This Massaman Curry paste is a wonderfully rich but relatively mild curry paste that is easy to make at home.
Homemade curry pastes are so much fresher and so much tastier than store bought pastes. And you are control of the heat!!!!
This Massaman blend is packed with flavor and uses easy to find grocery store ingredients!
What is massaman curry?
Massaman curry is a Thai curry, but unlike most other Thai dishes it contains ingredients not associated with Thai cooking (cumin, cinnamon, cardamon, fennel etc). It is packed with flavor but isn't known as a spicy curry.
Food historians think that the curry was created when Persian spice merchants introduced these different spices into Thailand. And some people believe that at one point the curry was called Mussulman curry, where Mussulman translates to Muslim Man, adding credence to the theory that the spices and original dish are Persian (Iranian) in origins.
That is one of the reasons that you will rarely see a pork massaman curry. Pork is a forbidden meat within Islam, so it would not be used in this dish. Traditionally massaman curries are made with chicken, and I have a slightly different massaman chicken recipe here on Sprinkles and Sprouts. I roasted the chicken whole with the curry paste! Look at the beautiful crust!!!
Ingredients in massaman curry paste
The ingredient list for this seems long, but please don't be scared away. Everything can be bought in the supermarket. And if you are a regular curry maker then most of the ingredients are store cupboard ingredients.
For this massaman curry paste you will need:
- Dried red chillies
- Kaffir lime leaf (dried or fresh)
- Fresh ginger
- Oil (vegetable/sunflower/canola)
- Coriander seeds*
- Cumin seeds*
- Fennel seeds*
- Cardamon pods*
- Ground cinnamon
- Ground cloves
- Ground white pepper
- Brown sugar/palm sugar
- Cilantro with roots
- Thai shrimp paste
*If you can only buy ground spices, then you can still make this curry paste, you just need to miss a couple of steps 😀
How to make massaman curry paste
To make the curry paste the chilies, shallots, garlic and ginger are roasted in the oven to bring out the oils and give them a wonderful nutty flavor.
The whole spices are dry fried in a hot pan, so they become toasty and start smelling amazing. (Note: If you can't find whole spices then you can make this with already ground spices. I have included quantities for that in the recipe notes)
These spices are then ground to a powder and along with the roasted vegetables mixed in a food processor (or pestle and mortar) with the other spices and aromats unit a thick paste is achieved.
How long will homemade curry paste last?
This curry paste will keep for about a month in the refrigerator or in the freezer for a year.
If you freeze tablespoon dollops on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Then when they are frozen transfer them to a ziplock bag. That way the curry paste is all measured out for you and you can just grab as many tablespoons as you need and leave the rest in the freezer.
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RECIPE - Massaman Curry Paste
- 5-10 dried red chillies (see note 1)
- 1 kaffir lime leaf (dried or fresh)
- 2 large shallots
- 11 garlic cloves
- 1 inch piece fresh ginger
- 2 stalk lemongrass
- 1 teaspoon vegeatble oil (or sunflower/canola/peanut)
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds (See note 2)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (See note 2)
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds (See note 2)
- 3 cardamon pods (See note 2)
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar/palm sugar
- small bunch cilantro/coriander - with roots
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or sunflower/canola/peanut)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon Thai shrimp paste
- Pre-heat oven to 350°F/170ºC/.
- Fill a small bowl with warm water and soak the dried chillies and lime leaf for 15 minutes.
- Drain them and gently pat dry.
- Peel the shallots, garlic and ginger, then cut the shallots into 4 pieces, slice the ginger into 6 disks and leave the garlic cloves whole.
- Finely slice the white part of the lemongrass, discarding the really woody green end.
- Place the soaked chillies, shallots, ginger, garlic and lemongrass on a baking sheet , drizzle with a teaspoon of oil and roast the for about 7 minutes. Once roasted set aside to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, add the coriander, cumin, fennel seeds and cardamom pods to a small dry frying pan. (see note 2)
- Toast the spices over a medium heat for about 2 minutes until they are fragrant. Set aside to cool.
- Once cool, gently crush the cardamon pods, tipping the seeds into a pestle and mortor (or spice gringer) and discard the pods. Add the other toasted spices and grind.
- Then add the nutmeg, cinnamon, ground cloves, turmeric, white pepper and brown sugar/palm sugar and move about to combine, breaking up the sugar as you go.
- Place the toasted ground spices, roasted aromatics (shallots garlic etc) into a food processor along with the soaked lime leaf, fresh cilantro (including the roots and stems), the 1 tablespoon of oil and the salt. Blitz until you have a course paste.
- Add in the shrimp paste and blitz until smooth.
- The paste will keep for a month in the fridge or in the freezer for a year.
- 5 chilies will give you a very mild curry paste, 10 will give it a bit of a kick, but still mild compared to most Thai curries.
- You can use pre-ground spices here. You'll need to reduce the quantity:
- ¾ tablespoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground fennel
- ¼ teaspoon round cardamon
I want to try this! What can I use instead of shrimp paste?
Claire McEwen says
You can replace the shrimp paste with fish sauce or anchovy paste (the stuff that comes in the toothpaste style tubes)
Hope that helps 😀
Audrey McCauley says
The instructions mention peanut oil, but I don't see any peanut oil in the ingredients in the list. How much peanut oil?
Claire McEwen says
Hi Audrey, I have updated the instructions. I tend to use peanut oil instead of vegetable oil, but I wanted to make sure the ingredient list was easy for people to find so I also suggest vegetable oil or canola oil.
I have updated the instructions and ingredients to make it clearer. Hope that helps 😀
I just made this today but not tried it yet! Mine came out very green and not looking at all like yours! I think maybe I used too much coriander and my dried chills were not very red ! But I am hoping it should still taste amazing. My question is how much of the paste should I be using when making my curry?
Claire McEwen says
I bet it is the amount of coriander that affects the colour. I am certain it will still taste delicious 😀
For a curry for 4-6 people I would use 4 tablespoons of the paste around a pound (500g) of meat.
This recipe on the BBC good food website is one of my favourite ways to use the paste. I have made it with both beef and chicken thighs 😀
Beef massaman curry
Hi! How do you store this? Been toying with the idea of pressure canning it...
Claire McEwen says
I store mine in a kilner jar in the fridge.
I make sure there are no air pockets and then cover the top with a thin layer of oil.
(I use that oil to fry the meat off when I make a curry with the paste)
I've never tried pressure canning so can't really give any advice on that. Sorry.
If you do try it I would love to hear about the results.
Dorothy Dunton says
Hi Claire! Unfortunately, where we live (VERY rural Eastern TN) I cannot get many items, the closest Asian market is almost two hours away. So, sadly I won't be making this soon, but I can imagine how good it is looking at the ingredients!
Claire McEwen says
Oh no!!! I thought I was rural!!! 🙁
2 hours is a long way to go for a curry paste!!!!!
When we are cooking together I will make sure I bring everything with me so you can get a bumper batch in your freezer xx