Sunday, February 15, 2009

Thai chicken in massaman curry

I learned to cook this dish and several others during a short Thai cooking course I took recently. This is the only dish I learned about there that I have cooked at home so far. This curry is richly flavoured but not hot. The sauce is not very thick - in fact if you take the chicken pieces and cut the meat off the bones and add it to the sauce you could serve it as a soup.

500 g chicken pieces on the bone (about 1/2 chicken). Skinless and boneless chicken may be used but the sauce will not be as richly flavoured
1 tbs massaman curry paste
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
4 cups coconut milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup fish sauce – the Thai chef recommended the Squid brand
1/2 cup palm sugar
1 1/2 cup peanuts, whole (almonds or cashews may be used instead)
1/2 cup peanuts, finely chopped or ground (almonds or cashews may be used instead)
1/2 cup tamarind juice*
2 cups chopped onions (about 2 medium yellow onions)
12 small potatoes, cooked, cooled and peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
3-4 bay leaves

*To make tamarind juice, pour 1/2 cup boiling water over 25 g of tamarind paste and steep for 5-10 minutes, break up with a spoon, take the tamarind pulp and squeeze the juice from it. Discard the pulp and strain the juice before using. According to the Thai chef, the bottled stuff does not give the right flavour to this dish.

Cook 1 1/2 cup coconut milk over medium heat in a deep pan or wide-bottomed pot until it separates and the oil floats on top. Add the curry paste, stir well and cook for 3-4 minutes. Turn up the heat, add the chicken pieces and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining 4 cups of coconut milk and the water and mix well. Allow to boil, then add the peanuts, palm sugar, fish sauce, tamarind juice and bay leaves and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Then add the potatoes and onions and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes (the onion pieces should still have a little crunch in them when the curry is served). 2 tbs of palm sugar may be added near the end of cooking if the curry isn‘t sweet enough.
Serve with jasmine rice and a fresh salad.

By the way, „massaman“ curry is sometimes spelled „matsaman“ – for example on the jar of curry paste I bought before cooking this dish. Apparently "massaman" means "Muslim" in Thai.

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