Massaman Curry

pot of gluten free massaman curry in a purple le creuset

massaman curry is one of my personal favourites. it's a go-to recipe when I host private dinners for larger groups, or have a free sunday to spend cooking. it is rich, complex, and packed with SO much flavour, and I get giddy every time I smell the paste frying. the aroma is INCREDIBLE. after leaving it for a while to bathe and bubble in its own deliciousness, you're left with a magical, golden curry with beautifully tender and mouthwatering chicken or beef. this recipe definitely takes some 'sans aggression', but trust me, it is well worth the time. if you’re okay with store bought paste, skip to part 2 of the recipe for instructions. serve with rice and fresh herbs of your choice! 

we thank leela punyaratabandhu (a.k.a. shesimmers) for teaching us how to cook ‘simple thai food’ and inspiring this recipe. reid and I highly recommend her book for those of you wanting to dive into thai cooking but have been intimidated to do so. she makes it approachable, easy and straightforward, offering reasonable ingredient substitutions for those who live in north america.

*by the way, we keep chilis, galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves on hand in our freezer so that we can conveniently whip out our favourite recipes whenever we want! 

Serves 4 to 6

Part 1:
Ingredients (Paste) 

Makes 1 cup

2 cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
1 1/2 tbsps. coriander seed
2 tsps. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. white peppercorns
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. curry powder
5 Thai green long chilis
1 Thai red bird's eye chili
2 tbsps. galangal, roughly chopped
2 tbsps. lemongrass, roughly chopped (use bottom of stalk and work your way up, the most pungent part is the white end with the inner purple ring)
4 kaffir lime leaves, roughly sliced
10 cloves garlic
1/2 cup sliced shallots
2 tsps. salt
2 tsps. shrimp paste (or 1 anchovy)
1/4 cup canola oil


For best results, use a mortar and pestle. However, we know that not everyone has a mortar and pestle, so a blender or small food processor will do just fine. 

Toast dried spices in a small pan until fragrant. 

Pound or pulverize the dried spices until it has become a fine powder. Set aside in a small bowl.

Pound or pulverize the fresh herbs until it has become a paste. Add salt and shrimp paste. If using a blender, you may add the 1/4 cup of oil now. Combine with dried spice powder.

If you used a blender, fry paste directly in a pan over medium heat for 5 minutes. If you used a mortar and pestle, add the 1/4 cup of oil to a pan and fry paste. 

Reserve 1/2 cup of paste and freeze for later use. Set other 1/2 cup of paste aside to cool. 

Part 2:
Ingredients (Curry) 

1/2 cup massaman curry paste (you could also use store bought, but fresh is better!) 
1 tbsp. coconut or canola oil
1/2 cup coconut cream (Aroy-D is the best coconut milk for this, otherwise you can buy coconut cream separately)
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
2 lbs. chicken legs (bone-in, chopped into pieces) or beef chuck (1 1/2" cubed)
1 lb. baby potatoes (purple, red, and/or yellow), halved
1 medium onion, sliced into thick chunks
1 cinnamon stick
3 cardamom pods
2 star anise
1/2 lime, juiced
2 tbsps. fish sauce
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup peanuts


Preheat oven to 250F.

In a dutch oven or an ovenproof pot, fry curry paste in coconut oil and coconut cream for 2 minutes over medium heat. 

Add coconut milk, chicken or beef and just enough water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cover. 

Transfer the pot into the oven. If cooking chicken, check after 1 hour (don't worry, the oven is set low and it'll cook slooww). If cooking beef, forget about it and set a timer for 2.5 hours.

Once the meat is tender, remove from the oven and continue simmering on the stove at the lowest heat possible. Add remaining ingredients from onions to peanuts and simmer for an additional 10 minutes, covered. 

Add salt to a separate pot of water as you would for pasta. Boil potatoes for 10-12 minutes. Strain and add to curry.