Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mussamun Curry Paste

My brother and his wife got me a great curry cookbook for Christmas a few years ago, and after opening it up the other day, I got hungry for some labor-intensive Indian food. In the back are a few recipes for curry paste (red, green, yellow) and one for "Thai-Style Mussamun Curry Paste" that serves as a base for an interesting curry containing chicken, potatoes, and peanuts. After looking at the ingredient list I knew I had to make it.

This paste has a bunch of sweet spices and an undercurrent of a kick from the dried chiles. Apparently it some ceremonial purposes in Thailand (weddings, births, ordinations of Buddhist monks), and it tastes pretty incredible. All the up-front work you put in pays off, since making homemade curry is so quick with some curry paste on hand. I happend to have all the whole spices (except for the turmeric), so I went overkill: here's a photo of some cardamom pods I cracked open, just to give you an idea of how far you can take this recipe if you're in the mood.

The Mussamun curry recipe in this cookbook calls for 2 cans of coconut milk, 2 lbs cut up chicken breast, 1 large peeled, chopped potato, and 1 onion cut into chunks, along with 1/2 c dry-roasted salted peanuts, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 3 Tbsp dissolved tamarind paste, 2 Tbsp lime juice, and salt to taste. Combine 5 Tbsp curry paste with 1/2 c of coconut milk over medium-high heat, lightly brown the chicken, then add everything else besides the lime juice. Bring to a boil, simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, add the lime juice, and serve with basmati rice. FYI, I also made this with a couple of blocks of cubed, pan-fried extra firm tofu (frozen overnight, thawed during the day, and hand-squeezed dry), adding the tofu a few minutes before taking the curry off the heat, and it was at least as good as the original recipe.

Thai-Style Mussamun Curry Paste
  • 15 small dried red chili peppers (chiles de arbol, the slender ones about the size of your pinkie)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c coarsely chopped onion
  • 1/2 c chopped garlic
  • 3 Tbsp minced fresh lemongrass (the white sections of about 3 stalks)
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • few Tbsp water
  1. Stem the chilies, remove the seeds, and cut them into small pieces using kitchen shears. There will be about 1/4 c of dried chilies. Place in a small bowl and add warm water to cover, then soak for about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, combine cumin and coriander seds in a small, dry frying pan. Toast over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring often, until fragrant and slightly darkened. Remove from heat and combine with the rest of the spices. In a food processor, combine the onion, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, 2 Tbsp of water, drained chilies, and the spice mixture. Process to a fairly smooth, evenly colored-paste.
  3. Transfer to an airtight jar and seal. Refrigerate until needed for up to 1 months, or freeze for up to 6 months.