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curry in a hurry

Recipe: massaman beef curry

December already. Neva is now just over eight months old and we are falling into a nice routine. Nice enough that I could get out today for my first skate ski of the season at the nordic center. Keeping active in winter is essential for me, but keeping active outside is the icing on the cake. Winter in the mountains can be long (the longer the better!!!), so the strategy of holing up inside and biding my time until summer is a cop out. It’s probably my dad’s fault because he has always been the type who could never be inside for more than 24 hours before growing aggitated and insisting that we go sailing or fishing or camping or anything OUTSIDE. I do find that getting out into “green spaces” or “open spaces” does both me and Jeremy a world of good when it comes to our mental outlooks.

skate ski day #1, ski day #10

The other night I told Jeremy I am so happy that we don’t live down in Boulder or anywhere on the flats. In the mountains, we spend our time working and playing. When I lived in Southern California, it was far too easy to feel bored and go spend money to unbore yourself – to buy things you didn’t really want and certainly didn’t need only to clutter up your house, your life, and fall into the trap of needing a bigger place and more shit. That’s stressful living. I’m sure plenty of people find the mountains come with their own stressors, but it’s a simpler way of life. And I’m a huge fan of making life simpler if possible.

One thing that has greatly simplified my life is my pressure cooker. I try to incorporate it into recipes whenever possible because it reduces energy consumption, shortens cooking time, and achieves pressures that can’t be reached with conventional cooking methods at our high altitude. A few months ago, a high school pal sent me a note that he had made a few of my recipes on the blog and that they were a hit with the family, but that he wanted to attempt massaman beef because it is his favorite Thai curry. Well, it’s my favorite Thai curry, too! For nearly two decades, I have casually played around with massaman beef to moderate results (still better than any of the Thai restaurants around here), but my friend’s message prompted me to take another shot at it – with my pressure cooker. Don’t worry if you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can still do this with a Dutch oven. So Kevin, this one is for you!

potatoes, massaman curry paste, salt, brown sugar, roasted peanuts, onions, chicken stock, beef chuck, vegetable oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, tamarind concentrate, coconut milk

Most of the ingredients are easy to find in western grocery stores except possibly the tamarind paste and the curry paste. You could make the curry paste from scratch, but I have had good results with Maesri brand curry pastes (based on a tip from a fellow grad student who happened to be Thai). I have also heard good things about Mae Ploy brand curry pastes. [Edit: I’ve had a couple of folks ask if they can substitute red curry paste for massaman curry paste. The answer is flat out no – unless you WANT to make red curry with beef. I’m not being one of those asshole purists – it’s just that massaman curry paste is an essential ingredient for making massaman curry. This is like asking if you can substitute white chocolate for dark chocolate in a dark chocolate soufflé recipe and still get dark chocolate soufflé.] For tamarind, I have tamarind concentrate in my refrigerator, but you can also make tamarind paste from blocks of dried tamarind (Saveur has a nice tutorial). Select smallish potatoes. While most recipes recommend using waxy potatoes, I couldn’t help but use yukon golds, because they have the best flavor. The texture worked out just fine, too.

slice the onions

lightly char or brown the onions

scrub the potatoes clean

cube the beef

toss with salt

However you are cooking the curry – in a pressure cooker or a Dutch oven – cook everything in that pot. After browning the onions, remove them to a bowl and fry the curry paste and coconut milk cream together in that same pot. You don’t want to throw away all of the flavor the onions left on the pot, do you? The answer is no, you don’t. To get the coconut milk cream, be sure not to shake your coconut milk can before opening it. That cap of nearly solid cream is what you want to fry with the curry paste, so don’t be buying that low-fat coconut milk.

scoop the solid coconut milk cream out

fry the coconut cream and curry paste together

after five minutes

stir the beef in until the meat is evenly coated

Next, everything but the peanuts go into the pot. Save the potatoes for last as they will be floated on the curry, but the cooked onions, the rest of the coconut milk, the sugar, salt, tamarind paste, soy sauce, fish sauce, and chicken stock go into the pot of beef and curry paste. If you happen to be cooking the Dutch oven method, then bump the chicken stock from one cup to two cups.

pour in the remainder of the coconut milk

add the tamarind paste

pouring fish sauce

float the taters on top

At this stage, lock your pressure cooker and set it to high. When you reach pressure, cook for twelve minutes, then shut off the heat and allow the cooker to decompress naturally (i.e. leave it alone). Or if using the Dutch oven, preheat your oven to 325°F and bring the curry to a boil over high heat on the stove. Once it boils, cover it tightly with the lid of the Dutch oven and pop it into the oven for 3 hours. That’s it!

Okay, that’s not quite it. When the curry is done, remove the potatoes and slice them into halves or quarters (like a two-bite size) and stir them back into the curry. Taste the curry. If it needs a little more soy sauce, fish sauce, tamarind, or sugar, then adjust it to your liking.


slicing the potatoes

stirring the potatoes back into the curry

Well, this recipe nailed it. My reference is my taste memory of massaman curry from my Southern California days. The beef comes out tender and flavorful, the potatoes are firm, but creamy. Massaman is a mild, smooth curry chock full of earthy ingredients that warm your insides and keep a grumbling tummy at bay. This bowl of comfort can fly solo or goes well with steamed jasmine rice. Don’t forget to sprinkle crushed dry roasted peanuts on top. So happy to finally have a massaman beef curry worthy of sharing!

serve with jasmine rice

it tastes even better the next day

Massaman Beef Curry
[print recipe]
from Dad Cooks Dinner

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2-3 medium yellow onions, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
13.5 oz. can of coconut milk (not lowfat), not shaken
4 oz. can of massaman curry paste
3 lbs. beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup chicken stock or water (2 cups if cooking in a Dutch oven)
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 lbs. small potatoes, scrubbed clean
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts, crushed

*If using a pressure cooker, use that pot for all of the recipe steps. If cooking with conventional method, use a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven.

