Massaman Nuea (Beef Massaman Curry)

Massaman Nuea (Beef Massaman Curry)
for about 4-6 servings

This recipe looks daunting, but I promise it will be the best Massaman Curry you have ever tasted. Even if you opted for the canned paste rather thank using this recipe, the process of marinading and simmering of beef in coconut milk and the addition of spice during the cooking will improve the taste dramatically.


Beef Marinade

1 kg. beef (I use the Chuck cut)
1tsp Ginger, grated
2 cups coconut milk*
2 tbsp Fish sauce

Massaman Paste*
15 medium pieces of dried chilli, soaked, seeded, chopped
1/4 cup sliced garlic
1/3 cup sliced shallots
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp lemongrass, chopped
1 tsp galangal, peeled, chopped
1 tsp kaffir lime zest
1 tsp cilantro roots, scraped, chopped
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp shrimp paste, roasted

To finish the curry
2 tbsp oil
2 cups coconut cream*
2 cardamom leaves
1 tbsp whole cardamom
1 inch piece of Cinnamon
150 g peanuts
5 whole shallots, peeled
¼ cup palm sugar
1 tbsp tamarind, mixed with 1/3 cup warm water and strained
2 tbsp fish sauce

First you marinade the beef:
Cut the beef into large chunks and marinade them in the coconut milk and julienned ginger. Set aside for at least 30 minutes before proceeding to the next step. Simmer the beef chunks in the marinade in for another half an hour.

Next you pound the curry paste:
(Note: This step is optional. You could just skip it if you opted for a commercial canned version. The resulting Massaman won’t be as good, of course, but still quite acceptable.)
While the beef is simmering, pound or grind all the Masaman paste ingredients together until the paste resembles a fine puree. You can add a little water to the paste if it became too thick to be processed in a blender. Take care not to add too much water as the paste will create a nasty splash when cooked.

Now you make the curry:
Heat up half a large wok or sauteed pan with 2 tbsp oil, add the massaman paste and cook for a few minutes, stirring vigorously. Add a cup of the coconut cream in the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the paste is completely dissolved into the coconut cream. Let the mixture bubble for a few minutes until a layer of oil begins to separate from the mixture.
Add the rest of the coconut cream and let it bubbles away for another few minutes until the oil begins to separate again.
Add the whole cardamoms, cardamom leaves, whole shallots, peanuts, palm sugar, tamarind water, and fish sauce.
Mix the content of the two pot together, and continue to simmer until the beef is tender.
Be careful not to let the curry boil too vigorously at this stage as the coconut cream will curdle. Just let the pot simmer gently until the beef is tender.
Check the seasoning before turning of the stove. The taste should be spicy (not too hot, but very spicy), salty, sweet, with an ever so slightly sour aftertaste, in this order. Do not let it be cloyingly sweet.

Serve with freshly steamed Thai jasmine rice, or Naan bread.

*In Thailand, the first extraction with very little, if any, addition of water is called coconut cream (Hua Gati). This compares to sort of an extra virgin pressing of olive oil. The next extraction, with added water, is called coconut milk (Hang Gati). If you use canned coconut milk, just spooned off the thick "cream" part to separate from the milk.
*The paste will have to be used the same day if there’s any water added. Otherwise it will keep for a few days in the fridge. It does not, however, freeze well.

P.S. Feel free to leave a comment should you have any question about this recipe or the ingredients. I’ll be happy to help if I can.

If you find this recipe useful, please consider giving a few dollars to help my charity drive for Doctors without Borders by clicking on the picture below.

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25 Responses to “Massaman Nuea (Beef Massaman Curry)

  • Anonymous said:
    January 26th, 2004 at 9:48am

    Cardamom leaves? Where can I find them?

  • Pim said:
    January 26th, 2004 at 4:51pm

    Cardamom leaves are called Bai Grawan in Thai. They are very similar to Bay Leaves. You could use Bay Leaves as a substitute if Bai Grawan is not available in your neighbourhood Asian groceries.

  • Neil Edwards said:
    February 1st, 2004 at 9:50pm

    Hi. I can’t find Kaffir Lime zest anywhere. What can I use as a substitute?

  • Pim said:
    February 2nd, 2004 at 10:15am

    Hi Neil,
    As a substitute, I sometimes use regular lime zest, or even mandarin zest (if you had the green-ish ones).

  • gary marshall said:
    September 8th, 2005 at 5:38am

    i’m sure when i made this before i found coconut cream in liquid form in a carton, all they had today was creamed cocunut in solid form is this the same thing? thanks pim!

  • tracey said:
    October 31st, 2005 at 4:37am

    cant get mussaman past can i use anything else

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  • Gwen said:
    October 24th, 2006 at 2:40pm

    Hi Pim,
    I wanted to thank you for this recipe. It took me longer than I expected, even with commercial paste, but it was well worth it. I reheated for dinner what I had not eaten last night, and it was even better, the cinnamon came out clearer, and in any case it was the most satisfying after an hour of intense swim practice. I think I am going to try all of your other thaï recipes !
    I made it with veal (meant for blanquette), so it was maybe more subdued in taste but so tender. And the shallots are a real treat.
    Thank god I had some good coconut milk on hand (it’s hard to find coconut milk with the cream in it in France).

