Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thai Massaman Chicken Curry - from scratch, easy, tasty and children friendly too!

Have you tried cooking Massaman curry from scratch?

I'm so glad that I did!!! And I was like so OMG when I tasted the curry... it was SO delicious!!!

For those who don't know and have not tasted massaman curry, you might wish to know that this Thai curry is not the spicy kind. It is so tasty that even my chili-hating seven-year-old son is loving every single bit of it as I saw him mopping up all the gravy on his dinner plate leaving the plate super sparkling clean. LOL!

Unlike other types of curries, massaman curry is unique 1) in its fragrance due to the addition of lemongrass, coriander roots and many aromatic spices, 2) being multi-flavoursome with slightly spicy, slightly sweet, tangy and lots of umami flavours due to the addition of tamarind, pineapple juice, fish sauce and brown sugar and 3) in its ultimately smooth and creamy texture due to the addition of ground roasted cashew nuts and coconut milk. See... how delicious is this homemade Thai curry?

Why cook curry from scratch if you can buy ready-made paste in the form of packets? True! With our busy hectic schedule, I don't think most of us will have the time to gather a long list of ingredients to process fresh curry paste EVERYDAY??? I won't. Will you??? I will go crazy if I have to cook this curry everyday!!! ... but if I can make a big batch of curry or even just the curry paste in advance and store portions of them in a freezer, I will be happy to cook this curry from scratch at least once a month because I believe that this curry made with all real ingredients is absolutely unbeatable!!! Packet curry??? Nah!!!

Thai massaman chicken curry
Thai Massaman Chicken Curry

Where did I get this fabulous recipe and do-ahead-and-freeze idea?

All thanks to this book, The Dinner Ladies by Sophie Gilliatt and Katherine Westwood. Like I have mentioned before at here, this cookbook is very brilliantly written as it can help super mums and dads to prepare delicious and nutritious home-cooked food in advance so that we can have very yummy home cooked dinner everyday... even on the days that we need to rush home late from work to cook! What can I say? I love love love this book!!!

The Dinner Ladies by Sophie Gilliatt and Katherine Westwood

Although this curry is made from scratch with a long list of ingredients, it is actually a very easy curry to cook and so I would strongly encourage you to cook a big batch of curry all at once and freeze them in portions for your subsequent dinners.

Want to know how I cook this very yummy curry? Although I have agreed to the publisher not to replicate the exact text of the book in this post, I think that it is perfectly ok for me to share the list of ingredients and simple instructions in my own way. *Hint* *Hint* *Wink* *Wink*

Here's a video showing how I cooked this curry...

In words, this is how I cooked this curry...

To cook enough to serve 4, you need to buy and gather...

For the paste:
80g unsalted cashew nuts or peanuts - we prefer cashew nuts for its extra creaminess
1 tbsp ground coriander (mine is coriander seeds and I have freshly ground them)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 small red onion, briefly chopped
1-2 dried chilli, soaked in hot water, drained, seeds removed and briefly chopped, or more if you like spicier curry
1 x 2 cm piece galangal, finely chopped*
4 garlic cloves, briefly chopped
2 coriander stems with roots, washed and briefly chopped
1 lemongrass stem, white part only, outer layer removed, thinly sliced*
a pinch of ground cloves
a pinch of ground cardamom
a pinch of ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt

For the curry:
250g kipfler** potatoes, scrubbed to remove the dirt, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp cooking neutral tasting oil
8 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
800g boneless skinless thigh fillets, cut into 3 cm cubes
200 ml coconut milk - I'm using the light ones with 13% fat
2 tbsp pineapple juice
2 tbsp tamarind puree
1 tbsp brown sugar or any sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce

To serve:
a few coriander leaves
steamed jasmine white rice

* These ingredients are fibrous and chopping them into fine pieces will make the processing of the paste more efficient.

**Kipfler potato is a waxy, finger-shaped potato with yellow skin and a light yellow flesh with a buttery nutty taste

Still not sure of these ingredients? I have several photographs of them to tell you which is which.

