Mighty Massaman Curry

A mild, yet exciting curry of unusual origin.

Many people are afraid a curry is too hot for them and therefore dislike Indian cuisine. However, this massaman curry is comforting mild, but still excitingly fragrant and not at all boring. Indian spices collide with Thai ingredients, giving birth to a very special dish. Comforting, yet interesting. The kind of food that makes you a little sad once you ate the last portion. And the best of all, it’s really easy to make and can be prepared in large batches. Enjoy!

Massaman curry is a dish full or tradition and history. My version is just an interpretation, using ingredients I had at hand. Massaman curry is a mild Thai curry with Muslim roots, making for a unique blend of spices. Its history reaches back to the 17th century, when Muslim traders reached the far east. There is even a poem by King Rama II dedicated to Princess Bunrot, who later became his wife, in which Massaman curry is mentioned. The second stanza of the poem reads:

Massaman, a curry made by my beloved, is fragrant of cumin and strong spices.
Any man who has swallowed the curry is bound to long for her.

King Rama II (1767-1824)

Massaman curry traditionally uses even more spices than I incorporated in my version, as well as peanuts, which I didn’t include, as they are pretty heavy on the calorie count and we already have coconut milk for extra creamyness. However, there are a few key points of massaman curry that need to be incorporated: we need to pay homage to its Muslim spice trading roots, which I mainly achieved with the use of macis, the dried “flowery” part of the nutmeg nut. If you don’t get it, just use nutmeg. We need tamarind (or just add lemons) for a sour twist and something sweet, I used sweetener, to counterbalance it. And we need to pay homage to its Thai roots too, mainly with the use of fish sauce (or shrimp paste).

I chose a mild, yellow curry paste as a flavour base for this curry and I suggest you do the same. It saves you a lot of time and as long as you make the effort to pimp the paste up a little, there is nothing wrong using it. If you find a Massaman paste, go with it, I just had a “normal” yellow thai paste.


  • 2kg lean stewing beef
  • 2kg potatoes
  • 200g yellow mild curry paste
  • 700ml polpa or passata
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 700ml water
  • 3-4 dashes of fish sauce
  • sweetener and tamarind paste
  • fennel, nigella, cumin and mustard seeds
  • curcuma powder, macis (or nutmeg), cinnamon


  1. Preheat your oven to 230°C. Add the polpa, coconut milk, water, curry paste, fish sauce, sweetener, 1-2 tsp tamarind paste, 2-3 tsp curcuma, 2 tsp cinnamon and one crushed macis “flower” to a large dutch oven or other heavy lidded cooking pot.
  2. Cut the lean beef in 2cm dices and also add to the pot, stirring well to incorporate everything.
  3. Cut the potatoes into mouthsized chunks and place on top of the curry base. Season the potatoes with a little salt and the “seedy” spices like fennel, nigella, cumin and mustard.
  4. Put the lid on and cook in the oven for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 140°C and cook for another 2-3 hours or until tender.
  5. Remove from the oven, stir, taste and season to perfection (check for salt, sweetness and a little sour hint). Garnish with a little fresh chilantro leaves.


100g of this rich curry have the following macros:

  • 92kcal
  • 8,1g protein
  • 5,9g carbs
  • 3,5g fat

This curry is quite substantial and doesn’t need to have something as a side, but basmati rice is always great with any curry. Also give papadams a try! Usually they are fried and therefore quite heavy, but I like to put them a few minutes under the grill to crispen them up and they turn out great! Just watch them like a hawk, they turn black in a matter of seconds. Papadam consist of chickpeas, so they are relatively high in fiber and quite filling.

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