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Massaman curry

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Massaman curry
Chicken massaman with potato
Place of originThailand
Main ingredientsMeat (beef, duck, or chicken) or tofu, coconut milk, onion, peanuts or cashews, potatoes, bay leaves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, star anise, palm sugar, fish sauce, chili and tamarind juice
Similar dishesSaraman curry[1]

Massaman curry (Thai: แกงมัสมั่น, RTGSkaeng matsaman, pronounced [kɛ̄ːŋ mát.sā.màn] ) is a rich, flavourful, and mildly spicy Thai curry.[2] It is a fusion dish, combining ingredients from three sources: Persia, the Indian Subcontinent, and the Malay Archipelago (e.g., cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cumin, bay leaves, nutmeg, and mace) with ingredients more commonly used in native Thai cuisine (e.g., chili peppers, coriander, lemongrass, galangal, white pepper, shrimp paste, shallots, and garlic) to make massaman curry paste. The substance of the dish is usually based on chicken or other meat, potatoes, onions, and peanuts. The richness comes from the coconut milk and cream used as a base, as for many Thai curries.

In 2011, CNNGo ranked massaman curry as the number one most delicious food in an article titled "World's 50 most delicious foods".[3] However, by a readers’ survey, it ranked number ten.[4] It remained at number one in the official, updated 2018 version.[5]


Due to its Muslim roots and therefore Islamic dietary laws, this curry is most commonly made with chicken, but there are also variations on this dish using duck, beef, venison, mutton, goat, or rarely, pork.[6][7] As pork is haram (forbidden) in Islam, this last variant is not eaten by observant Thai Muslims. Vegetarians and vegans have created their own versions of this dish, such as using tofu and substituting any shrimp paste or fish sauce used.

The Muslim roots of the dish are evident in many of the flavors of the massaman curry paste (nam phrik kaeng matsaman) that come from spices not frequently used in other Thai curries. Cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cumin, bay leaves, nutmeg and mace would, in the 17th century, have been brought to Thailand from the Malay Archipelago and South Asia by foreigners, a trade originally dominated by Muslim traders from the Middle East, Indian subcontinent, and from the archipelago itself, but increasingly undertaken by the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the French East India Company.[8]

These foreign spices and flavors are then combined with local produce and flavors commonly used in native Thai cuisine such as dried chili peppers,[9] coriander seeds, lemongrass, galangal, white pepper, shrimp paste, shallots, and garlic to make the massaman curry paste.

The curry paste is first fried with coconut cream, and only then are meat, potatoes, onions, fish sauce or salt, tamarind paste, sugar, coconut milk and peanuts added.[10][11] Massaman is usually eaten with rice together in a meal with other dishes. There are also traditional versions using oranges, orange juice, or pineapple juice as additional ingredients.[12]


Matsaman nuea (beef massaman) with potato, star anise, cinnamon and clove
Beef massaman curry served in a bowl

The name massaman is a corruption of the term mosalman (Persian: مسلمان),[13] an archaic word derived from Persian, meaning "Muslim"[14] and the name massaman did not exist in Persian or Indian languages.[15] Hence, many earlier writers from the mid-19th century called the dish "Mussulman curry".[16] [17][18]

According to Thai journalist and scholar Santi Sawetwimon, as well as Thai food experts David Thompson and Hanuman Aspler the dish originated in 17th century central Thailand at the cosmopolitan court of Ayutthaya,[19] through the Persian merchant Sheik Ahmad Qomi, from whom the noble Thai Bunnag family descends.[20][21] Most theories contend that massaman is a southern Thai dish influenced by Malay and Indian cuisine.[22]

Ayutthaya, mid-17th century

The curry is extolled in the poem Kap He Chom Khrueang Khao Wan from the end of the 18th century, attributed to Prince Itsarasunthon of Siam (now Thailand), the later King Rama II (1767-1824). It is dedicated to a lady who is thought to be Princess Bunrot, the later Queen Sri Suriyendra, wife of King Rama II. The second stanza of the poem reads:

