Massaman curry (Thai: มัสมั่น, RTGSmatsaman, pronounced [mát.sā.màn] (About this soundlisten)) is a rich, relatively mild Thai curry.[1] Cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cumin, bay leaves, nutmeg and mace (spices that are not frequently used in Thai curries) are combined with more local flavors such as dried chili peppers, cilantro seeds, lemongrass, galangal, white pepper, shrimp paste, shallots and garlic to make massaman curry paste.

Massaman curry
Kaeng matsaman kai.JPG
Chicken massaman with potato
Place of originThailand
Main ingredientsMeat (beef, duck, or chicken) or tofu, coconut milk, onion, peanuts or cashews, potatoes, bay leaves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, star anise, palm sugar, fish sauce, chili and tamarind sauce

In 2011, CNNGo ranked massaman curry as the #1 most delicious food in an article titled World's 50 most delicious foods.[2] However, the survey later that year, subtitled Readers' picks, ranked it #10.[3] It remained at #1 in the updated 2018 version.[4]


Due to its Muslim roots and therefore Islamic dietary laws, this curry is most commonly made with chicken, but there are also variations on this dish using duck, beef, mutton, goat, or, less commonly, pork.[5][6] As pork is haram (forbidden) in Islam, this last variant is not eaten by observant Thai Muslims. Vegetarians and vegans have created their own versions of this dish, possibly using tofu and substituting for any shrimp paste or fish sauce used.

The flavors of the 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 by foreigners, a trade originally dominated by Muslim traders from the Middle East, Indian subcontinent, and from the archipelago itself, but increasingly undertaken by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the French East India Company.[7] These are combined with local produce and flavors such as dried chili peppers,[8] cilantro (coriander) seeds, lemongrass, galangal, white pepper, shrimp paste, shallots and garlic to make the massaman curry paste.

The curry 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.[9][10] Massaman is usually eaten with rice together in a meal with other dishes. There are also traditional versions using oranges, orange juice, or pineapple juice as additional ingredients.[11][12]


Matsaman nuea (beef massaman) with potato, star anise, cinnamon and clove

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 Muslim.[13][14]

According to Thai food expert David Thompson, as well as Thai journalist and scholar Santi Sawetwimon, the dish originated in 17th century central Thailand at the cosmopolitan court of Ayutthaya, through the Persian merchant Sheik Ahmad Qomi, from whom the noble Thai Bunnag family descends.[15] Other theories contend that massaman is a southern Thai dish influenced by Malay and Indian cuisine,[16] or that its name is derived from the Malay word masam, which means 'sour'.[citation needed]

The city of Ayutthaya, mid-17th century

The curry is extolled in the Kap He Chom Khrueang Khao Wan poem from the end of the 18th century, attributed to Prince Itsarasunthon of Siam (now Thailand), 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. The second stanza of the poem reads:

มัสมั่นแกงแก้วตา หอมยี่หร่ารสร้อนแรง
ชายใดได้กลืนแกง แรงอยากให้ใฝ่ฝันหา[17][18]

Massaman, a curry made by my beloved, is fragrant of cumin and strong spices.
Any man who has swallowed the curry is bound to long for her.

The first-ever recorded recipe for massaman curry by Lady Plean Passakornrawong in 1889: "Chicken Massaman curry with bitter orange juice", with Massaman spelled Matsaman (หมัดสมั่น).[19]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ David Thompson, Thai Food (edition 2010), Pavilion Books, pages 329, ISBN 978-1-86205-514-8
  2. ^ "World's 50 most delicious foods". CNNGo. Cable News Network. 21 July 2011. Archived from the original on 9 October 2011. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  3. ^ "World's 50 most delicious foods". CNNGo. Cable News Network. 7 September 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  4. ^ "The world's 50 best foods". CNN Travel. 14 March 2018. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Thai Muslim Goat Curry (Wednesday Photo)". Thai Food and Travel Blog.
  6. ^ "Thai Massaman Curry Recipe » Temple of Thai". Temple of Thai.
  7. ^ p. 208-212
  8. ^ Cummings, Joe (2000). World Food: Thailand. Melbourne, Australia: Lonely Planet. p. 79. Chili peppers from the Americas were introduced to the region by the Spanish and Portuguese during the 16th and 17th century
  9. ^ "Massaman Curry Paste - Prig Gang Mussamun พริกแกงมัสมั่น". ThaiTable.
  10. ^ Leela. "Massaman (Matsaman) Curry Recipe". SheSimmers.
  11. ^ "Beef Massaman Curry Recipe". ThaiTable.
  12. ^ David Thompson's Mussaman Curry of Duck
  13. ^ The Magazine of Domestic Economy, Volume 5, p.63 (Google eBook), W.S. Orr & Company, 1840, accessed 2014-08-17: "A Mussulman Curry is made in the same way..."
  14. ^ Sorties into Thai cultural history, Office of the National Culture Commission, Ministry of Education, 1982, accessed on Google Books 2014-08-17
  15. ^ "What is Thai Cuisine? Thai Culinary Identity Construction From The Rise of the Bangkok Dynasty to Its Revival". Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  16. ^ "Southern Thai Massaman Curry » Temple of Thai Food". Temple of Thai Food.
  17. ^ The complete poem in (in Thai)
  18. ^ The translation is partially based on the one in Leela Punyaratabandhu's article
  19. ^ "Massaman Curry - The Untold Story (แกงมัสมั่น - แกงมาชะแมน - แกงหมัดสมั่น)". 2016-08-28. Retrieved 2016-08-28.