The Best Curry in the World?
By KF Seetoh - Thursday, Sep 08, 2011
American news online portal CNN recently voted the intricate Thai Massaman Curry as the Numero Uno dish of the world, way above potato chips and even chicken rice.
We’ve never had the chance to fully dissect this dish with that “best dish in the world” curiosity. Enter food consultant and event specialist, AnusaraThepwongsa, who is armed with a culinary arts degree from the prestigious Saraburi Vocational College and her own Massaman Curry recipe.
We’ve invited her to cook a typical chicken Massaman curry from scratch and we realise now, why not many Thai restaurants in Singapore offer this tedious-to-make dish. It has an “international” appeal and it’s not quite a curry unique to any culture – not Indian, nor Indonesian. It has all the flavours associated with Thai food: sweet, sour, salty and spicy (barely). It reminds us of another Western curry that took Britain by storm and is now considered one of the country’s national flavours – Chicken Masala Tikka. After some quick research, we found out that this curry does possess traces of Indonesian and Malaysian roots and is a popular dish in North America. For the record, AnusaraThepwongsais not a die-hard fan of Massaman Curry and she considers it an “Indian dish”.
Massaman Curry (4 servings)
1kg of chicken legs or breasts
300ml of thick coconut milk
500ml of thin coconut milk
8 potatoes (about 12cm long), cut into quarters or sixth
70g of peanuts, soak in tap water to remove skin
2 red onions, sliced
1 cm of cinnamon stick
5 cardamom seeds, stir-fry (without oil) over low heat until fragrant
6 bay leaves
70g of sugar cane sugar
2tbsp of tamarind
1tsp of kaffir lime zest
20g of pineapple, cut into 1cm cubes
5tbsp of fish sauce
1tsp of salt
9 dried chili, seeded, cut into 1 inch-length and soak in tap water to soften
3 bulbs of Thai garlic
3tbsp of lemon grass, sliced from the root (has stronger flavour)
10 white peppercorn
1tbsp of shrimp paste
3cm X 5cm of galangal
2tbsp of coriander seeds
2tsp of cumin
1cm X 3cm of turmeric
Blend all ingredients with 3 tbsp of water, until a thick paste is formed, which means that the paste should slide out of the tilted blender in lumps.
1. Prepare a wok and put it over low heat. Pour thick coconut milk into the wok.
2. Add 6 tbsp of curry paste. Keep stirring for 15 minutes or until the mixture is reduced to half the volume.
Add the chicken into the wok. 3 minutes later, throw in the potatoes, onions and peanuts.
3. Pour in the thin coconut milk and pineapple cubes.Turn up to medium heat and let the gravy boil for 10 mins. Stir every now and then so that the bottom does not burn.
4. Add tamarind, fish sauce and salt.
5. Pour in 250ml of water. You could add more or less, depending on the thickness of the curry you prefer.
Add cardamom seeds, bay leaves and kaffir lime zest.
6. Cover the wok with a lid and leave it to boil for 20 minutes.
7. Throw in the cinnamon stick 1 minute before turning off the fire to allow its flavour to infuse into the curry.
8. Turn of the heat and your Massaman curry is ready to serve!
Things to note:
• Since the cooking time is more than 30 minutes, it is better to use big chunks of meat or else they will be too tough by the end of the cooking.
• Thai garlic is at least half the size of the normal garlic but has stronger smell and taste.
• Pineapple is a secret weapon here to tenderise the chicken.
• Thais like to use sugar cane sugar instead of white sugar because it is sweet but not cloying. This applies to most Thai dishes.