Today we’d like to present a tasty caveat in favor of annunciating EVERY consonant. We believe after cooking the massaman recipe below with chicken thighs, you too will be convinced that THIGH-land is the correct pronunciation. Let’s end this debate at the dinner table!
Thai Muslim food has a rich tradition that has been used to help popularize Thai curries all over the world. If you’ve heard the names of ‘massaman‘ or ‘khao soi‘ curries, they are great examples of this unique and too often overlooked subculture of Thai cuisine. Thai Muslim culinary heritage usually demands red meat stewed for long periods to become tender, fragrant, and extend the shelf life of the resulting curry. However, dark meat cuts of chicken make a great substitution in these curries and allow us to shorten the cooking time.
This recipe walks the line between full-flavored tradition and not spending hours in the kitchen. The key to saving time is getting ahead on your prep. This means adding the extra strep of blanching your potatoes, shortening the time it takes to cook them in your curry later.
Finding a great premade curry paste will also be a big step in saving you time. Making this delicious curry paste on your own is definitely worth it, but be prepared to add at least an hour of prep time. For example, when we’re teaching our guests to make massaman, we’ll make some paste the day before to be sure there’s plenty in case the timing is tight with our cooking classes.
May this recipe for massaman curry end all debates about Thigh-land! Be sure to check the FAQ below the recipe for answers to your most common questions as well.
Serves: 3-5 people
Equipment: pot or large wok with lid
Prep & Cooking Time: 1 hour
500g of chicken thighs, deboned 1 liter coconut milk 2 cups chicken stock 2 tbsp of massaman curry paste 5 tbsp cooking oil (we used coconut) 2 potatoes, peeled, parboiled and chopped into 4-5cm chunks 1/2 cup of roasted and ground unsalted peanuts (for garnish)
Seasoning (to taste) 3 tbsp of tamarind juice 3 tbsp of palm sugar 1 tsp of salt
Optional Dry Spices 2 bay leaves 4 green cardamom pods 1 cinnamon stick
1) Start by blanching your peeled potatoes in boiling water for 3-4 minutes. 2) Add coconut oil to your wok over medium heat. 3) When your oil is hot, place your chicken thighs in the oil (4 tbsp), skin side down. 4) Allow the skin to become golden and crisp on the edges, then flip and repeat for the other side. 5) Remove the chicken, set aside, and add the remaining 1 tbsp of oil to your wok. Fry your curry paste until fragrant. When ready add 1 cup of coconut milk to keep your paste from burning.
6) Add potatoes, and chicken thighs. Then pour in your chicken stock and half of the remaining coconut milk. 7) Cover for 20 minutes, gradually adding more coconut milk to keep the curry from getting too dry. Remember to check the potatoes occasionally, using a fork to see if they have become soft. 8) When your vegetables are fork tender, season with tamarind, salt, and palm sugar to taste. 9) Stir in a few dry spices (optional) and turn off the heat. 10) Before serving, garnish with ground peanuts. (optional)
What is the origin of massaman curry?
The word massaman is an older Thai word meaning Muslim. The curry was brought to Thailand by Muslim traders from neighboring countries and solidified in Thai history when introduced to the Thai palace by Persian dignitaries. Modern versions have adapted to tone down the strength of the spices used, sweeten the dish, and shorten the cooking time. However, to find the most historically representative recipes, we should look to modern Thai Muslim communities in Thailand today.
What’s the most delicious massaman curry you’ve had?
The best massaman curry is the one that is slow-cooked. People often forget that this dish was created as more of a stew than the modern stir fry-esque curries that dominate Thai cuisine. When jumbo pots of massaman are allowed to simmer overnight, you awake to a smell that takes over the house and makes for some of the most memorable celebration meals in Thai muslim culture.
How should good massaman curry taste?
Good massaman curry is denoted by mature curry paste flavor and smell, and a rich bouquet of spices. The roasted curry and spice should be complimented by a light sourness. This is why you don’t get the same result using citrus juice to replace the tamarind in the recipe.
Most modern Thai recipes call for fish sauce and fermented shrimp paste. This is not required and the salty flavors should not dominate the taste of your curry paste. Sweetness as well as a hint of chili should be present in the dish but don’t worry, it’s not overwhelmingly spicy!
Frying the paste and the long stewing time means many of your soft aromatics like shallots, garlic, and lemongrass should have an opportunity to meld together. When you taste the finished curry, you should not be able to identify these individual aromatics in the flavor.
Why is my massaman dark brown?
Don’t be alarmed if your vibrant colored curry goes auburn brown by the time you’re ready to serve it. This is especially common with longer stewing times. As the coconut milk reduces (especially if you pot or wok is uncovered), and seasoning is added, the color deepens. Whatever the color, your massaman should be delicious!
