Homemade Massaman Curry Paste

Homemade Massaman Curry Paste

I always prefer to make my own pastes and sauces for a fresh and vibrant taste over the commercial pre-prepared versions. I made this classic spicy Thai paste in preparation for a massaman curry with paneer cheese, but it can also be cooked with starchy root vegetables — especially potatoes — or simply warmed and spooned over hot fresh cooked rice. Highly aromatic, massaman curry paste has a distinctive cardamom and cumin taste that must be tried to be believed — in fact, CNN recently selected massaman curries as the world's most delicious food!

Galangal (or galanga) is a close relative of ginger and is used in the same way. Galangal has a paler and thinner pinkish skin that is peeled just as with ginger, and while the taste is hot and zesty like ginger, it has a strong and unique citrusy and mustardy flavor and aroma with hints of pine that is quite unlike its cousin. As with kaffir lime leaves, galangal can usually be found in Asian grocers, but ginger can be substituted. If you can find fresh kaffir lime leaves, they freeze quite well for future use. If you can't find kaffir lime leaves, substitute 2 teaspoons of lemon or lime zest and add a bay leaf or two. This sauce with keep in the fridge for several weeks in a tightly-sealed jar.

Homemade Massaman Curry PasteHomemade Massaman Curry Paste
Recipe by
Adapted from Thai Vegetarian Cooking
Cuisine: Thai
Published on February 11, 2010

A southern Thai specialty, massaman paste is a rich, aromatic and extraordinarily distinctive curry paste redolent especially of cardamom and cumin, and forms the base of highly prized massaman curries

Preparation: 10 minutes

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  • 10 to 12 dried whole red chilies, crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon black or white peppercorns
  • 4 medium shallots, roughly chopped
  • 2-inch piece lemongrass, chopped
  • 1/2-inch piece fresh galangal or ginger, chopped
  • 3 to 4 fresh or dried kaffir lime leaves, chopped (or 2 teaspoons of lemon zest)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • In a large mortar and pestle or in a food processor, blend the ingredients together until a soft paste is formed.

  • Refrigerate in a jar with a tight-fitting lid for up to 1 month.

Makes about 1 cup

Another spicy paste recipe from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you will be sure to enjoy:
Red Chili and Vinegar Paste

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chow bella said...

I am new to making Thai curries, so have depended on store-bought pastes. This looks so simple that I may try it myself---I love massaman curry so much! I like that you put substitutions in this, because I can't find lime leaves anywhere! Could I please request panang curry paste, if you haven't done that one yet (I have yet to search).

Susan said...

That's gorgeous. Fresh kaffir lime is hard to find in these parts, but I do have jarred leaves that aren't half bad.

dining room table said...

I really prefer homemade stuff rather than those I buy from the groceries. Sometimes, they taste different.

Usha said...

I have always wanted to make Thai sauces on my own, this sounds like a great place to start !

I only wish lemon grass and kaffir leaves are more easy to find here so I could make this anytime...:-)

Astra Libris said...

Oooh, such a gorgeously flavorful recipe! Now I have an excuse to order those kaffir leaves I saw online... :-)

Heather Loves Healthy Vegan Recipes said...

I learn so much from your recipes. Thanks for this one.

Logan said...

Thanks so much for posting this. I've been wanting to make my own Thai curry pastes for a long time now, and just made this one. Question: what's the appropriate ratio of paste to coconut milk, veggies, meat, etc?

Lisa Turner said...

How much really depends on the dish you are making and the intensity of the heat of your paste and your preference. Usually, a tablespoon or two works perfectly.

Theophila said...

Where's the shrimp paste? Or are you leaving it out on purpose to make it vegan-friendly?

Just as an aside: I grew up in Thailand, and it's hard for me to imagine the fullness of Thai curries without shrimp paste (and fish sauce during the cooking, for that matter), so I've never made a vegetarian or vegan version. It just doesn't seem to feel right; I'd much rather make a vegan dish without substitutions.

Theophila said...

Ah, I just realised your blog is vegetarian. Makes sense now. Without the context it was a bit confusing. Google led me here - I usually make gaeng ped - red curry - so didn't remember the quantities and proportion of spices to change it to a massamun curry paste, and I didn't realise it was a veggie blog from that!

Lisa Turner said...

I don't think you will miss the shrimp paste here. It is packed full of flavor. Give it a try and let me know what you think.