Thai Masaman Chicken, 'Gaeng Masaman Gai'

Chili BowlBuy ingredients for this recipe!

The "massaman" indicates that the recipe is of a "musselman" or islamic origin. It probably owes something to early Portuguese influences, and is similar in concept to the "sour and hot" Goan style vindaloo dishes. By Thai standards this is usually a fairly mild curry, so we find it's a good starting point.

In a July 2011 CNN story, Massaman curry was declared "World's Most Delicious Food" (see below).

You might also be interested in our instant massaman which is easy to make and tastes very good.


about 1 pound chicken (you can also use pork or beef), cut into the usual "bite sized pieces"
3 cups of coconut milk.
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts (unsalted)
5 peeled, but whole, small onions.
5 small potatoes, peeled and partly boiled.
3 bay leaves,
5 cardamom seeds
a small piece of roasted cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons palm sugar
1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate mixed with 2.5 tablespoons water
3 tablespoon lime juice
2-3 tablespoons Masaman curry paste.
about 1-3 teaspoons crushed garlic. (optional)


Peel potatoes, boil them partly in a cooking pot for 10-15 minutes, and cut in 1 to 2-inch pieces.

Allow the coconut milk to separate and you will have about two cups of thick "cream" and one cup of thin "milk". In a small saucepan bring the milk to a simmer and add the chicken or pork. If you are using beef you will need another two cups of milk. Simmer the meat until it begins to become tender (beef takes longer, hence the additional milk).

Put the coconut cream in a wok and bring to a boil, add the massaman paste and "stir fry" until the flavor is brought out and maximized. Add the remaining cream and curry paste to the meat.

Add the peanuts. Taste and adjust the flavor until it is (just) sweet (by adding sugar), sour and salty (by adding tamarind juice, lime juice and fish sauce).

Add the remaining ingredients and cook until cooked.

Note : the potatoes used in Thailand for this dish are a yellow fleshed sweet potato of the type sometimes called a yam in the US. Western style potatoes can be used, but absorb less of the sauce and flavor. The potatoes act as a "moderator" to reduce the heat of the curry, and should not be left out.

You can either serve it on a bed of Thai jasmine rice, or double the amount of potato and serve it alone.

Accompany it with a dressed green salad and a bowl of "ajad" (pickled cucumbers--see recipe below). The traditional Thai table also offers chilis in fish sauce (Phrik nam pla--see below) chilis in vinegar (prik dong, see below), and ground chilli (not to be confused with the powedered chilli mix sold as chilli powder in the US), sugar, and often MSG. You can if you wish add about a teaspoon of MSG to the above recipe to bring out the flavors, but we don't think it is necesary.


4 tablespoons white rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2-3 tablespoons cucumber, very coarsely chopped, or sliced
2 shallots (purple onions) chopped
3-4 Thai chile peppers, thinly sliced

Combine the ingredients, and leave to stand overnight.

Nam pla prik

Put two thirds of a cup of Thai chile peppers or jalapeno peppers in a 1 pint jar, and fill with fish sauce. Seal and keep for a week before using.

Prik dong

Put two thirds of a cup of sliced Thai chile peppers in a 1 pint jar, and fill with white rice vinegar. We also offer a ready-made prik dong.

Breaking News!

Thai massaman curry got "First Prize" in CNN's list of the world's 50 most delicious foods. Thailand is "a land where the world's most delicious food is sold on nearly every street corner."

CNN Go World's 50 Most Delicious Foods Massaman curry, Thailand

Masaman Kit. A Great Value.

One of our most popular recipes is "Masaman Gai" which has been featured in our street vendor video series.

Here we've put together a kit of all the ingredients to make dozens of servings of masaman, for such a great price that your cost will end up a fraction of what a restaurant would charge.

2 masaman curry (Hand brand)
1 palm sugar
1 cardamom
1 tamarind concentrate
1 cinnamon stick
1 cloves
3 cans coconut milk 14 oz (large)
2 stainless Thai spoons
Masaman Kit. $19.95 ($33.25 value)
Masaman Kit with Thai Street Vendor DVD $29.95

Thai Street Vendor Video

All of our videos can be found in our Thai Street Vendor Videos section.

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Andy Taylor
September 8th, 2008
8:28 AM
Oh baby, this massaman curry recipe is fantastic! The curry has lots of different tastes the compliment each other beautifully. I spiced my up a bit and threw in some extra shrimp and cauliflower. My wife loves it as well. Last night, as she was eating it, all she said was "yummy,yummy, yummy!" A few minutes later she said, "is there anymore left?" Thanks for posting another "simply divine" recipe.
June 5th, 2009
6:27 AM
Ingredients list cinnamon stick, but it is not mentioned in the recipe. When/how should it be added?
Kathi Taylor
August 19th, 2009
8:28 PM
This is a great recipe. You can also jazz it's appearance up by adding some fresh chopped cilantro and a few slices of avocado. This is how my sister-in-law does it, and she was raised in Thailand.
June 21st, 2010
6:59 PM
Ingredients list cinnamon stick, but it is not mentioned in the recipe. When/how should it be added?
August 20th, 2011
12:54 PM
The recipe mentions fish sauce, which isn't in the ingredients list, and the kit comes with cloves, which aren't mentioned at all. What should I do with those?
charles burd
March 29th, 2012
5:18 PM
i have made this curry many times and love it.

the last time i made it i accidentally allowed the chicken cooking in the coconut milk and the curry paste coconut mixture to come to a vigorous boil for about a minute. after completing the cooking, the sauce seemed to be thicker than normal. normal being when there is not rapid boiling. also, when i refrigerated the uneaten curry, it did not separate and form the hard orange layer on top as normal.

i liked the way this accident made a more thickly textured sauce than before.

i would like to know if anyone has had a similar experience and knows if vigorous boiling makes a better emulsified and thicker sauce.
March 29th, 2012
5:25 PM
in response to some questions:

1) 3 tbs of fish sauce should be in the ingredients list but is not.

2) the cinnamon stick gets added when the recipe states 'add the remaining ingredients'.
January 29th, 2014
1:12 AM
This curry is always cooked on a hi heat I've just come back from Thailand and a great cooking course most of the food we cooked was fast and on a hi heat

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