Chicken Massaman Curry (Kaeng Matsaman Kai)

[Photograph: Leela Punyaratabandhu]

For maximum flavor, it is best to use bone-in pieces of chicken in this curry. The dried spices are optional, but recommended.

Note: Massaman has several spelling variants. Look for anything resembling "massaman" or "masman" on the labels of commercial curry paste.

About the author: Leela is the author of the Thai food blog You can follow her at @shesimmers

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Chicken Massaman Curry (Kaeng Matsaman Kai)

About This Recipe

Yield:serves 4
Active time:15 minutes
Total time:30 minutes
This recipe appears in: My Thai: Chicken Massaman Curry (Kaeng Matsaman Kai)


  • 1 (13-ounce) can of full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup prepared Massaman curry paste (see note above)
  • 8 medium-sized chicken drumsticks (about 3 pounds)
  • 1 pound of waxy potatoes (such as red potatoes or yukon gold), peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 8 large shallots, peeled or 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered
  • 3 tablespoons finely-chopped palm sugar or 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons prepared tamarind pulp
  • 3 cinnamon sticks (optional)
  • 4 pieces of star anise (optional)
  • 1/3 cups dry roasted peanuts (optional)


  1. 1

    Spoon out about 3/4 cup of the creamy part of the coconut milk that rises to the top of the can and put that in a large heavy-bottomed pot along with the curry paste. Fry the mixture over medium-high heat until the coconut milk starts to turn oily.

  2. 2

    Add the chicken drumsticks to the pot along with the remaining coconut milk, sugar, fish sauce, tamarind pulp, and just enough water to barely cover the chicken.

  3. 3

    Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat; immediately reduce the heat to medium to achieve a simmer. Let the chicken stew, covered, for 10 minutes.

  4. 4

    Add the potatoes, shallots, and dried spices (if used) to the pot. Add more water, if necessary to make sure all ingredients are submerged. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer. Continue to cook, covered, until the chicken, potatoes, and shallots are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

  5. 5

    Stir in the peanuts (if used). Remove the curry from heat and let it cool down a bit before serving with steamed jasmine rice.


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