I don’t know when I first had Thai massaman curry but I instantly fell in love with its layered spicy tang and rich flavor. According to David Thompson in Classic Thai Cuisine, the curry may have came from Persia, “probably arriving with Muslim courtiers who were attached to the Siamese court.” In Thai Food, he says that it could have also come from southern Thailand by way of Muslims who arrived with Indian or Arab merchants and traders.
Imagine ideas from the Middle East flowing to the Southeast Asia and flourishing. That is what massamam curry embodies. It’s not overly spicy or too sweet. Just right. And there are often chunks of potato and bits of roasted peanut to add interesting texture. It’s the most complex and time-consuming to make, Thompson says.
I’ve made my own massaman (also spelled as matsaman or mussaman) curry paste in the past but didn’t have the energy to whip it up over the weekend. Instead, I doctored up store-bought paste. There are instructions on the package by Mae Ploy but I’ve never done well with its simple instructions. Pre-made curry paste are convenient but they are one or two-dimensional. How to add extra dimension to come closer to the real, freshly made stuff?