The first-ever recorded recipe for massaman curry by Lady Plean Passakornrawong in 1889: "Chicken Massaman curry with bitter orange juice", with Massaman spelled Matsaman (หมัดสมั่น).[24] By 2002, it was being included in Australian recipe books as "Musaman beef curry"[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Carter, Terence (13 November 2014). "A Recipe for Saraman Curry or Cari Saramann – a Cambodian curry". Grantourismo Travels. Retrieved 25 October 2019. The similarity between Cambodia's Saraman curry and Thailand's Massaman curry (also written as Mussaman curry) lies in the base curry paste with just a few ingredients setting the Saraman curry apart.
  2. ^ David Thompson, Thai Food (edition 2010), Pavilion Books, pages 329, ISBN 978-1-86205-514-8
    • Kindersley, D. (2011). DK Eyewitness Travel: Ultimate Food Journeys The World's Best Dishes and Where to Eat Them. New York: DK Publishing. p. 252. ISBN 978-075-6-69588-0
  3. ^ "World's 50 most delicious foods". CNNGo. Cable News Network. 21 July 2011. Archived from the original on 9 October 2011. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  4. ^ "World's 50 most delicious foods". CNNGo. Cable News Network. 7 September 2011. Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  5. ^ "The world's 50 best foods". CNN Travel. 14 March 2018. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  6. ^ "Thai Muslim Goat Curry (Wednesday Photo)". Thai Food and Travel Blog.
  7. ^ "Thai Massaman Curry Recipe". Temple of Thai.
  8. ^ Omar Farouk Shaeik Ahmad. "Muslims in the Kingdom of Ayutthaya" (PDF). Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. pp. 208–212. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  9. ^ Cummings, Joe (2000). World Food: Thailand. Melbourne, Australia: Lonely Planet. p. 79. Chili peppers from the Americas were introduced to the region by the Spanish and Portuguese during the 16th and 17th century
  10. ^ Netsuwan, Natty. "Massaman Curry Paste—Prig Gang Mussamun พริกแกงมัสมั่น". ThaiTable.
  11. ^ a b Punyaratabandhu, Leela. "Massaman (Matsaman) Curry Recipe (แกงมัสมั่น)". She Simmers. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  12. ^ "Beef Massaman Curry Recipe". Thai Table.
  13. ^ Lambton, Ann K.S. (1954). Persian Vocabulary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 150. ISBN 978-052-1-09154-1
  14. ^ Cavendish, R. (2022). "Massaman", The Littie book of Curry. Chichester: Summersdale Publishers Ltd. 128 pp. ISBN 978-183-7-99037-5
  15. ^ Toschka, H.Y. , Rattanapanone, N. and Sinsawasdi, V.K. (2022). "Islamic Influence", The Science of Thai Cuisine: Chemical Properties and Sensory Attributes. Florida: CRC Press, an imprint of Taylor & Francis Group. 272 pp. ISBN 978-100-0-62467-0
  16. ^ "massaman". Wiktionary. Retrieved 5 January 2021.
  17. ^ The Magazine of Domestic Economy, Volume 5, p.63 (Google eBook), W.S. Orr & Company, 1840, accessed 2014-08-17: "A Mussulman Curry is made in the same way..."
  18. ^ Sorties into Thai cultural history, Office of the National Culture Commission, Ministry of Education, 1982, accessed on Google Books 2014-08-17
  19. ^ Kabkaew, K., Burapha University International College Thailand. (2023). Global Perspectives on Soft Power Management in Business. Pennsylvania: IGI Global. p. 131. ISBN 979-836-9-30252-1
  20. ^ "How to Make Gaeng Massaman Neua (Thai Massaman Curry With Beef)". Serious Eats. Retrieved 2023-06-30.
  21. ^ Wongcha-Um, Panu (2010). What is Thai Cuisine? Thai Culinary Identity Construction From The Rise of the Bangkok Dynasty to Its Revival (MA Thesis). Singapore: National University of Singapore. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  22. ^ "Southern Thai Massaman Curry". Temple of Thai.
  23. ^ The complete poem in th.wikisource.org (in Thai)
  24. ^ "Massaman Curry - The Untold Story (แกงมัสมั่น - แกงมาชะแมน - แกงหมัดสมั่น)". Thaifoodmaster. 2016-08-28. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  25. ^ bowl food: the new comfort food for people on the move 2002 Murdoch books Ed K Gasparini pp293