  • susan said:
    February 7th, 2007 at 3:23pm

    just wanted to ask you about the simmer the beef part, when you say that do you mean that when yu have finished with the marinade you just put it in a pan and start simmering it ??????

  • Carey said:
    April 11th, 2007 at 6:29pm

    Hey Pim,
    Any suggestions on how to fix curdled coconut milk? I walked away from my curry too soon without turning down the heat, and instead of it being a lovely creamy texture, it’s watery with curds. Ah well — at least now I know what caused it. Many thanks for that!

  • Miz said:
    July 2nd, 2007 at 7:44am

    Hi there,
    I was just wondering if the “shallots” in the recipe mean regular brown onion or actual spring onions? I live in Australia and to us “shallot” mean spring onion, which are also called scallions or green onions. Please help as I would really love to try out your recipe!!
    Thank you.

  • Tracy said:
    August 7th, 2007 at 11:28am

    Hi there! I am also Aussie (but living in UK at the moment).
    The Shallots that you are looking for for this might be known as ‘French Shallots’ or ‘eschalots’, not normal onions or spring onions. They are slightly bigger than pickling onions, but look mor like a large 2-3 gloved garlic bulb. Try this link for more info:

  • Tracy said:
    August 7th, 2007 at 12:34pm

    Oh, and by the way, Pim, this is my new favorite Massaman 🙂 I love the texture of the meat that comes from marinating and then cooking in the coconut milk. So different from other recipes I have used, and much nicer!
    Many thanks,

  • Sal said:
    April 14th, 2008 at 11:35pm

    Hi Pim, Just wondering if this recipe can be done in a slow cooker? I was thinking it could make the coconut cream curdle, so would it be possible to cook it with water then add coconut cream later.. Your advice would be appreciated 🙂

  • rob said:
    August 9th, 2008 at 4:37am

    Wonderful recipe. I’ve cooked it a few times now and it just gets better each time. One thing I’ve done though is to use some of the palm sugar in the oil as I put the paste mixture in. It gives a higher flashpoint and the mixture becomes just that little more aromatic. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  • Giulia said:
    March 7th, 2009 at 1:09am

    great recipe, thanks!
    Do you have a recipe for soft shell crab? I like it deep fried with mango salad, but i don’t seem to get it wright (i think i don’t clean it properly).

  • Adelina said:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 10:26am

    Dearest Pim
    I’ve been following and reading your post quite regularly, BUT God knows for whatever reason it was, I didn’t go to your web site to check out this recipe. I visited a few other posts and followed a recipe for this dish from a guy/ gal who was kind enough to share. Well, I made this dish using THAT guy/ gal’s recipe last weekend and I didn’t like it, AT ALL!!!! Well first of all, his/ her recipe didn’t instruct me to make the paste from scratch, so I went to the local Asian store and bought a 4 oz. can of Massaman Curry to use. Either the recipe I used was off with the coconut milk/ water ratio or that the curry paste wasn’t good OR it might as well be me, my finished dish wasn’t good! It was quite plain, to say the least – not enough spicy, not enough kick, not enough sourness, not enough “taste”!!! I don’t know! Then I have never had this dish before so I didn’t know what’s it supposed to taste like! The guy/ gal who posted the recipe didn’t mention… I simply added a little more fish sauce and little more tamarind juice…..well….it was just ok! Well the recipe didn’t tell me how to make the curry paste from scratch, so there….that’s my other excuse!!!
    I really really really want to re-make this dish again but then I have to quickly devour the pot that I just made two days ago! Maybe it’s time for me to visit the next door neighbor and say hello with a BIG bowl of homemade Massaman curry! Then and only then, I’ll be able to follow your recipe and make this dish again, Soon! …Ok, I’m kidding about the visit to the neighbor!
    Well, I’m glad you’re around Pim and I’m glad you take the time to educate ppl. like me to make some Thai dishes at home!

  • kanit said:
    February 8th, 2010 at 5:57am

    pls search AUTHENTIC THAI CUISINE Kanit Muntarbhorn
    Tourism of Thailand TAT e-news magazine.
    Has details on this Massaman curry!

  • Jane Martin said:
    March 16th, 2010 at 1:27pm

    Hi Pim,
    Been reading your blog and cooking from it for years and don’t think I have ever commented or even told you how much I appreciate the effort you put into it. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I heard you on Jim Coleman’s show and went out and bought The Foodie Handbook right away!I absolutely love it!
    Again, thanks for sharing all of your knowledge – you’re a great resource!

  • Zach Schroeder said:
    July 30th, 2011 at 4:12pm

    If I use commercial paste, instead of making my own, how much paste would I use?

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  • Angela said:
    February 2nd, 2015 at 9:39pm

    Wow. This was amazing. I couldn’t find the kaffir lime zest or cardamom leaves but this might be my favourite Thai dish ever. Thank you!

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