OK, first thing’s first – there are a lot of ingredients in Massaman curry, so it’s not a midweek dinner! This one is for a rainy afternoon (like yesterday!). I invited a friend over for lunch and was going to make a vegan Malawi curry, but couldn’t get poppy seeds anywhere near me!
So I had an hour to make up my mind what to do. Having looked in the freezer and cupboard, there was only one thing for it: Massaman! Everyone who loves spice must love this dish. If you’ve never tried it, then give it a go!
OK, I admit, this one falls in the realm of “moderate difficulty”, but if you get the spice balance right – you’ll have a little symphony on your tongue – despite no chicken, fish or any animal product whatsoever.
Yes, Massaman spice paste is easily accessible in most British supermarkets, but look at the ingredients – it’ll often have either or both fish sauce and shrimp paste.
You can make this curry much quicker if you use a small blender rather than a pestal &mortar. If you cannot get fermented bean paste, then don’t worry – consider adding a tablespoon of light soya sauce.
Is this recipe authentic?
Many recipes suggest Massaman curry is made with roasted peanuts and cardamom – neither feature in this recipe. I don’t think it needs either, as the flavours are so strong with the spices already. But if you want to be correct, then add around 100g roasted peanuts to the curry paste, and the seeds of about 5 cardamom pods to the curry powder.
Of course, if you really want to be authentic, then you’d use a meat base and add fish sauce…so naturally I take huge liberties with recipes because I’m making them plant-based.
I made this with aubergine and sweet potato, but equally I’d throw in a good handful of spinach leaves too. Make it your own! Don’t forget protein though, because I served this with dhal and rice, there was no need for it in this curry – but consider a tin of chickpeas.
According to Spice Adventurers, this isn’t a Thai dish at all – it’s an import from central Asia (Persia, or modern day Iran). And you could believe that when you look at the spice influence.
The Thai Cooking School says it comes from India – but wherever its origins, it has a very Thai stamp on it, so we can definitely credit Thailand for its fantastic flavours – they’ve honed it and very much made it their own.
- 5 red birds eye chilli
- 2 kaffir lime leaves or zest of one lime
- 4 shallots peeled and roughly sliced
- 2 stalks lemongrass outer layer removed, sliced
- Bunch of coriander leaves removed, leaving just stalks
- 1.5 tbsp galangal a good handful of galangal roots, or use galangal paste
- 1.5. tbsp tamarind paste or soak about 5cm of tamarind pulp in hot water for 20mins, and give the pulp a good squeeze through a sieve or muslin cloth
- 1 tsp rock salt
- 1 tsp white peppercorns
- 1.5 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp cloves
- 0.5 tsp grated nutmeg
- 2.5 tsp palm sugar or 1.5 tsp demerara sugar
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 300 ml vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 large aubergine eggplant; cubed
- 1 large sweet potato scrubbed and cubed
- 1 kaffir lime leaf
- 1 tsp fermented bean paste optional; this is replacing shrimp paste
Make the curry powder by putting the dry spices into a coffee bean or spice grinder or use a pestal and mortar.
Make the curry paste by putting the wet spices into a hand blender or pestal and mortar (if using a pestal and mortar, put the salt and pepper in with the wet spices to help grind it down).
Heat the oil and gently fry the curry paste for a few minutes, stirring continuously to avoid burning. Then add the curry powder. Fry additional minute.
Add half the coconut milk and reduce down until the paste is shiny and the oils have separated. Most of the coconut milk will have evaporated off.
Add the aubergine, rest of coconut milk, stock, sugar, a good teaspoon of bean paste - heaped! Add the lime leaf if you have one.
Add the potato or other vegetables that you're using.
Cook until all vegetables are tender, serve with jasmine rice.
Seb is a nutritionist registered with the Association for Nutrition and a writer specialising in plant-based nutrition and men’s health. He graduated from Chester University with a masters degree in human nutrition and loves discovering new and vibrant plant-based recipes.