Thai massaman chicken curry
This delicious chicken massaman curry has a lot of ingredients but very few stages – the paste also makes enough for two curries.
For the massaman curry paste
- 6 cardamom pods, seeds only
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 5 cloves
- 1 tsp whole white peppercorns
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp dried chilli flakes
- 2 tbsp groundnut oil
- 25g/1oz peanuts
- 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 5 lime leaves, thinly sliced
- 3.5cm/1½in piece fresh galangal, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 sticks lemongrass, outer leaves removed, inner core finely chopped
- 1 tsp shrimp paste
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- ½ tsp grated or ground nutmeg
- 2 tbsp palm sugar
- 2 tbsp cold water
For the chicken curry
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 red onions, sliced
- 500g/1lb 2oz chicken breast, cut into 1.5cm/½in strips
- 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1.5cm/½in cubes
- 2 bird’s-eye red chillies, cut almost in half lengthways (or more, to taste)
- 250ml/9fl oz good-quality chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 200ml/7fl oz coconut milk
- 2 tomatoes, skins removed, flesh roughly chopped
- 6 lime leaves
- 1 star anise
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1½ tbsp palm sugar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 lime, juice only, optional
- small handful sweet Thai basil (or normal basil), plus extra sprigs to serve
- 25g/1oz roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
For the massaman curry paste, heat a small frying pan over a medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the cardamom, cumin and cloves and dry-fry for 1–2 minutes, or until fragrant.
Transfer the spices to a spice grinder or pestle and mortar and grind to a powder.
Blend the ground spices with all the remaining curry paste ingredients in a food processor, until smooth and well combined. (Alternatively, pound the paste until smooth in a pestle and mortar.) Chill until needed, covered.
To make the chicken curry, heat the oil in a medium, flameproof, lidded casserole. Add the onions and fry for 8–10 minutes, or until softened and light golden-brown.
Increase the heat, push the onions to one side, then add the chicken to the other side and fry for 2–3 minutes on all sides, or until sealed all over.
Add half the curry paste (see tip). Stir well to coat the chicken and onions in the paste. Fry for 1–2 minutes, or until fragrant.
Add the potato, chillies, stock, coconut milk, tomatoes, lime leaves, star anise, fish sauce, palm sugar and soy sauce to the casserole. Stir well and bring to the boil, then cover with the lid and reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering. Simmer for 12–15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through (do not overcook the chicken as it will become dry). Season to taste with a little more fish sauce or some lime juice.
Just before serving, stir in the basil leaves and half the roasted peanuts.
To serve, spoon the Thai massaman curry into bowls and garnish with the extra Thai basil leaves, the sliced red chilli and remaining peanuts. Serve with steamed sticky rice.
Tip 1: To remove the seeds from the cardamom pods, lightly crush them with the side of a knife, then tip them into a small container and discard the husks.
Tip 2: The curry paste mixture makes enough for two curries. Store the remaining paste in the fridge for 2–3 weeks or freeze for up to a month.