Massaman Beef Curry

Serves 6, 1 hour (curry paste), 1 hour (curry)

Massaman Beef is a traditional curry from the Thai royal kitchen. Although its origins aren’t clear, it’s said that massaman is a Thai corruption of the Persian word musulman, which means “Muslim” – suggesting that this might be a Persian-inspired curry.

Like most Thai curries, the key here is the curry paste, which is time-consuming. I recommend making it in a large batch so you can freeze it and use it later – once you’ve got the paste on hand, the rest of the curry is a snap.

I must thank my good friend Natty Khajai for passing me this recipe – it is just as delicious as all those ones I had in Thailand!

Curry Paste Ingredients

  • coriander seeds 3tsp
  • caraway seeds 1tsp
  • 8 cloves
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 2 inches cinnamon bark
  • 2 nutmeg seeds
  • 20 dried red chillis
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp pepper
  • 2tbsp mature galangal, diced
  • 4 stalks lemongrass
  • 2 tsp lime zest
  • 20 cloves garlic
  • 10 red onions, diced
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • oil

Curry Paste Method

  1. Soak the chillis in cold water until soft
  2. Roast all of the spices separately in a frying pan or wok (coriander seeds, caraway seeds, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon bark, nutmeg). Each spice should be roasted separately because they will cook at different rates – once each spice turns aromatic from the heat, set it aside.
  3. Once all the spices are ready, grind them together with a mortar and pestle until nearly a powder, then set aside in a separate bowl.
  4. Drain the chillis and put them in the empty mortar and pestle. Add the salt and grind them together. Then add the following ingredients in this order; pepper, galangal, lemongrass and lime zest. Grind each one in properly before adding the next.
  5. Transfer to a mixer-grinder, then continue to add the garlic, shrimp paste and red onion. Again, grind each one in before adding the next. Add a little oil if the paste is looking dry. Finally, add the roasted spice mix, and mix well.
  6. Divide into four portions – freeze them and keep them for later.

Curry Ingredients

  • 1 portion curry paste
  • 800ml coconut milk
  • 400ml coconut cream
  • 500g casserole beef, cubed
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 4tbsp tamarind paste
  • 5tbs fish sauce
  • 2tsp salt
  • 250g potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2tbsp roasted peanuts
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced onion
  • 3 cardamom pods


  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 2 cups boiling water

Curry and Rice method

  1. Put coconut milk, 150ml coconut cream and beef into a pot and heat gently until it boils. Simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally, until the beef is tender.
  2. While the beef is cooking, roast the three cardamom pods in a fry pan until slightly brown and then set aside.
  3. Add the rice and water to a saucepan, cover and boil until all the water is absorbed.
  4. Once the beef has been simmering for 40 minutes, add half of the remaining coconut cream to a wok or frying pan, and heat over medium flame. When it starts to boil, add the curry paste and stir it through.
  5. Continue adding the rest of the coconut cream little by little, stirring it though before adding the next.
  6. Stir the mixture for around 10 minutes until oily bubbles begin to splutter around the side.
  7. Remove the beef from the pot, but keep the coconut milk. Add the meat to the wok and stir it through, then turn off the gas.
  8. Put all the contents of the wok back into the pot with the coconut milk, begin to heat over medium flame, then season with coconut sugar, tamarind paste, fish sauce, and salt.
  9. When the curry boils, add the potatoes, peanuts, onion, and roasted cardamom pods and boil for 15 minutes. Keep stirring it until the potatoes are cooked.

Get many more recipes like this in my book Recipes for Ramadan, available through Amazon – click here!

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