Masaman Curry Paste

nam prik kaeng masaman

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


Masaman curry is a delicate blend of hot and sour, originating from the Islamic south, possibly brought by early Portuguese traders.

  • 10-20 dried red chillies
  • 4-6 tablespoons kratiem (garlic), chopped
  • 4 tablespoons chopped shallots (i.e. the small red skinned onions)
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander seed
  • 1 tablespoon "kaffir" lime skin (ordinary lime skin will do if you can't get it)
  • 1 tablespoon kapi (fermented shrimp paste - note this smells awful until after you cook it, but it is quite essential to the flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (from fresh bark)
  • 1 teaspoon gound cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground star anise
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 2" pieces of lemon grass stalk, sliced into thin rounds
  • a cube about half an inch on a side of galangal root, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons of fish sauce.


The galangal is roasted before use. The ground spices should preferably be fresh, in which case you should briefly toast them in a wok without any oil to bring out the flavor before grinding them. The ingredients are blended to a fine paste (traditionally in a heavy granite mortar and pestle, but you can use a food processor just as well, and with far less effort). Note if you can get fresh red chillies you can usefully use them instead of the dried ones.

Shelf Life

You can keep this paste in a well stoppered bottle in a cool place for 3-4 weeks. Alternatively it can be frozen and kept for 3-4 months. I recomend freezing it in an ice-cube tray to form known quantities for subsequent use.