"Muslim Style" Chicken Curry

kaeng masaman kai

This is an authentic Thai recipe from Muoi Khuntilanont's Kitchen. The recipe was written up by Muoi's husband, Ian Philpott.


This was the first of a series of my wife's Thai recipes posted on the Internet. The "masaman" indicates that the recipe is of a "musselman" or Islamic origin, and it probably owes something to early Portuguese influences, and is similar in concept to the "sour and hot" Goan style vindaloo dishes. By Thai standards this is usually a fairly mild curry, so I find it is a good starting point. It is also one of my favorite curries.

The curry paste can be prepared in advance and stored in the fridge in a preserving jar for several weeks or even months.

The potatoes used can be "normal" western style potatoes, or any of the sweet potatoes. (I prefer the latter, as it seems to complement the flavor of the curry, and western style potatoes are far from common, and quite expensive in Thailand, so clearly not the normal authentic component of the dish).

This recipe can also be prepared with pork (kaeng masaman mu) or beef (kaeng masaman nuea)

A recipe for the masaman curry paste can be found here.

  • 1 pound of chicken, cut into "bite sized pieces"
  • 5 small potatoes, peeled and partly boiled.
  • 5 peeled, but whole, small onions. (the type sometimes sold as "pickling onions")
  • 3 cups of coconut milk.
  • 3 tablespoons palm sugar (you can use a light brown sugar instead if youcan't get palm sugar)
  • 3 tablespoons tamarind juice (this is the "sour" ingredient - youcan use white vinegar instead if you can't get tamarind juice. The juice is madeby soaking tamarind paste in a little water then squeezing it out, and running it through a sieve to extract the juice from the pulp).
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons roasted peanuts (unsalted), broken
  • 1-3 tablespoons masaman curry paste
  • 1-3 teaspoons crushed garlic.
  • 3 bay leaves,
  • 5 roasted cardomom fruits (i.e. the whole pod)
  • a small piece of roasted cinnamon bark


Allow the coconut milk to separate, bu leaving it standing in a cool place,and you will have about 1 cup of thick "cream" and two cups of thin "milk".In a small saucepan bring the milk to a simmer and add the chicken or pork. If you are using beef you will need another two cups of milk. Simmer the meat until it is beginning to become tender (beef takes longer, hence the additional milk).

Put the coconut cream in a wok and bring to a boil, add the masaman paste and "stir fry" until the flavor is brought out and maximised. The coconut oil will seperate out and can be skimmed off with a spoon or ladle (this removes much of the vegetable "cholesterol", and makes the dish much less trouble for those watching their weight or heart).

Add the remaining cream and curry paste to the meat.

Add the peanuts. taste and adjust the flavor until it is (just) sweet (by adding sugar), sour and salty (by adding tamarind juice, lime juice and fish sauce).

Add the remaining ingredients and cook until cooked.

Note: The potatoes act as a "moderator" to reduce the heat of the curry, and should not be left out.


You can either serve it on a bed of rice, or double the amount of potato and serve it alone. Accompany it with a dressed green salad and a bowl of pickled cucumbers. The traditional Thai table also offers chillies in fish sauce (prik nampla) chillies in vinegar (prik nam som or prik dong), powdered chilli (prik phon - not to be confused with the powdered chilli mix sold as chilli powder in the US - it only contains chillis), sugar, and often MSG.

You can if you wish add about a teaspoon of MSG to the above recipe to bring out the flavors, but I personally don't think it is necessary.