Ingredients for the paste (from top to bottom):
red onion, dried chilies, garlic, galangal, coriander stems with roots and lemongrass
The spices for the paste:
ground cloves, ground cardamom, ground nutmeg and ground cinnamon.
Please do not use the common washed potatoes to cook most curry.
This curry tastes the best with these buttery nutty kipfler potatoes.
To add a good hint of tang in this curry, I have added tamarind puree and pineapple juice from can pineapple.

To make the curry paste:
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 10 mins or until golden brown and fragrant. Set aside to cool completely.

While waiting for nuts to bake and cool, place ground coriander and ground cumin in a small saucepan or frying pan and cook and stir with medium heat to dry-toast the spices until fragrant.

Using a food processor, process nuts with short pulses until it is semi-finely chopped. Please do not over-process the nuts as it will form a oily paste. Remove half of the nuts out and set aside.

Add all curry paste ingredients into the remaining nut in the processor and process until it form a fine paste. Add a little coconut milk tablespoon by tablespoon if extra liquid is required to process the ingredients into a smooth paste.

To cook:
Place potatoes in a large saucepan. Add salt and cover the potatoes with adequate amount of water and bring it to the boil and cook till the potatoes are just tender - about 10 mins. Drain and set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium high. Add shallot and cook until it is golden and fragrant. Remove from the saucepan and set aside. Note: The original recipe bake the whole shallots with oil for about 25 mins but I have sliced them finely and stir-fried them until they are golden and fragrant.

Add the 1 tbsp oil into the same saucepan and fry the curry paste with the same medium high heat until it is fragrant. Add chicken and stir to coat the chicken evenly coated with the paste and cook for about 10 mins until the chicken is nicely seared. Add coconut milk, reduce the cooking heat down to low. Simmer (with NO boiling) and stir regularly for about 25 mins until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and tender.

When the chicken is fully cooked, fold in the potatoes and shallots.

Remove from heat and stir in pineapple juice, tamarind puree, sugar and fish sauce. Taste to see if you need to add more tamarind, sugar, fish sauce or coconut milk. Note: At this stage, you can stir in the remaining roasted ground nuts but I didn't because I prefer to sprinkle the nuts on my curry when it is served.

Serve with coriander leaves and the remaining nuts. Serve warm with steamed jasmine rice.

Make ahead tips from the book:

To freeze, please do not add the potatoes into the curry. Cook and add the potatoes only on the day that the frozen curry is defrosted and is going to be consumed.

The whole dish with potatoes can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or without potatoes in the freezer for up to 3 months. Garnish just before serving with fresh coriander and crushed roasted nuts.

Happy Cooking

Thai massaman chicken curry
Due to the fact that this curry is 100% homecooked...
It is not excessively greasy and it is so rich in its taste and flavours.

To be 100% honest, I was a little skeptical at first wondering if these non-Asian Aussie ladies can cook a good Thai curry... Now, after cooking and enjoying this very-close-to-authentic flavoursome Thai Massaman curry, I have to say now that I have full faith in Sophie, Katherine and their lovely cookbook. To illustrate further, I would love to show you a few examples of their delicious curries and stews in this cookbook but due to the newly informed copyright laws, I was told that I can't show you anything now!!! Sorry... you just have to solely believe my words that Sophie and Katherine are very knowledgeable cookbook authors and I would highly recommend this book :)

To conclude, I like to say that this book is very helpful and I would highly recommend it to everyone who read this post.

If you think that you want to buy the book, you may wish to know that this book is available now in most retail or online book shops selling at the retail price of AUD$39.99.

Before ending this post, I like to thank Murdoch Books for giving me this opportunity to do this review. I like to make a disclaimer here that I'm not paid to do this and like to share my most honest opinions with everyone who read this review.
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  1. You have me drooling now...thanks for sharing the recipe Zoe...have KIV it and hopefully me too don't have to wash the plate :p

  2. I love making my curries from scratch... this one looks so rich and flavorful...

  3. Zoe, you have got me very excited over this curry! Yes, it's a great idea to make a big batch and freeze.

  4. Video is really awesome...!!! This thai curry looks so delicious...!!!

  5. It depends on the mood and kind of day when it comes to making curry pastes. curry looks really flavourful !!

  6. These instructions, although said to be brief, are in fact the most thorough I've seen so far on this dish - anyone after reading this article will likely be able to master the art of thai curry!