Wednesday, June 15, 2011

massaman curry

For the past two months or so I've been consuming Thai food on weekly basis (except for that one week I skipped but then made up for it by getting it twice the next week). The best place that's relatively close to my place is Thai Food Corner on Higley and Brown.

A few months ago I came across this recipe for Massaman curry. I've been wanting to try it for quite some time but I haven't because some of the ingredients would only be attainable at an Asian market (and the closest one is about 15 minutes away; I know, lazy me). But after actually going to Mekong Plaza (Dobson and Main) last night, a trip to an Asian market will be motivation enough to make this curry, that place is so awesome and probably deserves of a post of its own.

There were a few ingredients I've never used before -- Massaman curry paste, cardamom, star anise, tamarind paste, and fish sauce (this stuff smells as bad as it sounds). The recipe also called for Thai basil, but knowing I would make this recipe sooner or later (and hopefully other Thai dishes), I planted some at home.

My home grown herbs (well, until last week they were Home Depot grown herbs). Thai basil is the smaller leafed plant hanging over the side. Side note: Do not grow rosemary outside during the summer in Arizona. It will die very, very quickly and you will be sad because it is one of your favorite herbs and you'll have to season your red potatoes with oregano instead. You've been warned.

There was one point in the recipe where you stir-fry the cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, and star anise, and it smells like the best thing in the world. Can someone make a scented candle with that combo or do I have fry that that shiz every time I want the house to smell good? (Normally I'd just bake cookies, but the diet keeps that from happening.)

Little Scout kept me company the entire time. And she only jumped onto the counter once, quite a feat for a cat who can't keep still to save all of her nine lives.

Here's the finished product. The star anise and cinnamon sticks look pretty gnarly. If you do any kind of cooking, I highly recommend investing in a Lodge Dutch oven (the receptacle in which this dish was prepared) (or something similar). It's super durable, very versatile (bakes a mean loaf of bread), and you just feel cool using it.

I'll be honest though, as much as I enjoyed making this, it turned out quite a bit less flavorful than I expected. Kind of bland, it wasn't spectacular. And I've never cooked with some of these ingredients/spices before so I don't know what to add/subtract at this point. It was plenty hearty though, and that's necessary for a good curry. So this recipe does have potential. Here's what I'll do different next time:

  • Use the full four ounce can of curry paste. The recipe only called for three tablespoons.

  • Marinate the chicken in the curry paste for a few hours. Flavor-wise the chicken was lacking.

  • Buy better chicken. Discounted chicken from Walmart? I should know better. (And I should know better than to shop at Walmart, period.)

  • Find a way to dial down the coconut milk and/or water. This will make it a little less diluted and lower in calories (who knew coconut milk was so high in saturated fat?).

  • Use a real onion instead of shallots. The shallots were so small and got lost once the curry was finished. Where'd they go? And they didn't make me cry when I cut them -- you can't expect much from an onion-type product that doesn't make you cry.

  • Monitor the potatoes. Don't throw the potatoes in, watch an episode of Family Guy, and then come back and expect your potatoes to not be overcooked. They were pretty mushy. (Maybe that's what happened to the shallots as well.) Actually, I read about someone substituting garbanzo beans for potatoes, so I might try that.

  • Actually roast the peanuts instead of buying roasted peanuts.

  • Check fork/spoonfuls of this stuff for cardamom pods/star anise/cinnamon sticks, because you don't wanna swallow any of them whole (although the cardamom pod I accidentally consumed wasn't bad).

  • Invite a friend or five over because this recipe makes a ton (but not literally).

I'm really looking forward to trying this recipe again. Can I have my own cooking show now?


  1. Have you tried Nunthaporn on Main? So yum. Can you come cook for us? All hundred of us?

  2. Nunthaporn's not my fave but it seems to get better every time I go. And yes, I'd love to come cook for all hundred of you (not guaranteeing the results though).

  3. i love that clip of parks and rec. i miss that show already.