Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Musaman (Massaman) Beef Curry

I first tasted this dish (spelled Musaman) at a Monterey, CA restaurant call Beau Thai. The chef was from Thailand and had trained in France. I was delighted to find this recipe as it very closely (if not identically) approximates the silky, satisfying experience I had in Monterey seventeen years ago. The chef went on to found the eatery Thai Taste in Seaside. It is my favorite Thai restaurant. Also try the Pad Talay and Catfish cooked with Coconut Milk and Keffir Lime.

This recipe is based on Victor Sodsook's in his book True Thai. If I have brought anything to the party, it is the Crock Pot brand slow cooker method for the beef and onions easing two part preparation and resulting in a less chewy final dish.

Musaman Curry Paste

1 3oz. Package Dried California Chili Pods
2 Cardamom Pods, Seeds Only
1 1/4 t Cumin Seed
1 1/2 T Coriander Seed
1 1/2 t Thai Shrimp Paste wrapped in a little foil packet (there are a few levels of sweetness of this, I believe any one would do fine for this)
1/4 t Black Peppercorns
1/4 t Ground Cinnamon (I use Penzey's Vietnamese Cinnamon, it is strong and tasty)
1 Stalk Lemon Grass, just the tender inner part of the first (bottom) 3 inches, thinly sliced
1 T Minced Galangal (or Ginger if Galangal is difficult to source)
1/4 C Chopped Garlic
1/3 C Chopped Shallots

Stem the chili pods and shake out the seeds. Cut into 3/4 or so inch pieces and soak for 30 minutes in enough water to cover.

California Chili Pods

While the peppers are soaking, toast the cumin, coriander and cardamom over medium heat in a cast iron pan until the coriander seeds begin to pop. It is best to shake the pan to heat the spices evenly and prevent burning.

Spices Toasting

Set the spices aside in a different container to cool. Return the pan to heat and cook the shrimp paste packet for 5 minutes until aromatic.

Shrimp Paste Cooking

Add peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin and cardamom to a large mortar and grind to a powder. A small coffee grinder will also work great for this but subsequent batches of coffee will smack of curry.

Transfer spices to a blender. Add galangal and lemon grass to the mortar and beat to a pulp. Transfer to the blender. Beat garlic and shallots in the mortar until beginning to break down and tranfer to the blender. Unwrap shrimp paste and add, yes, to the blender. Drain chilies, reserving the soaking liquid and add them to the blender. Process the ingredients into a paste, adding chili soaking liquid as necessary to keep things moving.

You now have your Musaman Curry Paste.  This can also be used with coconut milk to simmer chicken or vegetables. Yum!

Musaman Beef Curry

2 1/2 T Vegetable Oil
1 1/2 lbs. Beef Chuck cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
1 Onion chopped into large dice
1 Potato peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 Cans Unsweetened Coconut Milk (the recipe in True Thai calls for one of 14 oz. and one of 17 oz. - 2 of 14 oz. works fine)
1 C Musaman Curry Paste
1/2 C Roasted Unsalted Peanuts
1/2 C Brown Sugar
7 T Nam Pla (Thai Fish Sauce)
1/4 C Tamarind Paste
1 C Fresh Pineapple cut into 1 inch chunks

Heat oil in large pot over high heat. Sear meat in batches to prevent over crowding.

Meat Browning

Brown on all sides and set aside in the crock of a Crock Pot brand slow cooker to catch the delicious meat juices. Add onions and stir fry until beginning to brown. Add onions to the crock. Add a cup or so of water to the pot that the meat and onions were browned in and deglaze. Tip contents into the crock. Add more water to the cooker if necessary to prevent from boiling dry. Cook on high for 6 hours or until meat is fully cooked and tender.

About 1 hour before the end of the meat cooking time, add the potatoes. In the original recipe this step is thirty minutes of simmering on the stove. Not enough time to mitigate the chewy, sinewy nature of the chuck.

Separate the beef, potatoes and onions from the broth.

Cooked meat, potatoes and onions separated from the broth

Skim the cream from the top of the coconut milk and add to the large pot over medium heat. Stir in the curry paste and bring to a low boil. Simmer while stirring for 2 minutes.

Curry Paste Simmering

Add meat, potatoes, onions, peanuts, coconut milk, sugar, fish sauce and tamarind paste. Stir until everything is blended. Add pineapple and enough of the reserved broth to thin to your taste. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes longer. Serve with jasmine rice.

Musaman Beef Curry



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