Note the color may vary depending on the brand of curry paste you use as well. Find a massaman paste you like and you can use it in all sorts of ways. For example, add your extra paste to spice up your next crockpot roast, chili, or pulled pork dish. You can also turn raw jackfruit into vegan pulled pork sandwiches. The canned jackfruit you bought is likely from South Asia, so why not dress it up with those same flavors by adding massaman to your bbq sauce?
Why do you fry the chicken before making the massaman?
This is similar to the technique you see being used with steaks, where chefs will pan sear them before putting them in the over on other cooking method. In this case the chicken is poached in our curry which is great for slow cooking the chicken internally, but not so great for the outside texture. When you fry the skin you add a bit of texture and umami flavor, then borrow the fried bits on your pan back, deglazing our wok as we fry the curry paste in the same oil. Texture added and no flavor wasted!
Would you recommend chicken thighs for cooking khao soi as well?
Yes! If you want all the flavor that stewing can impart, avoid drier cuts of meat like chicken breast. In my opinion, squishy and rubbery chicken breast is one of the Thai food faux pas that separate average cooks from well-practiced enthusiasts.
Join Courageous Kitchen on team dark meat! Chicken thighs are a great way to upgrade so many Thai recipes, especially curries. This includes famous dishes like khao soi but can work well with your green and red curries as well.
What if I want to make a vegetarian massaman curry?
Go for it! Simply subtract the chicken thighs and sub in vegetable stock instead. You can double up on veggies to add some volume to your curry. This can vary depending on what you have access to, but we love adding pumpkin, sweet potato, and even butternut squash.
With the stress of cooking animal proteins out of the way, take the opportunity to pay extra attention to how your hearty vegetables cook. One common mistake with softer vegetables, like sweet potatoes for example, is the temptation to try and cook them the same amount of time. If you do, don’t be surprised when your curry starts to look like mashed potato mush!
We hope you enjoyed this brief history lesson on one of Thailand’s most beloved dishes. Don’t forget to share your recipe remakes on social media and follow us on Instagram for more updates!
We’re excited to share that our new veggie burger patties are now available for sale in Bangkok. The patties are the result of a lot of hard work and testing, as well as feedback from our healthy eating supporters. Consider them as a healthy and filling meal, that is also part of our efforts to encourage everyone to eat better and reduce food waste.
The patties we’ve created aren’t like the ones you’re seeing swapped for beef at fast food restaurants. Instead of an imitation meat, they’re homemade patties created using a special blend of vegetables and herbs. The main ingredient for the burgers is okara, the leftover soy pulp from making tofu. We blend the pulp with mushroom, spring onion, and dried spices before hand making each patty.
Before the pandemic hit, our tofu making class had been generating a buzz with healthy eating expats and visiting tourists in Bangkok. When the lockdown happened, although our classes had to stop, we continued making tofu at home and supplying a few local restaurants. To make tofu you need to squeeze the moisture out of the soybeans, leaving the fibrous part of the bean behind. While it may seem like a worthless byproduct bound for the trashcan, okara still has plenty of nutritional value.
To avoid food waste, we’ve been experimenting with using the leftover okara in different recipes. We’ve made a variety of spreads, pastes, and even cookies. However, the most popular of our creations have been the veggie burger patties. The soy pulp allows them to be dense and pliable, while still being soft on the palate and enjoyable to eat. That’s not bad for a leftover food product that might seem worthless at first glance.
Tom Yum lovers will be excited to learn you can enjoy the popular soup in a variety of ways. One of our favorite renditions is in the form of fried rice. This is similar to what you would order at a street food stall with a wok station. If you can find fragrant herbs to add, this recipe will be a great way to spice up your usual homemade fried rice!
Aromatics & Cooking Method
If you’re new to tom yum, the flavors come from a combination of aromatic herbs popular in Thai cooking. Those herbs are lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaf. If you’ve ever had them in a Thai restaurant you may remember them because they’re the bits in the soup you can’t eat comfortably. Although all of them are edible, each is so coarse they would be really tough to chew.
To make the fried rice version, you’ll need to find your local asian grocer and prep the ingredients. Unlike the soup where the herbs will boil together, this recipe requires the elbow grease to pound them in a mortar and pestle. This is a big job, and is best done in a traditional stone mortar and pestle, so that each of the ingredients is properly smashed.
Can you put the items in a food processor or blender? Sure you can. However, often when we’re using the mortar and pestle, blending is not the most important function for using this traditional kitchen equipment. What we really desire are the essential oils from the ingredients that will make a paste that will remind your eyes, nose, and mouth of your favorite tom yum soup!
