water (about one 1/2-inch chunk of wet tamarind dissolved in 1-­2 tbs. water, pulp removed)
1 lb. boneless
chicken breast or thigh meat, cut into bite-size chunks
1/2 lb. Mushrooms
8­-10 baby pearl onions, or about half a dozen small boiling onions,
skin removed, or 4 or 5 diced scallions
2­-3 Tbs. unsalted roasted peanuts, ground finely
2 Tbs. whole
raw peanuts
8 oz. can of
pineapple, diced (juice may be used as a sweetener too)
slivered fresh
hot peppers as desired (can be omitted, too)

1. If using canned
coconut milk, do not shake can before opening, so the cream stays on top. Spoon about 2/3 cup of this thick cream into a medium-size saucepan or wok. Heat over medium to high heat, reducing it until it is bubbly and oil begins to separate from it (3-­5 minutes).

2. Add the
curry paste, mashing it to mix with the cream. Fry the paste in the cream a few minutes until it is aromatic.

3. Add the ground peanuts and some of the remaining
milk, enough to make a smooth, thick sauce.

4. Season with the
fish sauce and palm sugar.

5. Add the cut
chicken and sauté it over medium heat in the creamy sauce, until the pieces change color and are no longer pink and raw on the outside. At this point the chicken will start to let out the juices inside. The mixture may appear wetter, but if it is still
dry and there is little sauce, add more coconut milk to constitute a sauce to the lightness or thickness you desire (Although if you do add mushrooms in the next step, they will add moisture too).

6. Add the mushrooms and
raw peanuts and stir into the
curry mixture. Cover the saucepan with a lid and lower heat.

7.
Simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir the
curry and check its consistency. The chicken should be in a rich sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add more coconut milk. Stir in the baby pearl onions/scallions. If using boiling onions, cut in halves or in quarters, depending on their size, before adding. Cover and allow to simmer another 5­-10 minutes, or until the potatoes and onions are tender.

8. Taste the
curry sauce. Sprinkle in more fish sauce and palm sugar as needed to adjust the flavors to your liking. (Some brands of paste already have a lot of salt and sugar added.) The curry should be on the sweet side. If you wish the curry to be hotter, add the slivered hot peppers. Stir in a small amount of tamarind water and simmer a minute more to blend in its flavor. Serve hot with plain steamed rice (jasmine rice if available).

Notes and Pointers:

As a Muslim
curry, massaman curry is usually made with beef and goat meat, stewed in a rich and sweet peanut-based coconut sauce. I have adapted this recipe for chicken for those who are trying to reduce red meat in their diet, but it is delicious made with lamb. Vegetarians can try this curry with a firm, pressed tofu and string beans, or with mixed vegetables, such as eggplant, cauliflower, potatoes, mushrooms and golden squash (kabocha, banana or butternut squash). You can also make the sauce by itself to spoon over grilled fish or shrimp. In fact, by following the first few steps you can make a quick peanut sauce for your satay, but use an extra amount of ground roasted peanuts for added nuttiness.

Many cookbooks advise you to use
peanut butter for making peanut sauces, but I think peanut butter always tastes like peanut butter no matter what you do to it. Freshly ground, unsalted, roasted peanuts make peanut sauces that are fresher and more natural tasting. Use a clean coffee grinder to help you grind the nuts. Shake as you do this to keep the nuts as loose as possible. If you wish to make this curry with beef, use a chuck roast or stew meat. Precook the beef 1­ - 1 1/2 hours in a small volume of water, or use the light, watery part of the coconut milk at the bottom of the can. For ­2 pounds of meat, use about 1/4 cup of liquid. You won¹t need much, as beef has lots of its own juices which will cook out in a matter of minutes. Heat the meat with the liquid in a pot; cover and simmer over low heat until the meat is well cooked but still slightly chewy. Stir occasionally. Check after an hour. If the beef is stewing in a lot of juices, cook uncovered over a higher heat the balance of the time to dry up most of the juices. Follow the recipe, substituting the precooked meat and its juices for the chicken.

Beef should be precooked before stewing in the
curry sauce because the length of time needed to cook meat until it is tender would likely cause a breakdown in the coconut cream, making the curry oily and causing the cream to form curds. More coconut milk would have to be added later on to reconstitute the sauce to its rich, smooth texture, thereby making the curry unnecessarily high in calories.

For a fuller flavored
curry, I like to combine two different brands of massaman paste, Mae Ploy and Mae Anong, to take advantage of the strengths of each. But if you want to stick to only one brand, Mae Ploy makes a more pungent curry, while Mae Anong is mellow with a roasted fragrance. Pa-Siam (with a chicken as its logo) is also good and more like Mae Ploy. The preferred canned coconut milk for this recipe is the richer Mae Ploy brand.

Massaman
curry is not a sour curry; use only a small amount of tamarind water for a subtle fruity tang, which helps pull together some of the spice flavors and gives the curry a distinctive character. Just as the sweet flavor is often used as a balancing agent, in this case the sour, too, adds its own balance.


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