I’m a food snob. I totally admit it. I can’t help it. Really I can’t. I just want to try ALL THE FOOD IN THE WORLD.
And sometimes I can’t understand how other people don’t feel the same way.
Take my recent trip to Thailand as an example. I felt like a kid in candy store. Every day, new flavors, new spices, incredible street food and crazy cool food markets to explore with crazy new fruits and exotic new veggies.
What an incredible opportunity to eat authentic Thai food in Thailand!
Basically, there was something new to try EVERY SINGLE DAY. A food lover’s dream come true.
And yet, I was shocked at just how many tourists had no interest in eating Thai food. Almost every cafe and restaurant menu had a “western food” section with pizza, spaghetti and hamburgers. This annoyed me to no end and I would get so disgusted every time I saw someone eating friggin’ spaghetti and meatballs.
“FOR GOD’S SAKE, YOU’RE IN THAILAND! TRY SOME #$%&#@ THAI FOOD,” I would scream in my head at every tourist I saw eating western food.
Some people get all worked up over religion or politics. I get all worked up over westerners eating western food in non-western countries. But I just can’t help it.
Of course, the hang up with Thai food for many westerners is that Thai food is often spicy. We’re not raised eating chilies and curries and it can be a bit of a shock (and painful) to the taste buds for sure. And so many just avoid it entirely.
Which finally brings me to my point (sometimes it takes me a minute to get there) – even westerners eating western food in Thailand like Massaman coconut curry!
It’s not only NOT spicy it’s also SWEET, and therefore palatable to most westerners.
Compared to Thai curries that use fresher and hotter Thai chilies (such as green and red chilies), Massaman curry uses dried chilies and dried Indian spices like cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and coriander seeds. It’s thought to be Muslim in origin and is therefore more common in southern Thailand where there’s a strong Muslim influence from neighboring Malaysia. The addition of palm sugar or coconut sugar is what makes Massaman curry sweet.
Massaman coconut curry is simply massaman curry paste combined in a coconut milk base that’s then stir fried most commonly with potatoes, onions and peanuts. Chicken is probably the most common meat that’s used but other meats are used as well.
My recipe below uses beef. Substitute any protein you want. Or just use vegetables for a vegetarian version.
Regardless, if you’ve never tried a Thai coconut curry, start with a Massaman coconut curry. I’ve never met one person who didn’t absolutely love it. Every Thai restaurant outside of Thailand offers it so if you want to try it before making it at home, start there. Once you become instantly addicted to it (trust me, you will) you’ll want to learn to make it at home.
To make a homemade Massaman coconut curry all you need is Massaman curry paste and a handful of other common ingredients and you’re ready to rock. It’s SO SIMPLE.
There’s nothing quite like freshly made curry pastes. You could certainly make them at home from scratch. But I’m going to take a wild guess and say that you’re probably not going to buy all the individual spices, roast them and spend an hour or two pounding them into a paste with a mortar and pestle.
If I’m wrong on that, here’s how to do it. Go crazy.
The good news is that you can easily find pre-prepared curry pastes. Any Asian supermarket will probably have multiple brands of Thai curry pastes including Massaman. Even many standard supermarkets now carry different types of Thai curries though Massaman may be a little harder to find than the more typical greed and red curry pastes.
One of the more common brands is Maesri and it’s the one I use in the recipe below.
If you can’t find Maesri or another brand in a local supermarket, you can find it on Amazon here.
Massaman coconut curry is not only NOT spicy, it's also SWEET. As a result, most westerners love it. It's also very easy to make at home.
Note: In my experience in Thailand, broth was not always used in coconut curries. If you want a more soup-like consistency, use broth. If you want a creamier texture, it's OK to skip the broth.
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.