Thai Massaman Vegetarian Curry

The blend of spices and herbs gives Masamman its punch. The delectable medley of veggies and tofu in a coconut milk gravy is sure to tingle your palate.
By Priya Sreeram

Recently, I was watching an episode of Masterchef Australia where the contestants had to rev up an insipid Masamman dish; I realised it’s been a while my hearth saw some Thai action. The Masamman curry in all its veggie avatar perked up our sunday afternoon with mighty flavours and peppy taste. A Southern Thai dish, the massaman curry has Muslim Origins. Actually the word  Massaman roughly means muslim as it is said Thailand got its share of spice from the Muslim Traders who bought them to its shores. Masamman Curry is commonly made with beef or chicken, though other meats like pork,duck can be used. Of course it goes without saying the curry also tastes good in the vegetarian version with a medley of vegetables and/or tofu. The aromatic and flavourful fuse of spices adds magic to the dish and it tastes awesome with rice or rotis (Indian flat bread). I served the Thai curry with Peas and Cumin Pulao.

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Thai Masamman Vegetarian Curry
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The blend of spices and herbs gives Masamman its punch. The delectable medley of veggies and tofu in a coconut milk gravy is sure to tingle your palate.
Recipe Type: Side Dish
Serves: 4
  • Onion - 1 medium sized - (sliced)
  • Eggplant - 1 medium sized (cubed in to bite sized pieces)
  • Potato -1 medium sized (cubed in to bite sized pieces)
  • Green Pepper - 1 (cubed in to bite sized pieces)
  • Beans - a fistful (sliced)
  • Tofu - 200 grams - cubed
  • Coconut Milk - 400ml (to be added in 2 stages @ 200ml each)
  • Curry Paste - 2 tbsp - to taste
  • Date and Tamarind chutney - 1 to 2 tbsp - to taste
  • Oil - 2 tbsp (I used a mix of coconut oil & sunflower oil)
  • Star Anise - 2
  • Dark Soy Sauce - 1 to 2 tbsp - to taste
For the Dates and tamarind Chutney - 1½ tbsp - to taste
  • Dates - 50 - 100 gms
  • Date Syrup - 2 -3 table spoons
  • Tamarind Paste - about 75 gms
  • Jaggery - 50 - 75 gms
  • Black Salt - 1½ tea spoon
  • Red Chilly Powder - 1½ tea spoon
  • Amchoor (Dry Mango) Powder - 1½ tea spoon
  • Chat Masala - 1½ tea spoon
For the Curry Paste (mix of spices and herbs)
  • Dried Red Chillis - 7 to 8- to taste
  • Coriander Seeds - 1½ tbsp
  • Cumin Seeds - 1 tbsp
  • Cinnamon - a small piece
  • Cloves - 3
  • Cardamom - seeds of 3 pods
  • Black Pepper Corns - 1 tbsp
  • Shallots - a fistful
  • Garlic- 6 to 7 pods
  • Ginger - a small piece
  • Coriander roots - roots of a few sprigs
  • Nutmeg Powder - ½ tsp
  • Dry Ginger Powder - ½ tsp
For Garnish
  • Roasted Peanuts - a fistful (roughly crushed)
  • Cashewnuts - 1 tbsp (roughly crushed)
  • Dried Basil leaves - a few sprinkles -as required
  1. Wash the cubed vegetables & tofu well. Set it aside.
  2. Dry roast all the spices for the curry paste and pulse it to a fine mix along with the shallots,ginger,garlic and coriander roots adding little water if necessary. I hand pounded the spices as well as herbs to a fine powder/paste with a mortar and pestle.Mix the paste with dry ginger powder and nutmeg powder for the Thai Masammn Curry Paste
  3. Prepare the Dates and Tamarind chutney by soaking the dates in little hot water for some time and grinding it to a paste. In a kadai pour some water, add the tamarind paste and bring it to a boil.Then add the jaggery and allow it to cook for some time.Now add the black salt, red chilly powder, amchoor powder and the chat masala.Once this is cooked add the date paste and the date syrup and bring to a boil and thicken the dip.
  4. In a wok/pan, add the oil and as it warms add star anise and let it sizzle for a few seconds. Now add the sliced onion and as it turns pink, tip in the pounded curry paste as required. Let the spices & herb mix blend well and release its flavours.
  5. Now add the cubed vegetables and saute it for a few minutes.
  6. Add one half of the coconut milk (apprx 200 ml) in to the vegetable mix and bring it to a boil. Let it simmer for some time till the vegetables turn soft and tender.
  7. Add salt to taste and the dark soy sauce.Further tip in the dates and Tamarind Chutney to suit your palate and let the mix cook for some time.
  8. Finally add the cubed tofu and the remaining coconut milk. Simmer to get the required gravy like consistency.
  9. Take off flame and garnish with crushed roasted peanuts, cashewnuts and dried basil leaves.
  10. Serve hot with rice/rotis/breads
1. For the sweetand sour mix in the dish I used the Dates and Tamarind Chutney that was already in the fridge. This gave the dish a nice and different pep. You can simply use some tamarind paste and palm sugar/sugar/jaggery to give the same effect. 2. Use any vegetables for the curry- like squash,avacado,melons etc. I used whatever was in the fridge and pantry 3. I hand pounded the spices and herbs with mortar and pestle, you can grind the herbs and spice mix in to a fine paste in a mixer/food processor. Pounding them in mortar/pestle brings out the wholesome flavour of the ingredients. 4. You can also add lemon grass and galangal (instead of ginger) for the authentic taste of Thai curry to the curry paste. 5. The dish also tasted good when refrigerated overnight and eaten the next day. But make sure to eat it hot.
  1. I can assure you that following this recipe containing soy sauce and Indian chutney may give you a curry you like but it sure as heck is not Thai Massaman curry.

    1. Hello Mark- thank you for your kind words- this is my version of the Thai Masamman curry – The very fact that a non vegetarian dish has been adapted in to a vegetarianm dish implies playing with the classical recipe to suit one’s palate and if you have read my recipe and the notes carefully it says that the Indian chutney is MY TWIST TO IT and the original recipe may have tamarind paste & palm sugar for the same effect. There will be no innovation & creativity if the recipe is followed blindly.Cheers !

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