Dry roasting the spices and then grinding it in a stone mortar is surprisingly easy. Plus the aroma of freshly roasted spices is lovely. Not so can be said of the shrimp paste. Belacan looks and smells awful. Bad. Punch in the gut bad. However, it adds an incredible flavor to the curry, which combined with the red chilli’s, garlic , shallots and galangal transforms the dish.
The first time I made the Massaman curry with beef, potatoes and onions, I was knocked over by the brightness of the flavor. All I could think was “OMG this is good!” The aroma of the roasted spices, the pungency of the chillis and the sweet back tones of coconut, tamarind and sugar delivered an amazingly complex dish.
Dry Spice mix
1 tbs coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 stick cinnamon bark, approx 4 cm
1 cardamon pod
1 pc star anise
1 tsp nutmeg, grated
Dry roast each of the spices and then grind into a powder with the mortar and pestle
Wet Paste mix
15 dried red chilli’s
4 – 6 shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 inch galangal, chopped
½ tsp belacan (dried shrimp paste)
If the chillis are large enough, deseed them by rubbing together to loosen the seeds before cutting in two and shaking them out. Otherwise, remove after soaking the dried chillis in water for about 15 minutes. Thoroughly rinse and strain the deseeded chillis.
Dry roast the belacan over an open flame.
Place all ingredients in the blender with a bit of water (approx. 1/3 cup) and blend until smooth. Mix in the ground spices.
Makes about a cup of curry paste.
Massaman Beef Curry
600g Beef – sirloin, thinly sliced
3 large potatoes, cubed
2 onions, sliced
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp tamarind paste , mixed with 1/3 cup warm water
3 tbsp sugar (or to taste)
¼ cup fish sauce (or to taste)
3 tbsp Massaman curry paste (or to taste)
1 star anise
½ cinnamon stick
Fry curry paste in wok/skillet
Add beef to curry paste and brown. Add onions
Add rest of ingredients, adjusting flavors to taste
Add potatoes with additional liquid, as needed
Bring to boil and then simmer for 45mins until meat is tender and potatoes cooked through. Serve with steamed white rice.