I already posted a Massaman recipe, both the massaman curry paste and the curry, a while back, but there is a request to do it with the beef instead of baked chicken. if you really want the recipe to be precise, I can do that.
One thing I want to let you know about Thai recipes. The authentic Thai recipes that have been passing from generation to generation normally do not have proportions of each ingredient. They normally consist of a list of ingredients and a rough method only. The younger generation, the students, are supposed to learn alongside the owner of the recipe to get it right at first, then after that, the student needs to adjust the ingredients on her own.
The Thais do not expect the curry (or literary anything) to be exactly same as last time. You would hear conversation at the dining table that goes like this:
“The Massaman today is rather heavy on the spice. It’s nice and covers the lamb smell pretty good.”
“Oh, the heat on green curry today is extra hot. It made me sweat.” — “Oh really? I used the same amount of chilies, but these are from so and so market, they have the hot ones.”
“The Gaeng Phed is rather watery and not as hot, but it’s good because today is such a hot day. I wouldn’t be be able to eat as much if it was the usual.” — “Oh, I just thought, we don’t have any soup on the table today and grandma has a sore throat and wanted to drink some hot soup, so I made the curry a little thinner.”
These are very typical comments. Every time the curry is cooked for the family members, the ingredients and the method will be adjusted not only to fit the type of meat and vegetables used that day but also to factor in the climate and the health of the family members, too.
The ancient Thai kitchen doesn’t even list a set of measuring cups and spoons as must-need equipment. I do have a hard time trying to give you “Western style” recipes because I have to measure everything I put in, and often have to do it a few times to know the semi-precise amount of each ingredient.
I normally just throw stuff in the mortar or pot without measuring. Once I’m done blogging about each recipe, then I go back to not measuring and estimating the amount of each ingredient again. Why not?
The cook has to make the recipe “livable”, meaning adjustable at all times. Whatever recipe I give you is not set solid in stone. You can adjust many things based on your preference. BUT YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER THIS: Even though we can substitute the meat and vegetables to whatever is at hand, when it comes to the curry paste we only adjust the amount of the ingredients and never substitute the ingredients and NEVER SUBSTITUTE ONE TYPE OF CURRY PASTE FOR ANOTHER.
Yes, that means YOU CAN’T JUST USE THE RED CURRY PASTE FOR EVERYTHING THAI…Thank you! This is the reason why I spent the whole year writing about curry pastes, alright?
Okay, back to the amount of liquid in the curry. Definitely you can adjust it. I realize that Westerners love more creamy, thicker curry with less curry paste—the opposite of our thin, light but pungent curry. It’s okay, nothing wrong with that. You just use less water.
In making this recipe I even tried a different brand of coconut milk. I just want to see how I could get the type of coconut milk that has a binding agent to “break”. I’m not going to mention the brand but I will tell you the method.
Beef shank 2 pieces, just like in the picture
Potato about 2 cups if you cut them, or about 3 cups whole small potatoes
Onions 2 large size; cut each one to 8 pieces
Roasted peanuts 1/2 cup
Lime juice 1/4 cup
Tamarind pulp 3-4 tablespoons
Palm sugar 1/4 cup
Fish sauce 1/4 cup
Salt 1 – 1-1/2 teaspoons
Coconut milk 4 cups
Massaman curry paste 1/4 cup (+ 2 tablespoons for the extra flavor if you want. This is optional, of course)
(Optional) White cardamom 4 pieces and 4 leaves
(Optional) Pineapple, half of the pineapple, cut however you like. You can also go back to my earlier Massaman post to see the list of possible fruits to add to the curry, or none at all. Even in Thailand they don’t add fruit anymore, except when they cook the traditional Royal cuisine.
1) You need to cook the beef first, until it’s tender. I normally cook it in water. Just bring to a boil and then simmer for 2 hours until you can pierce through the meat without force. You don’t have to cook until it falls off the bone yet. We will be cooking it a little more, like 30-45 minutes, with the curry.
This time I wanted to test the coconut milk, so I did it the traditional way. I boiled the meat with half a cup of coconut milk and just added more water, approximately 3 cups. The water will reduce down later.
To add another dimension of flavor to the meat, add curry paste, about a tablespoon or two, to the pot too, only if you want. You don’t need to stir fry the curry paste as you normally would, because this is going to take a long time to cook anyway.
While the meat is cooking, set the rest of the coconut milk by the stove. The cream should float up to the top.
2) Once the meat is tender, now we’re ready to cook the rest of the massaman. At this point, you should have some coconut oil floating on top of the meat pot.
Skim only the coconut cream from the top of the coconut milk that you set aside, about half a cup, and put in a separate pan. Set the pan over medium heat and add the curry paste, and cook for at least 5 minutes. Read about how to cook the curry paste here.
Make sure that the curry paste doesn’t burn, and keep adding more coconut milk to the edge, stirring often. You can add the coconut oil from the beef pot (skimmed from the top) to the pan too.
3) Once the curry paste is cooked through, add the remaining coconut milk and pour the contents into a pot, and bring it to a boil.
4) Add onion,
transfer the meat to the curry pot, and include 1 to 2 cups of broth from the meat pot, add salt, and simmer for another 15-20 minutes.
5) Add potatoes, pineapple, peanuts and all the condiments. Bring it back to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer again for another 15-20 minutes.
If the curry is starting to dry up and you want thinner curry, you can add more broth from the meat pot to the curry pot. This is your own preference. I like my curry thin; you might like it thicker and creamier.
6) Before serving, you need to adjust the taste to your preference, too. You should have oil floating on top of your curry. Cooking the coconut milk this long, it’s going to break. I don’t have as thick a layer as I would with the milk I use often, but I do have some.
Here we go, Massaman with beef shank and delicious bone marrow. You can eat it alone or you can eat it with cooked rice, bread, roti pasta, your choice.