This recipe is an ancient recipe from central Thailand, where the gaeng massaman is cooked with various Thai herbs and finished with a significant amount of curry broth to be enjoyed with rice.






Skill level

Average: 3.6 (26 votes)


  • 250 ml (8½ fl oz/1 cup) vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) beef brisket or chuck steak, cut into 3–5 cm (1¼–2 in) pieces
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 9 pickling onions or small red shallots, quartered
  • 5 green cardamom pods
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) coconut milk or water
  • 1 litre (1 quart/4 cups) coconut cream
  • 100 g (3½ oz) roasted peanuts
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 50 g (1¾ oz) palm sugar, finely grated, plus extra if necessary
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce, plus extra if necessary
  • 1 tbsp tamarind concentrate, plus extra if necessary
  • steamed jasmine rice, to serve

Massaman curry paste (see Note)

  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2-cm (¾ in) piece cinnamon
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • ½ tsp ground mace
  • ½ tsp whole white peppercorns
  • 6 dried red chillies, deseeded, soaked in cold water until soft, then drained
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped galangal
  • 2½ tbsp chopped lemongrass
  • 3 coriander (cilantro) roots, scraped clean and finely chopped
  • 4 red shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tbsp roasted peanuts

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


  1. First, make the curry paste. In a dry frying pan over low heat, working with one spice at a time, toast the star anise, cloves, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and mace until fragrant and lightly coloured. Remove from the heat and transfer to a mortar and pestle, along with the white peppercorns. Pound the  spices into a fine powder, sift into a bowl and set aside.
  2. In a dry wok over medium heat, cook the chillies, galangal, lemongrass and coriander root, stirring constantly, until lightly coloured. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for a further 3–4 minutes, until everything is golden brown and fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and pestle.
  3. Pound the chillies, galangal, lemongrass, coriander root, shallot and garlic into a smooth paste. Add the toasted spices and pound and stir until thoroughly combined. Transfer the paste to a small bowl and mix in the salt and peanuts. Set aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a wok or a deep heavy-based saucepan over medium heat until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 30 seconds – approximately 180°C (350°F). Deep-fry the beef pieces until golden, then remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towel. Repeat with the potato and onion.
  5. In a dry frying pan over low heat, toast the cardamom until fragrant and lightly coloured. Remove from the heat.
  6. Place the beef pieces in a large saucepan, along with the coconut milk or water and half of the coconut cream. Bring to the boil over medium–high heat and add the toasted cardamom pods, peanuts, cinnamon and bay leaves. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer for 1 hour.
  7. Meanwhile, in a wok over medium–high heat, crack the remaining coconut cream by cooking it until the oil separates from the coconut solids. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring frequently to prevent the paste from burning, for 10 minutes, until fragrant, oily and sizzling. Add the palm sugar and stir until dissolved and beginning to caramelise. Add the fish sauce and tamarind concentrate, continuing to stir for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside until the beef has cooked for 1 hour.
  8. Stir the curry paste mixture into the beef, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender. Add the potato and onion and simmer for a further 30–40 minutes, until the potato is tender. Check the curry for seasoning; it should have a balance of sweet, sour and salty flavours. Adjust the seasoning with extra palm sugar, tamarind concentrate or fish sauce if necessary.
  9. Serve hot with steamed jasmine rice.



This recipe will make more paste than you'll need for the curry (you only need 120 g). Remaining paste will keep in a jar in the fridge for 2-3 days.


Recipe and images from Bangkok Local by Sareen Rojanametin and Jean Thamthanakorn, Smith Street Books, RRP $39.99