Gaeng Matsaman Neua (แกงมัสมั่นเนื้อ)

Muslim-style beef curry

This curry is typical of Southern Thailand, where tastes have been influenced by generations of trading with India.  Unlike most Thai curries, this curry uses dried spices, making it wonderfully aromatic.  It also contains peanuts and potatoes, which is again, not typical of Thai curries.

Ingredients

3 cm stick of cinnamon
10 cardamon seeds (from 2-3 pods)
2 T vegetable oil
2 T matsaman curry paste
800 g beef (I used neck, but any cut with a nice amount of fat marbling can be used.  Cooking time will need to be adjusted accordingly.)
400 ml coconut milk
250 ml water (The original recipe used beef stock.)
2 cm of fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
3 T fish sauce
3 T palm sugar
100 g roasted, salted peanuts (I washed the salt off to avoid the risk of the dish being too salty.)
3 T tamarind paste
2 medium potatoes
6-8 Thai shallots

Ingredients for Gaeng Matsaman Neua

Method
  1. Dry toast the cinnamon and cardamom seeds for a couple of minutes in a pan over a medium heat until fragrant.
  2. Tip the spices out of the pan and put to one side.
  3. Gently fry the curry paste in the oil for a couple of minutes until the paste darkens in colour and gives off a wonderful smell.
  4. Add the beef, turn up the heat to medium, and fry for 5 minutes.  You’re not looking to put any colour on the beef.
  5. Add the coconut milk, water (or beef stock), ginger, fish sauce, palm sugar, and 3/4 of the peanuts.  Simmer gently, uncovered for 45 minutes.
  6. Add the potatoes and shallots.  Simmer for a further 30 minutes until the potatoes and shallots are cooked.
  7. Add the remaining peanuts.
  8. Serve with plain steamed Jasmine rice.

The taste should be a little sweet, then sour and salty.

Step 3Step 5Step 6

Notes
  1. The original recipe included 5 cloves, included with the dry spices at stage (1).  I couldn’t find cloves in my local supermarket so omitted them.
  2. Shallots aren’t in the original recipe, though in my experience the curry usually includes either shallots or coarsely chopped onion.  They add an interesting extra texture, along with a certain sweetness.
  3. With a fairly coarse cut of beef the cooking time at stage (5) will be longer – possible 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  With a finer cut such as rump steak, the cooking time could be as little as 20 minutes.  For a shorter cooking time, reduce the amount of water to ensure that the sauce is suitably intense.  For a longer cooking time, if the curry starts to stick to the pan, add a little water as needed.
  4. Making the curry again, I’d be inclined to reduce the quantity of palm sugar.  Though the curry is quite sweet, 3 T seemed to me a bit too much.
  5. This curry can be made in advance and gently reheated.  If anything, the flavour improves.
  6. This curry can also be made with chicken.  Thighs are recommended.  The total cooking time for the thighs will be around 45 minutes, so add the potatoes and shallots after 15 minutes of simmering the thighs, then cook for a further 30 minutes.
  7. Serves 3-4 as a main dish.  (Its strong flavour makes it difficult to pair with other dishes.)
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