• Massaman lamb shanks with pancakes and cucumber relish (China Squirrel)

This recipe has been passed down from my grandmother. I make the curry paste from scratch - toasting the spices and pounding fresh lemongrass and galangal together - for big depth of flavour.






Skill level

Average: 3.1 (71 votes)


Massaman curry

  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 800 ml coconut milk
  • 400 ml water
  • 1 quantity massaman curry paste (from above)
  • 400 ml coconut cream
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ cup raw peanuts
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 lemon, juiced 


Massaman paste

  • 4-6 dried red chillies, deseeded, soaked in water for 15 minutes
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 pinch grated mace or nutmeg
  • 10 white peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp grated galangal
  • 10 small red Asian shallots
  • 10 small garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped lemongrass
  • 1 tbsp roasted peanuts
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste (see Note)



  • 310 ml (1¼ cup) water
  • 300 g (2 cups) plain white flour
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) sesame oil


Cucumber relish

  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 long red chilli, finely diced
  • 1 red Asian shallot, finely diced
  • 125 ml (½ cup) water
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) white vinegar
  • 55 g (¼ cup) caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

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.


For the curry, season the lamb shanks with a pinch of salt and place in a pressure cooker, add the coconut milk and water, seal according to the manufacturer’s instructions, cook on high until the pressure is activated, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 40 minutes.

For the curry paste, toast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom pods, cloves, mace and peppercorns in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat until fragrant – being careful not to burn the spices. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and pound until finely ground.

Transfer to a food processor, add the drained dried chillies, galangal, shallot, garlic, lemongrass, and peanuts and blend until smooth.

Transfer back to the mortar and pestle, add the shrimp past and pound until combined.

When the lamb is cooked, release the pressure according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Remove 2 tbsp of the oil from the surface, heat in a heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat, add the curry paste and fry until fragrant.

Transfer the lamb and its braising liquid into the pan and stir to combine with the curry paste.

Add the coconut cream, cinnamon, bay leaves, peanuts, fish sauce, sugar and lemon juice, bring to a simmer and cook gently for 45 minutes or until thick and creamy.

For the cucumber pickle, combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once it comes to a simmer, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Using a julienne peeler, finely shred the cucumbers (do not include the seeds) and combine with the chilli and shallot in a bowl. Pour over the cooled vinegar mixture.

For the pancakes, bring the water to the boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Add the flour and stir until a dough forms. Turn the dough onto a lightly dusted workbench and knead until smooth and elastic. Form into log and slice the dough into 12 balls.

Roll each into a 2 mm-thick round, then cut out a 10 cm-diameter circle.

Heat a small non-stick frying pan over high heat, when hot, lightly brush both sides of a pancake and add to the pan. Cook both sides until lightly golden. Repeat with the remaining pancakes.

Serve the curry with the pancakes topped with cucumber relish.


Cook's notes

• I prefer to use Tra Chang brand of shrimp paste.


Photography, styling and food preparation by China Squirrel


This recipe is from The Chefs' Line - a brand new series airing weeknights at 6pm on SBS. Can the passion of a home cook beat the skills of a professional chef? Missed all the action? Catch-up online and get all the recipes #TheChefsLine.

This recipe has been edited by SBS Food and may differ slightly from the series.