Samui Wining & Dining
Do it Yourself

This month’s take-home taste of Thailand is Massaman Curry and comes courtesy of Banana Fan Sea Resort’s beachside Baitong Restaurant..



 After those last few grains of hard-to-find sand have finally been scrubbed away and the suntan has faded, what have you got left? What remains of your glorious holiday on Samui? There’re the photos, of course. But the problem with photos is that, although you can show them around, they’re your personal memories. Just about the only experience that you can share with friends back home is the food; the real taste of Thailand. And that’s something you can all enjoy together.

Thai food varies hugely. The sour and spicy dishes of the north-east are quite different to the mild and milky southern fare. Thus what could be a more fitting culinary souvenir of your time here than a typically southern Thai dish? And this month’s recipe is for massaman curry and it comes to us from the kitchens of Baitong Restaurant at Banana Fan Sea Resort in Chaweng.

Even the name ‘massaman’ is exotic. It evokes the flavours of glorious empires passed. It conjures images of turbaned sultans and slaves. It originates from the word ‘muselman’, meaning ‘Muslim’, originally Persian in origin but having filtered into common European usage in the days when sailing ships were exploring the world, in the 16th and 17th centuries.


         The deep south of mainly-Buddhist Thailand has a high Muslim population in the areas where it borders onto neighbouring mainly-Muslim Malaysia. And the now-evolved name of ‘massaman’ curry draws strongly on these local traditions. It lacks the searing chili heat of its other Thai cousins and relies rather upon cardamom, cinnamon and black peppercorns for its tang. It’s one of the very few truly southern Thai dishes and a real treat to enjoy overlooking the beach at Baitong Restaurant. But if you can’t get there to experience it for yourself, then here’s how to make it, with special thanks to Executive Chef, Khun Sophon Nakchareon, for his recipe.


Massaman Chicken Curry (massaman gaeng kai)

Serves two



1 chicken leg and 2 thighs

4 tbsp curry paste (to taste)

3 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp fish sauce (to taste)

2 tbsp tamarind paste (to taste)

1 tbsp palm sugar (to taste)

½ tbsp salt (to taste)

1 cup coconut cream

1 cup coconut milk

1 cup white potatoes

1 cup chopped onions (or peeled whole shallots)

¼ cup well-roasted peanuts, whole

2 cloves garlic

4 pods cardamom

2 cassia leaves dried

2 1-inch cinnamon sticks



Either use the whole leg and thighs or cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces according to preference. Peel and cut the potatoes into 2cm chunks.

Heat up the coconut milk in a large saucepan. Once it has reached boiling point, stir-in some of the curry paste and bring the liquid back to the boil. Keep tasting the mix and add curry paste until it is at the preferred level of spiciness.

Add the chicken and bring back to the boil. Simmer and stir while turning for 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.

Add the coconut cream, chopped potatoes, fish sauce and tamarind paste (if required), sugar and salt, garlic, cassia leaves, cardamom and stir.

Simmer until the potato is tender when tested with a fork, approximately 10 minutes.

Add the roasted peanuts, re-heat, and serve garnished with the cinnamon sticks and chopped spring onions. Top with sprigs of coriander. Serve along with the rice of your preference.


Note: This can’t often happen in restaurants, but if you allow the prepared curry to sit overnight, the herbs and spices will more-fully permeate the meat and potatoes (which should be slightly undercooked so that they don’t soften upon re-heating). It’s one of those rare dishes which keeps well and develops in complexity and depth over time. Also, the taste is notably enhanced by using well-roasted peanuts, rather than the more-usually prescribed cashew nuts.






Rob De Wet



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