Finally, we should add some details about the moisture content of the fried rice. If you’re not cooking over high heat, or using leftover rice that is drier than rice freshly steamed, you may find the final product too soggy. If you know you prefer the drier, more crusty fried rice— be prepared with a heavy duty wok or pan to use. That way you can stir fry you rice longer, and scrape the stuck rice at the center of the wok to free the toastiest bits before they burn (not the best use of your non stick pan). Don’t be surprised to find cooks who love their fried rice this style, even throwing the wok or skillet of fried rice into the oven for a crispy finish.
Tom Yum Fried Rice
Equipment: mortar and pestle (preferably stone), wok
1 cup of rice
70-100g of protein (we used tofu)
1 tbsp of oil
30g tomato (plum or less watery tomatoes work better)
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 tbsp of soy sauce
2 tbsp of sweet chili jam (nam prik pow)
Optional: Lime to squeeze on top and spring onion for garnish
Tom Yum Paste Ingredients:
1 tbsp of minced galangal
1 tbsp of thin sliced lemongrass
2 chili (optional)
Prep all your ingredients. In mortar and pestle, pound lemongrass, galangal and chili together. Set aside.
Chop your proteins bite sized or smaller.
In a wok over medium heat, add a tbsp of cooking oil.
Add your proteins (If using tender meats like shrimp, you can set aside after cooking) and stir until mostly cooked.
Then add your paste and allow to become aromatic. Followed closely by your onions.
When your proteins are cooked and other ingredients smell nice, add your mushrooms and tomato.
Now you’re ready to add your rice. Mix with everything and add soy sauce and chili paste.
Stir fry until ingredients are well incorporated, or you have achieved the desired texture (give it an extra few minutes if you prefer a dry fried rice).
Plate and garnish, reminding your guests to squeeze their lime wedge over the top before enjoying.
We’re excited to share our participation in Bangkok’s first plant based food and sustainability market. The upcoming market takes places this month on July 19th in the Ekkamai area. The event will host a collection of vendors promoting their plant based food items, and a variety of lifestyle products encouraging sustainability.
The market is hosted from 12pm to 4pm by the team behind the Root the Future blog and healthy eating campaign. The website promotes plant based eating and sustainability in Thailand. The term ‘plant based’ refers to diets similar to veganism that promote eating fruits, vegetables, and whole foods for the majority of nutritional needs.
The health benefits of a plant based diet are a major reason we’re excited to be participating in the event. However, the focus on the reducing waste and protecting ecosystems through more sustainable living is equally important. The event will also be our first opportunity to publicly promote our tempeh, a healthy source of plant based protein.
Our tempeh is made by fermenting organic soybeans into patty that can be sliced and added to food as a meat substitute. The healthy product is a great addition to Thai dishes which can too often over emphasize the meat products. In addition to fundraising through the sell of these products, we will also be excited to share about the work we’re doing to serve vulnerable communities in Bangkok.
Participants are reminded to bring their masks, water bottles, food containers, and reusable bags for this event. No single use plastic will be available, and social distancing will be encouraged whenever possible. Including Courageous Kitchen, there should be around 20 vendors with a variety of products for sale, ranging from plant based burgers, to natural soaps, and even a mini cafe for cats needing to be adopted through the Paws Bangkok Foundation.
Root The Future Sustainability & Plant-Based Market
We announced recently that we have begun making our own tempeh for those who want to try and support us in Bangkok. Since tempeh is so new here and many places around the world, we wanted to make sure some of the common questions you may ask about the soy product are answered. One of those is, “Is there a way to tell if my tempeh is still good?”
There are a few factors you should know about to be able to evaluate good tempeh — no matter whether you’re evaluating the freshness before you buy in the store, or after the tempeh has been sitting on your refrigerator shelf.
Look at the list below and keep each of these components in mind so that you can help have the best chances of getting great quality products from good sources.
When you buy your tempeh you should be able to look at it and have an idea of the freshness. The beans in the tempeh should be packed around a firm layer of white mold (called mycelium). As this layer reaches peak, some discoloration may occur where you see some black or gray spots. If the tempeh continues to mature, the mold will become a more yellow color. This is normal and still edible unless the tempeh is wet or consumed by mold of another color.
2) Aroma (Smell)
“Why does my tempeh smell bad?”
How do you judge a fermented product which can already be strong smelling by using your nose? Your tempeh should smell nutty, fermented and earthy, but not overly pungent. If the tempeh can be smelled from a distance, odds are it has likely gone bad. A smell of rot or noticeably strong notes of acetone, alcohol, or ammonium mean you need to dispose of your tempeh. These smells arise as other type of bacteria begin to rapidly grow on your tempeh. Preventing this means keeping your tempeh refrigerated or frozen, and dry, until ready to use.
Your tempeh is made of soybeans enshrined by white mycelium. If properly fermented, this layer of edible mold should grow evenly between the beans. When choosing your tempeh be sure the mold has grown completely without any cracks or areas among the beans where the mold has not grown.
