What is Masaman Curry?

Curry, which is used to make Masaman curry.
Cardamom is commonly used season masaman curry.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 March 2014
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Masaman curry is an ethnic dish usually considered to be part of Thai cuisine. Sometimes spelled as massaman curry, this particular Thai food is normally created by combining relatively mild spices with coconut milk and a few other ingredients. The curry is often served with rice and sometimes with a form of pickled ginger or cucumbers.

The name for the curry comes from Muslim traders who brought the spices used in the dish from India and the Middle East to the southern portion of modern day Thailand. One spelling of the name, musulman, is simply a more ancient form of the word “Muslim.” In some areas, the dish is referred to simply as Muslim curry.

Preparing this particular Thai food is relatively simple. While recipes vary, a basic masaman curry includes coconut milk that is seasoned with curry paste. Potatoes, some type of beef, cashews, and a few other spices form the basis for the recipe.

It is the special curry paste that gives masaman curry a distinctive flavor. When combined with bay leaves, sugar, fish and tamarind sauces, cardamom, and cinnamon, the end result is a spicy yet sweet concoction that provides a pleasant layer of flavor to the beef and potatoes. Onions can also be sliced and added to this basic recipe. This same mixture of curry sauce, coconut milk, and spices will also work very well with chicken or duck.


Blending the milk and curry paste is the first step in preparing masaman curry. It is important to heat these two ingredients over low heat, allowing the paste to completely break down in the milk. As the mixture begins to bubble slightly, add the meat. Make sure the curry sauce completely covers the chunks of meat.

Add the remainder of the spices while holding the cashews, potatoes and onions to add just before the dish is finished cooking. After roughly a half-hour, the beef will be tender. Maintain the same low heat and add the slivers of onion, chunks of potatoes and the cashews, then simmer the entire masaman curry for about twenty more minutes.

The liquid will reduce during the second half of the preparation, leaving a thin coating on the chunky ingredients. However, the bottom of the pot should still have an ample covering of the sauce. If the onions and beef appear to be almost completely exposed, add small amounts of water until the curry again covers the bottom half of the larger chunks.

Masaman curry can be served over white, saffron, or fried rice. For people who are watching carbohydrate intake, serving on a bed of steamed green and yellow vegetables will also result in a filling meal.


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