For both methods: Heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat in your pressure cooker or Dutch oven. Sear the onion wedges for about 4 minutes without disturbing them until they brown on the edges. Remove the onions from the pot to a plate and set aside. In the same pot over medium high heat, cook the curry paste with the thick layer of coconut cream at the top of the coconut milk until the mixture begins to fry (about 8 minutes). Season the beef cubes with the salt in a large bowl. Add the beef to the curry paste and stir until the beef is evenly coated with the paste. Stir in the rest of the coconut milk, the onions, chicken stock or water (make sure to increase to 2 cups if you are using a Dutch oven), fish sauce, soy sauce, tamarind paste, and brown sugar. Pop the potatoes on top of the curry.

If using pressure cooker: Secure the lid on the pressure cooker and lock. Cook on high setting for 12 minutes, then allow the pressure cooker to release naturally (decompress on its own).

If using Dutch oven: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bring the curry to a boil then cover the Dutch oven with its lid. Move the pot to the oven and cook for 3 hours until the beef is tender. Remove the pot from the oven.

For both methods: Remove the potatoes to a cutting board. Cut the potatoes into halves or quarters. Return the potatoes to the massaman and season the curry with more fish sauce, soy sauce, and tamarind to taste. Serve with roasted peanuts sprinkled on top. Serves 6-8.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

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18 nibbles at “curry in a hurry”

  1. Heather (Delicious Not Gorgeous) says:

    i’ve been craving those creamy, spicy thai curry flavors for the past couple of days, and i think it’s time to bite the bullet. i can also back up your mae ploy and maesri recommendations (though mae ploy can get a little spicy, especially the green curry).

  2. Kristin says:

    Yummy! Is the coconut flavor very pronounced? My son doesn’t care for coconut, so I’m wondering if I should make this after he goes back to college, but before his sister goes back. She will love it!

  3. Caramelia says:

    I’ve never heard of massaman curry before today. First I read your blog article and then, while shopping in the supermarket, a packet of massaman curry paste falls to the floor in front of me. Sign? Don’t know, I bought it anyway and will try your recipe!

  4. Elina says:

    It looks so good! I would like to make it tomorrow but I have thai red curry paste. Can I substitute?

  5. jenyu says:

    Heather – I just got a jar of the mae ploy today. Excited to try it!

    Kristin – The coconut isn’t too strong – it’s as present in this curry as in other curries. Maybe your son should try it, he might like it and expand his horizons at the same time :)

    Caramelia – ha ha! It must be a sign! :)

    Elina – no, you cannot substitute red curry paste, because then you’d be making red curry with beef, not massaman beef. Red curry and massaman are not interchangeable – they are very different in flavor. Massaman is mild and smooth. Red curry is spicy and has sharper flavors.

  6. Chefhelen says:

    I always find that fresh lime juice, squeezed in just before serving, is wonderful too!

  7. Amanda says:

    This looks amazing! My husband is lactose-intolerant and loves spicy food, so I’m always on the lookout for dairy-free recipes that would work for him. This looks perfect. Can’t wait to surprise him with it.

  8. trolleira says:

    Great reminder for me to do this curry again. I learned it in a cooking class in Thailand, we used the mae ploy curry and this is what I get here down in Brazil. It is really good!

  9. farmerpam says:

    This recipe has inspired me to use my pressure cooker more often. Thanks.

  10. Olga says:

    YAY! I can pin your gorgeous pics, now! :)

  11. Barb says:

    I have it on good authority that Santa is bringing an electric pressure cooker this year. Do I adjust the cooking time when using an electric pressure cooker rather than a stovetop cooker?
    This sounds delicious and I can’t wait to try it.

  12. jenyu says:

    Chefhelen – oooh, great idea!

    Amanda – I hope he enjoys it! It isn’t very spicy/hot, but it is full of spices and wonderful flavors.

    trolleira – mmmm, how cool to take a cooking class in Thailand!

    farmerpam – yay! Pressure cookers are the best! I just bought a second one (and took my first one to live in Crested Butte).

    Olga – ?!

    Barb – I wouldn’t know about electric pressure cookers, but I believe the reference link in my recipe used an electric pressure cooker. Check out his blog post to see if he has notes on electrics.

  13. Susanne says:

    Made this tonight for dinner and it was flippin DELISH! Thanks Jen!

  14. Kathryn says:

    Whipping this up today! Aroy-D is also a great brand of Thai pastes! It’s what the Thai stores sell here in Norway! Can’t wait to warm up with this tonight. Xxoo

  15. Kristin says:

    We made this tonight, and it was AMAZING! The beef was so tender, the potatoes were perfect, and the flavors in the sauce were incredible. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  16. Massaman Curry | Hunt, Cook, Eat says:

    […] Massaman Curry with thanks to userealbutter […]

  17. S&B says:

    We really enjoyed this. I never thought you could do chuck in the pressure cooker, but the beef didn’t turn out tough at all. Game changer!

  18. Trust me says:

    This was delicious. I used whole jar of Akyam Massaman paste and added 3 cardamom pods, half teaspoon ground cinnamon and added also a can of coconut cream. Cooked 13 mins in pressure cooker. Perfect! The flavour really infused into meat. However Chuck steak was strong tasting…bit too “beefy’ flavoured for me. Next time I’ll use brisket to see how it goes. All in all as good as I have eaten in Thailand. Definitely recommend and Super easy to make.

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