There's no doubting the comforting nature of massaman curry. The relatively mild mix is less of an assault on the senses, and more like a rejuvenating aromatherapy session.
But where most Thai curries can be whipped up in short order, making them ideal for a weeknight meal, massaman (or matsaman) is kind of the exception. Sure, you can buy a very good can of the paste ready to go (I particularly like the Maesri brand), but the curry usually features potatoes and stewed beef; while the former ingredient can be finished in less than a half hour, the latter likes to take its sweet time simmering before becoming appropriately tender. But if meat is holding up this dish, why not take it out?
Instead, I loaded the curry with eggplant, which were cubed, cooked for a bit in the curry paste, and then simmered until very tender. They help to approximate the succulent texture of the beef. I also wanted some color to help perk it up, eventually deciding on broccoli florets. But don't go chucking those in the pot right away; they aren't added until the last five minutes, so they remain bright green and maintain a slight crunch.
The result has all the comfort I expect from massaman curry, but can also be finished in about 30 minutes.
- 1 (13 ounce) can coconut milk
- 1/4 cup massaman curry paste (I use Maesri brand)
- 1 pound Thai or Japanese eggplant, ends trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 6 ounces Yukon gold potatoes (about 1 medium), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste
- 8 ounces broccoli, ends trimmed, florets cut in half
- 2 tablespoons juice from about 2 limes
- Handful fresh basil leaves
- Steamed white or jasmine rice, for serving
Use a spoon to remove 1/2 cup of the cream that has risen to the top of the coconut milk can. Heat cream in a wok over medium-high heat until bubbling. Add massaman curry paste, stir constantly, and cook until the fat starts to separate, about 5 minutes.
Add the chopped eggplant and potatoes and stir well to coat in the paste. Cook until eggplant starts to soften, two to three minutes.
Add sugar, fish sauce, and remaining coconut milk, and add enough water to barely cover the vegetables, about 1 cup. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender, ten to fifteen minutes.
Add broccoli, stir well, and simmer until tender but still crisp, three to five minutes. Pour in lime juice and season to taste with salt or more fish sauce if desired. Stir in basil and serve curry with rice.