beef massaman curry

I really love cooking Thai food. We visited Bangkok and Chiang Mai earlier in the year, and the variety was a real eye opener. I think a lot of us who cook Thai food become accustomed to making just green or red curry with shop-bought pastes (personally, my favourite is yellow curry and I add extra chillies!) but I wanted to try something a little more adventurous.

Massaman curry is traditionally served using beef, and is cooked slowly to keep the meat tender. As (nearly) always, I bought the meat from my local butcher, and using this recipe it completely fell apart. I always take beef out of the fridge an hour before cooking, to allow it to reach room temperature. It stops the meat seizing up when cooking and keeps it soft and tender.

You can easily buy Massaman curry paste from the supermarket, but making myself was so rewarding. Curry paste recipes always look intimidating due to the extensive ingredient list, but it’s surprising how many you’ll already have in your cupboards. I stocked up on the additional ingredients at my local Asian supermarket – authentic ingredients for a low price, it’s a win-win situation.

I like to top my curry with a sprinkling of toasted peanuts, birds-eye chillies, and fresh coriander and Thai basil. It adds extra freshness and texture.



1 tbsp coriander seeds, dry toasted

1 tsp cumin seeds, dry toasted

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

4 shallots, finely chopped

3 x garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 x lemon grass stalks, ends cut off and bashed

1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped

small handful of fresh coriander stems, chopped (handy, as you can keep the leaves to garnish!)

2 x kaffir lime leaves

10 red chillies, half de-seeded

1 tsp ground white pepper

1 tbsp sea salt

1 tbsp shrimp paste

1 tbsp sunflower oil

400ml tin coconut milk

700g high quality stewing beef, diced – i like to use chuck steak

1 x onion, chopped

500g new potatoes, halved with skin on

85g peanuts, unsalted (keep some aside to garnish)

1 tbsp tamarind paste

1 tbsp light brown sugar – muscovado works well

1 tbsp fish sauce

jasmine rice, to serve

fresh chilli, peanuts, coriander and Thai basil, to garnish

serves 4


  1. pre-heat oven to 200ºc.
  2. to make the paste, simply add all ingredients between coriander seeds and sunflower oil to a food processer, and pulse until it reaches a smooth, paste-like consistency.
  3. if you are removing the beef from the fridge ahead of cooking as recommended, i like to also spare a small amount of paste and coat the meat as a marinade.
  4. spread the peanuts over a baking tray, and pop in the oven until a light golden brown colour – this should only take approx. 5 mins. once cool enough to handle, roughly chop and set some aside to garnish at the end.
  5. reduce oven temperature to 140ºc. heat a large pan over a medium-high heat and add 2 tbsp of coconut milk. next, add the curry paste. i wouldn’t exceed using 4 tbsp of paste. fry for 1 minute, or until the oil begins to separate.
  6. add the beef, and fry until the meat is browned and sealed (but do not cook it!) – this should only take 1 minute or so.
  7. stir in the rest of the coconut milk, then fill the tin halfway with water and stir this in also. also add the onion, potatoes, peanuts, tamarind, sugar and fish sauce, and mix well. bring to a simmer, pop a lid on the top and put in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, stirring once every 1/2-1 hour.
  8. serve with a portion of thai jasmine rice and sprinkling of chillies, peanuts and fresh herbs.

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