Following on from last week’s Thai Prawn Cakes post, and continuing the Thai theme, today’s recipe is for Mussaman Chicken Curry. Call me sheltered, but I’d never heard of this type of curry before my visit to Thailand but since the discovery, it’s replaced Thai Green Curry as my favourite Thai dish.
Unfortunately, unlike green or red Thai curries, you don’t see a lot of mussaman curry pastes around…well, at least not in the supermarkets near me. Luckily though, I have a trusty copy of David Thompson’s “Thai Food” bible to hand at home, which, post Thailand travels, is becoming increasingly well-thumbed!
Slightly off-puttingly though, Mr Thompson describes a mussaman curry as one of the most difficult of all Thai curries to make. Hmm. Added to which, as with many recipes in his book, it comes with a slightly traumatisingly long list of ingredients, some of which I’d never even heard of. My local supermarket most certainly hadn’t either. But, never one to shirk away from a challenge, I didn’t let that stop me/encourage me to just visit my local Thai restaurant for a mussaman hit instead.
The result of my efforts was a really delicious, aromatic, peanutty curry. It’s not that spicy, just creamy and delicious with a rich background blend of spices including cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, bay, chillies and ginger.
Whilst there are a lot of ingredients involved, the method isn’t actually all that time-consuming or difficult (I’m sure Mr Thompson would disagree but then again I did take a few short-cuts…). It’s definitely not a recipe to attempt on a weeknight and certainly exceeds my usual 2 pot rule for washing up. But if you’re after a something a little more special, then this is a great recipe to try.
PS If you’re familiar with David Thompson’s curry, you’ll notice that the colour of my curry is no where close to his. Whilst I did substitute a number of his ingredients I can’t see what would have caused the colour change, but on the upside, it’s the same colour as another I ate in Thailand. Some might call them same-same but different…
Mussaman Chicken Curry
Paste based on David Thompson’s recipe in his book, “Thai Food”, method adapted considerably!
For the curry paste:
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
20g (about 4cm) fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
5 dried chillies, deseeded and chopped
2 tablespoons lemongrass paste (I used Bart bottled) or 1 whole lemongrass, chopped
2 cardamom pods, seeds only
A large pinch ground nutmeg
A pinch ground cloves
A pinch ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons roasted, unsalted peanuts
A large pinch of salt
200g creamed coconut (block)
For the curry:
2 tablespoons oil
500g chicken breast or thigh fillets, thinly sliced
300g shallots, peeled and left whole
300g waxy potatoes, cut into 2cm cubes/thickly sliced if small
400ml coconut milk
2 bay leaves
3 green cardamom pods
4 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons caster sugar (or palm sugar if you have it)
1 teaspoon tamarind paste mixed with 1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons roasted, unsalted peanuts
200ml pineapple juice
1. Take all of the ingredients for the curry paste with the exception of the coconut cream and peanuts and, in a dry frying pan, cook gently over a medium heat, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes until the ginger and garlic are slightly coloured and everything starts to smell really aromatic (careful of the chilli-hit to the eyes!!).
2. Either using a pestle and mortar, or, if you have one, a spice grinder, grind all the ingredients into a smooth-ish paste (like the picture above).
3. Heat the oil over a high heat in a frying pan and seal the chicken all over. Remove from the pan and then repeat with the potatoes and shallots, cooking for about 5 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan and add the coconut milk, cardamom pods, peanuts and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20-25 minutes until the shallots and potatoes are almost cooked (test by trying to insert a knife – there should be just a little resistance).
4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the creamed coconut gently and then stir in your spice paste. Cook for about 10 minutes over a medium heat until you can smell the dried spices. Be careful not to let it burn, you’ll need to keep stirring. Add the sugar and continue to cook until the sugar caramelises and darkens the paste a little. Stir in the fish sauce and tamarind water.
5. Add this paste to the chicken, potatoes and shallots and mix well, followed by the pineapple juice. Bring to a simmer again and cook for 5 minutes. Have a taste – the curry should be sweet and sour in equal measure. Add a bit more sugar or fish sauce if you think it needs it. Bring everything to a simmer again.
6. Serve with steamed rice or Thai roti breads to soak up the delicious sauce.
You can double up the quantities for the curry paste and freeze half for future use.
You can make the curry the day before and keep in the fridge. You’ll find the sauce also thickens up a little by doing this, which makes it all the more tasty.