Low Moisture Content (Dryness)
Your block of tempeh should be dry, never slimy or damp. Storing the tempeh with too much moisture can encourage other types of bacteria to grow, making your tempeh go bad more quickly. Tempeh can be frozen safely, but be aware that if not properly defrosted (this can be safely done in the refrigerator), moisture and condensation can start to form on the outside of your tempeh.
When possible buy organic tempeh. The soybeans are easier to soak when making the tempeh, and result in softer and more porous tempeh overall. Since the majority of soybeans are mass produced GMO crops, these can be harder to find, but worth the search. Farmers who do grow soybeans without damaging food and environments with dangerous chemicals also need our support.
Also, look for vendors using natural packaging to ferment their tempeh instead of plastic. The most common material used is banana leaf, which unlike plastic, naturally allows air to circulate, promoting the growth of the mycelium. The result is beautiful tempeh, naturally fermented that doesn’t contribute to environmental degradation.
Tempeh is a great source of plant based protein for everyone. Let’s spread awareness about the need to create diets that are more inclusive or plant centric and environmentally responsible. Courageous Kitchen is doing our part to educate and feed people in need in Bangkok, and your support makes a difference.
During the global Covid-19 pandemic, we have been exploring new ways to engage our supporters, and fundraise for our work. Previously, our in-person classes where our sole method of generating interest in our work. However, like many other businesses, we have been scrambling to do more online and reduce the face to face nature of our interactions. Now we host online classes to help you master Thai food, but have also been making efforts to sell food products locally. The most important of these projects has been the production of plant based protein foods, tofu and tempeh.
Lately when you see the term plant based protein mentioned, the reference is usually to efforts by food scientists to make fake meat. Many of these imitation meats have even become popular globally, attempting to lure both vegans and vegetarians, as well as their healthy eating friends. However, while the popular wisdom is go high tech, we’re going the opposite direction. Instead of helping to create highly processed imitation meat, we’re leaning into the lightly processed Asian traditions of tofu and tempeh. We’re confident these products made with organic soybeans, can encourage people to reduce their meat consumption, which is better for our bodies and the environment.
The gamble we’re taking is hoping our customers will recognize the value and craft necessary to make homemade tofu and tempeh. Often these are products that can be easily misunderstood. Both are soy products, and while tofu is very well known, tempeh is still a new item in many markets. Tofu is the cooked, squeezed, and coagulated soybeans that we press into blocks. Those blocks can be sold and sliced down to be pan fried or used in stir fries and other dishes in place of meat.
While tempeh is made from the same beans and used similarly, the Indonesian creation has many of its own characteristics. For starters, the product requires you to ferment the soybeans before cooking them. Then the beans are dried and packed for a second, but more controlled fermentation. During this process, the bacteria added to the beans grow, attaching and connecting each of the beans. The result is firm patty of edible mold and beans. Despite how that sounds, you might be pleasantly surprised how tasty tempeh can be when properly cooked!
Since tempeh doesn’t enjoy the popularity of tofu, there is a learning curve to cooking it the first time. Tempeh can then be sliced and roasted, chopped, stir fried or stewed. The unique structure of tempeh, helps it to hold its shape when cooking, and gives it a toothsome bite (more similar to a meat product than tofu) when eating. Furthermore, the process of making tempeh, makes the nutrients in the beans more bioavailable, resulting in a healthy, probiotic, and protein rich source of nutrition.
We suggest new customers to slice their tempeh thin, and to start out by substituting it for meat in a few of your most flavor-packed dishes. For example, given the right amount of time to soak up flavor, tempeh makes and excellent substitution in Thailand’s coconut milk curries. Alternatively, you can take sliced tempeh, season it, and oven roast until crispy. The resulting tempeh bites can be eaten as a snack, or added as a crispy ingredient in other dishes (salads, stir fries, and sandwiches for example).
Besides saving you time in the kitchen, our tofu and tempeh products are also made from organic soy beans. Like many places around the world, soy in Thailand is a cash crop, making it difficult to source organic beans. We work with small Thai farms, especially in Northern Thailand, to source the beans, giving us an opportunity to support organic farmers. This is important because these farmers can often be priced out of local markets by the glut of GMO soybeans and mass produced soy products prevalent in most stores.
We hope everyone is striving to eat better during this stressful time. One way is to add tofu or tempeh to your diet, and make an effort to consume less meat. We should also do what we can to support our farmers, and strengthen the food ecosystems feeding our communities during crises.
We’re so proud to be providing these products, so look out for them as options in your CSA boxes from Bolan Restaurant and Farmtastic. Soon you will be able to add them as a vegetarian option to your orders with Sloane’s as well. So please be on the lookout for them!