Monday, March 3, 2008

Dutch Oven Masaman Curry

Just like Indian food, there’s a lot of little mom ‘n pop Thai restaurants in northern Utah. I’ve been to a lot of them, and most of those are really good. In fact, while there’s been one or two that I’ve liked more than others, there really hasn’t been one that I’d consider to be “bad” at all. I really like Thai food, and one of our favorite dishes to order is Masaman Curry.

It turns out, that if you have certain ingredients, it’s actually pretty simple to make. The toughest to get are the Tamarind pulp and the curry paste. And those really aren’t that hard. I found some dried Tamarind pods at a Mexican market, and had to make the “paste”. The pulp is the sticky, pasty stuff that’s around the seeds in the pods after you shell them. It’s really nasty to work with. I just separated the seeds, put in a little water, and microwaved it until it boiled. Wait—Did I use a microwave? Yes, I did… Then I stirred it all pretty vigorously to help it dissolve away from the seeds, and pulled the seeds out leaving the pulp.

The Mexicans make a juice out of it that’s really, really good. I guess in Thai and Indian food, it’s used more as a flavoring.

It doesn’t take very long, either. It’s a relatively quick dish to prep and to cook.

This curry didn’t end up being very hot. Not hot at all, in fact. I think it was a really really mild curry paste that I used. But I’ve had Masaman that’s scorching. I like it best as a medium zing. This one was nice, because it’s very flavorful, even if it wasn’t overly hot ‘n spicy.

Dutch Oven Masaman Curry

12” Dutch Oven, 12-14 coals above and below

  • 2 14 oz cans of Coconut Milk
  • 3 tablespoons Curry Paste (I used a mild paste, in the future, I’d probably go with medium hot)
  • 3 medium onions
  • 6-7 medium potatoes
  • 1-2 lbs meat (I used Chicken, but I’ve tasted it with beef, shrimp, and I’ve heard of it with lamb. Most Thai restaurants let you pick the meat.)
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp tamarind pulp
  • ¾ cup peanuts (I used crunchy peanut butter)
  • 3 tsp salt
  • Liberal shaking of cinnamon

I started the whole experience by making the tamarind pulp. I figured that I’d get that out of the way, and if it didn’t work, I’d know pretty early and I could adapt, rather than try and fix something mid-way through the cooking. It took a little trial and error to arrive at the method I described above.

Then, I put the Coconut milk and the Curry paste in the dutch oven and put it on some bottom coals to heat it up. A lot of Indian and Thai recipes, I’ve learned, require that the spices be heated up before adding the rest of the food. It sort of “activates” them.

While that was heating, I sliced up the potatoes, the onions, the meat and put all the other ingredients into a bowl.

Once the milk and curry was bubbling a little bit, I added everything from the bowl into the dutch oven and stirred it up. The peanut butter was a bit tricky, and I had to break it up. I put the additional coals on the top. At that point, all I had to do was keep it hot and stirred until the chicken and the potatoes cooked. It’s that easy.

I got out my 8” dutch oven, and made some rice. I’ve got some nice sticky eastern rice that I like to use when I try (emphasis on the word “try”) to make sushi. So, I put about two cups of rice and two cups of water in the small dutch oven and set it out on the coals that were on top of the curry pot. That I let cook for about 25 minutes or so, and then pulled it off and let it sit, covered, pretty much until the curry was ready.

The curry, I cooked for about an hour. It was sure delicious!

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