Musalman--the Indian word for Muslim--gives this curry paste its name and distinctive taste. Instead of using ground spices, the recipe begins with toasting whole spices in a cast-iron pan. Whole peppercorns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and a stick of cinnamon are browned slightly in the skillet. Then the spices are finely ground, which is best accomplished with a spice or coffee grinder. Such a preparation is akin to that of some Indian curries for which whole spices are toasted and freshly ground.
A sauce made with Mussaman curry paste bears notes of its toasted past, with a deeper, darker flavor. The paste is often used with beef and potatoes, but it is just as suited for richly textured seafood such as jumbo shrimp.
Adapted from From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey.
- 7 large red dried chilies
- 1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
- 1-inch piece of cinnamon
- 1 cup shallots, choppped
- 5 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemongrass, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
Place the chilies in a small bowl with approximately 1/4 cup of hot water. Microwave the chilies in the water for 2 to 3 minutes, then let sit for 30 minutes.
Put the peppercorns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and cinnamon in a small, cast-iron frying pan and set over medium heat. Stir the spices around until they turn a slight shade darker and emit a faintly toasted aroma. Empty them into your coffee or spice grinder and allow them to cool for a minute or so.
Grind the spices as finely as possible in the coffee or spice grinder.
Place all of the ingredients in a blender or a food processor. Purée, adding a few tablespoons of water if needed to get the mixture properly blended. Pause to push down the ingredients with a spatula. Use immediately or freeze in plastic bags.