Thick, silky in texture and comforting in every bite, Chicken Massaman curry is the dish to devour by degrees. The combination of tender juicy chicken pieces with squash always got the power to peel my fam up from the lounge. Every time.
What is in the Massaman curry paste?
Silky, nutty and aromatic – these can easily be related to curry pastes in general. As astonishing as it can be, the Massaman curry paste, in fact, involves many spices that are not very common in many other Thai curries. With dried spices in the seasoning like cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, cardamom, lemongrass or galangal, together with coconut cream/milk, Massaman curry paste bears many similarities to Indian-styled curries.
The meat for Massaman curry (if any) is plentiful: it can be either chicken, beef or mutton. In traditional versions, addups like lime juice or pineapple juice are also frequently used.
I must say I truly admire that dish I once had at a Thai restaurant 8 months ago, with all my heart. It’s satiating, nostalgic, appeasing; it’s beyond words that I can pull off myself. Not so long after, I gathered my motivation for a remake on my own. But all the work that I’d have to put in generating a homemade Massaman curry paste is just too much to be true, especially in hectic (read: seven hectic) days of mine.
That’s my reason to turn to a store-bought version. Together with tamarind paste, fish sauce, coconut milk, peanut butter and some pinches of brown sugar, the dish, fortunately, appeared to be just phenomenal as expected (okay, to be fair, my bar wasn’t set quite high though…)
With no surprise, the ready-made curry paste in grocery stores is more concentrated in flavor and texture. It’s also formulated with more salt for better preservation during transportation. So adding in the fish sauce or not, it’s up to you – just be careful not to oversalt your dish.
In the same vein, it is necessary to adjust the sweetness to your likings. Here I’m talking about the coconut milk and brown sugar. These two both have a mild taste and are just slightly sweet, so really, you’d barely be in dire straits even if you accidentally went big over them.
Almost all store-bought curry pastes have a distinctive sweet yet robust flavor, with a slightly fiery heat on the tip of the tongue. For any first-hand experience with Thai foods, that’s pretty much enough. But for spicy food lovers, you might need to throw in some extra chopped chillies when bring it to serve.
Some people love runny curry, some wish it more coagulated. Cornflour might be a great thickening agent in most households, but to some people (including me), it might as well deliver some weird flavor, somehow too floury and chalky in taste.
The potatoes alone are already starchy enough for the dish. So you should just leave the thickening job to the heat, as they can totally be mashed to soft and smooth if you wish to, afterwards.
What to pair with Chicken Massaman curry?
It goes without saying that Chicken Massaman curry tastes best when paired with naan bread or any kind of rice: brown rice, wild rice, basmati rice or jasmine rice. If you wish to make this dish grain-free, try to spare a little more time to make a batch of cauliflower rice.
It’s also darn easy to whip up a vegan Massaman curry. All you need to do is to ditch the chicken and replace it with chickpeas or tofu. Don’t hesitate to pack the dish with more vegetables such as roasted beans and quinoa or, even simpler, add more potatoes.
Chicken Massaman Curry Recipe
- 1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast cubed
- 3 cups potatoes (peeled, cubed)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 3/4-inch thick slice ginger minced
Massaman curry paste:
- 3 tbsp curry paste
- 3 tbsp tamarind paste
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 can (13.5-ounce) coconut milk
- 1/3 cup peanut butter
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- Stir in the curry paste and minced ginger in vegetable oil over medium heat in 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken chunks and keep stirring for 3 more minutes.
- Pour in the remainings of the Massaman curry paste ingredients (as listed above) to the mixture.
- Bring them to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover and let simmer. In theory, this will take you 20 minutes, but in practice you’ll know when it’s well-done simply by checking the potatoes and chicken. The potatoes should be tender but not doughy. The chicken meat can be a bit hard to gauge since it’s covered in yellow curry paste, but as long as the inside is no longer pink, you’re good to go.
- Drizzle some lime juice over while the heat is still on, cook for an extra 5 minutes then bring to serve.