Beef Massaman Curry

I chose to share this recipe with you as it was a favourite in my Thai cookery classes at the Yorkshire Wolds Cookery School. It was something that if you saw the recipe you might be put off as there is such a long list of ingredients, but hopefully you will be able to get hold of most of them. Our food suppliers are doing a great job of keeping stocked with most things.

Serves 4
Prep: mins
Cook: mins
Print Recipe

The Recipe Story

I lived in Hong Kong for two years, back before the handover in 1997. I hadn’t really experienced Thai food before, but really grew to love it, and of course all ingredients were readily available in Hong Kong. We also travelled frequently to Thailand and the food we had there was out of this world, like nothing I had experienced before. We ate regularly at a Thai restaurant in Hong Kong called the Chilli Club, we joked that you came in through the door and went out through the roof!

When I first came back to live in the UK 25 years ago the ingredients I had been used to were not readily available, but over time they have become more commonplace. My Thai style recipes tend to be a bit more cautious with the amount of Chilli I use, unlike many authentic recipes. This recipe might seem a bit excessive in the amount of chillies used, but with all the other ingredients it balances out well. Thai food should taste salty, sour and hot.

I use a very good Thai cookery book written by David Thompson, who has a renowned Thai restaurant in Hong Kong, Aaharn. He refers to birds eye chillies as scuds (missiles!) So beware which type of chilli you use, as it could seriously alter the heat of your curry.

Galangal may not be available, you can use the ready prepared paste if you like, but ginger is fine to use too. When you can get fresh galangal give it a try as it really alters the taste.

If you can’t get shrimp paste, just leave it out and maybe add a little more fish sauce.

The blocks of palm sugar are really well worth seeking out and will keep for ages. If you can’t get any just add light soft brown sugar.

There is quite a bit of chopping to do, but once you have gathered your ingredients together it is really easy to make.

I also try to show you how to master cooking a Thai paste, by “cracking” coconut cream. It’s very handy to know that if you freeze a can of coconut milk it will separate in to the cream and water, giving you much cheaper coconut cream. When you buy a can of coconut milk, give it a shake and if it doesn’t slosh about it has already separated.

I hope you enjoy this, it is really worth the effort, and you can always make double of the paste and it freezes well, so next time you will be able to make this in double quick time.

This recipe also works really well with lamb too. I cooked jasmine rice, and chapatis to go with it, but that is maybe a little overkill- triple carbs!

For my version of a chapati go to my Ali Bilton Chapatis recipe.

For my fragrant jasmine rice go to my Ali Bilton Fragrant Jasmine Rice recipe.


For the curry paste:

1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seed
¼ tsp white peppercorns (use black peppercorns if you don’t have these)
10 large dried chillies, deseeded and soaked in boiling water for 1 hour
1 tsp salt
4 stalks of lemongrass, chopped, discarding the tough outer leaves
45g peeled and finely chopped galangal, or ginger
20 stalks coriander, leaves stripped and saved for garnish
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cardamom
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp shrimp paste

For the curry:

1 x 400ml can of coconut milk
1 kg beef stewing steak cut into 4 cm cubes
1 tsp salt
100ml coconut cream
30g palm sugar (or light soft brown sugar)
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 bay leaf
1 large sweet potato (or white potato)
1 cooking onion, peeled and cut into wedges
40g peanuts, roasted and chopped


  1. First make the curry paste.
  2. Place the coriander and cumin seeds in a small frying pan and toast until they start to release their aroma
  3. Place in a pestle and mortar along with the white peppercorns, pound until well crushed. Tip into a measuring jug
  4. Add all the remaining curry paste ingredients and blitz in the jug with a hand blender.
  5. In a small casserole dish place the beef with 100ml of the coconut milk, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp of the curry paste and add enough water to cover the beef. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a gentle simmer. Cover with a lid and cook for 1 hour until tender.
  6. When the beef is cooked, strain the juice off, into a jug, skim off any impurities
  7. Heat a wok or large frying pan to a high heat, and add the coconut cream, cook until the cream starts to separate into solids and oil.
  8. Add all of the curry paste , reduce the heat and cook over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until the curry paste is shiny and thick.
  9. Add the remaining coconut milk, 2 tbsp of palm sugar, 1 tbsp fish sauce and ½ tbsp tamarind and the bay leaf. Bring to the boil.
  10. Add the potato, onion and cooked beef and enough of the cooking juice to cover the meat. Simmer uncovered for 20-30minutes until the potato is cooked through.
  11. Add the remaining palm sugar, fish sauce and tamarind.
  12. Sprinkle with the reserved coriander leaves and chopped peanuts
  13. Serve with fragrant jasmine rice.

Copyright © 2024 Ali Bilton Cooks

Website proudly created by Holler Marketing