The Crowd-pleaser Southern Thai Massaman Curry

Massaman Thai Curry

I first tried this curry more than 20 years ago, at the home of one of my best friends in Hong Kong. Because I’m from the North of Thailand, and was unfamiliar with this distinctly Southern dish, I had to learn how to make it from my friend.

The flavour of this aromatic dish is deep and complex. It is truly a reflection of the spice trade route in the South of Thailand; history in a bowl. The use of cumin, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon are clearly influenced by Indian/Malaysian cuisines. Give it a try and let me know how you get on. It’s easy to eat, not too spicy and everyone loves it!


  • serves 2
    ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 small cinnamon stick or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 generous tablespoons
  • Massaman Curry Paste: ready-made or learn how to make it yourself from page 203 of Rosa’s Cookbook
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped or 5 very small onions, peeled and used whole
  • 400ml (14fl oz) coconut milk, plus extra to serve
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 1 potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 200g (7oz) beef sirloin, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons beef or vegetable stock (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons roasted cashew nuts
  • 5 pieces of chopped pineapple
  • a pince of sea salt
  • Steamed rice, to serve

Roast the cumin, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon in a dry frying pan set over a medium heat, stirring continuously for
a few minutes, until their aroma fills the air. Crush the spices using a pestle and mortar and set aside.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium-high heat. Stir in the curry paste, crushed roasted spices, bay leaves and onion and
cook until it is fragrant and the oil separates and rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 2 minutes. Add half the coconut milk and stir for 1 minute. Add the palm sugar, caster sugar, fish sauce and a pinch of salt. Cook for a minute, then stir in the tamarind sauce. Add the potato and the beef. Simmer for 10–15 minutes until the beef is tender.

Add the rest of the coconut milk. If the sauce still seems too dry, add a little stock. Cook for another minute until everything is mixed well, then add the nuts and pineapple. Season to taste. It should have a perfect balance of salty and sweet. Ladle into a serving bowl and drizzle over a little coconut milk. Serve with steamed rice.


Hope you enjoy this recipe! If you’ve got any questions, don’t forget to submit them at my #AskSaiphin page.
Enjoy xx


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