Long Over due Massaman Curry and Thai Iced Tea

I had a reader ask me the other day where I found my recipes.  I was caught off guard with the question; I just assumed it was obvious.  To set the record straight, all of these recipes are my own.  The proportions have been tweaked to my liking and most of these dishes I have been perfecting and altering for many years.  When a recipe is inspired by another foodie, they receive credit for the inspiration and, if there is a link, I link to the original and discuss how I’ve made it my own.  That being said, today’s recipe is all my own, developed after many, many trials and restaurant tastings.

I’ve had the dream, for a long time, to take a motorcycle tour across Thailand, tasting all of the regional cuisine, and learning from the people there, hoe to cook their food.  Who knows, someday I may be able to fulfill this dream, but as long as I’m in law school, it’s not likely a reality.  So, in lieu of an actual trip across Thailand, my taste buds will have to go on their own adventure while I stay in my kitchen.

One of my favorite things in the entire world is a great Massaman curry.  The problem is that the final product is vastly different restaurant to restaurant.  So I took the basic ingredients that seemed common to all of the dishes and worked through much trial and error to refine a dish I absolutely love.  This is NOT what I would call an authentic Thai dish, but it is certainly full of the aromas and flavors associated with the traditional dish.

Massaman curry is an Indian inspired Thai curry dish.  In fact, I am told that, the word “Massaman” means “Muslim” because many of the spices used in this dish were transported by Muslim spice traders.  While recipes for this dish tend vary greatly, several ingredients are always constant.  There are always potatoes and onions, and usually carrots or red peppers.  The traditional protein in the dish is the dark meat, or leg and thigh, of the chicken, and it is always cooked in a coconut broth.  I’ve had Massaman curries that were very red, and some that were yellow or orange.  Some have been in a very thick broths and others, very thin.  Finally, while I have seen recipes that top the dish with roasted cashews, I have only ever been served the dish with peanuts.

What’s most important is that they have all been fantastic, and I encourage anyone who tries this recipe to adjust the ingredients to their liking and let me know how it is!

In the recipes I have listed some ingredients with an asterisk–or several asterisks–these ingredients are usually accompanied by a substitute.  The first ingredient listed in one of these pairs is the one that I use to prepare this recipe and is usually the more common and easy to come by ingredient.  In fact, I make this curry weekly, and I can procure every single ingredient (the first one listed), including the fish sauce, at the Target Fresh near my apartment.  The second ingredient is the more traditional ingredient, but often times more expensive or difficult to find.  Further explanation of these substitutions can be found below the recipes.

Massaman Curry

2 tbs butter or vegetable oil*

2 tbs curry paste or Massaman curry paste*

1 medium white onion, thinly sliced root to tip

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbs minced ginger or 1/2 tsp of ground ginger

1 14 oz coconut milk

1/2 to 3/4 pound of protein (tofu preparation follows curry recipe)

1-2 potatoes, cut into 1″ cubes and parboiled (half cooked)

1-2 carrots, thinly sliced

1/2 to 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes, to desired spiciness 

2 tbs brown sugar or palm sugar, or to taste*

2 tbs soy sauce or fish sauce , or more to taste*

1 to 2 tbs lime juice or Tamarind water*

1/4 cup roasted peanuts, unsalted

Heat the butter or oil and sauté the curry paste several minutes until fragrant.  Add the onion, coating with the curry paste and sauté until onions begin to soften.  Add the garlic and ginger and coat with the curry paste.  Sauté for an additional 2-3 minutes, until the onions become slightly translucent.  Add the coconut milk and heat until the liquid comes to a bubble.  Add the protein, potatoes, and carrots.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover.  Simmer until the protein is cooked and potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.  If the curry looks too dry, add some water, a little at a time, until desired consistency.

Add one tablespoon of the sugar and dissolve.  Then add the soy/fish sauce, red pepper flakes,  and lime juice or tamarind.  Taste and add more fish sauce, lime, or brown sugar to taste.  Stir in the peanuts and serve with jasmine rice.

Standard Tofu preparation:

If using tofu, you’ll need to prepare it to absorb all the wonderful flavors in this curry.  I use extra firm tofu, drained.  You’ll need 1 pound of extrafirm tofu and about 1/4 cup soy sauce.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a baking sheet with non stick cooking spray.

Slice the tofu into roughly 32 pieces.  To achieve this, turn the tofu on it’s side and make four even slices resulting in four large but thin rectangles.

Then slice each of these into 8 even sized rectangles.

Lightly press these with a paper towel to absorb excess water in the tofu.  Then brush each side of the tofu with a low sodium soy sauce.

Place  tofu on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.  Flip each piece and bake for an additional 15 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

The tofu will be ready to add  to curry immediately or can be refrigerated for several days until needed.  I use this tofu preparation for almost all tofu dishes I make (i.e. stir fry, fried rice, etc.).  It is much healthier, simpler, and easier to clean up after than frying the tofu.

Something a good Thai dish is never complete without is a fabulous Thai iced tea.  If you haven’t ever had one, I suggest you stop reading immediately and get to your nearest Thai restaurant to try one of these puppies out!  Also, while I stand behind my Thai iced tea recipe 100%, if you haven’t ever had one I recommend you try a high quality one from a restaurant so you know what it’s supposed to taste like before attempting your own.  This way, you don’t spend the money on the tea before knowing if you are actually going to use it.

So, on a rare occasion, I am willing to forego a wine recommendation in place of the Thai iced tea.

Thai Iced Tea:

1/4 cup Thai tea leaves/powder

1 cup of good water

1-2 tablespoons sugar

2-3 tablespoons evaporated milk or half and half

Crushed ice

Bring the water to a boil and steep the tea for 5 minutes or longer, strain the leaves.  The steeping time will depend on the type and quality of tea leaves used.  The tea should be strong.  Dissolve the sugar in the hot tea and refrigerate until chilled.  Pour the chilled, sweetened tea mixture over the ice, leaving 1/2 an inch or so in the glass.  Slowly and carefully pour the evaporated milk or half and half over the tea and serve.

Some folks like to mix the milk and tea thoroughly and others like to keep the two separate.  You should play around with these amounts to find your ideal proportion of sweetness and richness before trying to make it pretty.  Note your changes so you know how much sugar and milk you like in the future and you can assemble the drink to impress your guests!

This recipe only makes one glass.

*While fish sauce is far superior to soy sauce and used extensively in Thai cooking, it is not vegetarian friendly…it’s made from fish if you couldn’t guess from the name.  However, if you have no problem using fish sauce, I highly recommend it.  All of the other alternate ingredients will probably be unnoticeable.

Massaman curry paste is also not vegetarian friendly as it contains shrimp.  I also find it difficult to come by and relatively expensive even when purchased online.

Tamarind comes in three forms: a brick where you break off as much as needed and reconstitute in a little bit of water; in paste form that usually comes in a tub; or much less common, the fresh or dried fruit form.  If you are going to use the paste or brick, use only a few teaspoons and add more as needed.

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~ by thevintedlawstudent on February 14, 2012.

2 Responses to “Long Over due Massaman Curry and Thai Iced Tea”

  1. looks delicious! in fact, i was just eating a similar curry made by my husband for lunch. we were lucky enough to travel to Thailand a few years ago and learned some tricks at a cooking class while we were there. 🙂

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