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Est. 1996

Issue 221

May 2015

Feature - Massaman

by Peter Grove

 

 

 

 

Massaman or matsaman is not a native Thai word. It is generally thought to refer to the Muslims with earlier writers from the mid-19th century calling the dish "Mussulman curry"; Mussulman being an archaic form of the word Muslim.

The dish is said to have originated in 17th century Central Thailand at the court of Ayutthaya, through the Persian merchant Sheik Ahmad Qomi from whom the Thai noble family of Bunnag descends. Others contend that massaman is a southern Thai dish, influenced by Malay and Indian cuisine, or that its name is derived from the Malay word masam, which means "sour".

The curry is extolled in a poem from the end of the 18th century, attributed to Prince Itsarasunthon of Siam, the later King Rama II (1767-1824). It is dedicated to a lady who is believed to be Princess Bunrot, the later Queen Sri Suriyendra, wife of King Rama II.

Due to its Muslim roots and Islamic dietary laws, this curry is most commonly made with beef, but there are also variations on the dish using duck, chicken, mutton, goat, or, even pork(though not by strict Thai Muslims).

The flavours of massaman curry paste (nam phrik kaeng matsaman) come from spices that are 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 originally by Muslim traders from the Middle East, Indian subcontinent.

These are combined with local dried chili peppers, coriander seeds, lemongrass, galangal, white pepper, shrimp paste, shallots and garlic to make the massaman curry paste. This 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. Massaman is usually eaten with rice, in a meal together with other dishes.

 

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Mood Food is published by PCSM, London, England © 2015

Editor:

Peter J. Grove

Editorial office: PO Box 416 Surbiton, Surrey, England, KT1 9BJ

Tel: 020 8399 4831

email: GroveInt@aol.com