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Thai food is spicy. Well, that's the depiction, and most often, it is true. This glorious recipe, however, is not spicy in the least—at least with the chilies that I had used. This dish instead relies upon a complex mixture of spices (such as cardamon, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, garlic, and tamarind) to make a slightly sweet yet complex, aromatic, somewhat tangy dish that has a dazzling number of flavors present in it. This is punctuated by the occasional sharpness of peanut, but the principal flavor is instead the tender and succulent beef that is simmered and infused with coconut milk, which in turn is complemented by the solidity of potatoes and the addition complimentary vegetables. All combine together quite well, and served over rice, it makes for a hearty and excellent meal—and an intriguing distinction from the normal tones of Thai cuisine.
This recipe divides itself naturally into two parts: fabricating the curry paste that forms a vital flavoring element and the actual preparation of the food. Together they take quite some time. But the process could be done separately—or even together—it isn't too terribly difficult; although it certainly is not a fast and easy recipe. Thus, in my recounting of it and of its ingredients, I have endeavored to keep the two clearly separate, since it might be desirable to make the curry paste separately for another meal or to make large batches of it that could be stored and used over time. Don't be intimidated about the length of the ingredients list! The recipe is not as hard as it would seem off of its length, and most of the ingredients can be found in general-purpose grocery stores.
The recipe presented here is an adaption from Real Thai: The Best of Thai Regional Cooking by Nancie McDermott. The original name of the recipe presented in Thai is Gaeng Mussamun. I have just recently acquired this book, but it already seems to possess a vast variety of good recipes. I would advise in particular getting it for the original spice paste which it presents, mine had to be varied to suit American conditions.
I would estimate this as having a servings size of eight for American standards in conjunction with rice. In my pictures, I have used cabbage, but I recommend using carrots in it after thinking about it afterwards.
- 1/5 cup dried, coarsely chopped, and seeded red chillies, for spice paste
- 1 teaspoon cumin, for spice paste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, for spice paste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, for spice paste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, for spice paste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, for spice paste
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg, for spice paste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon, for spice paste
- 2 stalks fresh lemongrass or 2 teaspoons lemongrass paste, for spice paste
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, for spice paste
- 1 teaspoon salt, for spice paste
- 6 chopped garlic cloves, for spice paste
- 1 chopped shallot, for spice paste
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce, for spice paste
- 5 cups coconut milk
- 2 pounds boneless beef, cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cardamon
- 3 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 onion
- 3/4 cup roasted peanuts
- juice of 1 freshly squeezed lime
- 1 1/2 lb peeled and chopped potatoes
- 2 peeled and chopped carrots
- Preparing the curry paste comes first. Chop and seed enough peppers to fill up 1/5 of a cup, and then place them in a bowl with hot water to soak for 20 minutes.
- Combine the cumin, black pepper, coriander, 1/2 teaspoon cardamon, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and then proceed to dry-cook in a skillet over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until they start to brown and emit a fragrant smell. Remove and place into a bowl
- Combine together the aforementioned spices, lemongrass or lemongrass paste, ginger, chopped garlic cloves, chopped shallot, and 2 teaspoons fish sauce, in a small blender or with a mortar and pestle. Blend to a thick paste, adding some additional water if needed. Store in the refrigerator, it can be kept for some time.
- Place the coconut milk in a large casserole pot, and bring it to a gentle boil. Add in the beef, and simmer for 50 minutes, then add in the potatoes.
- Bring the 1 cup of cream to a gentle boil, and then add in the spice paste. Stir it together, then combine with the beef and coconut milk.
- Add in the remaining fish sauce, tamarind, the 1 teaspoon cardamon, 3 teaspoons cinnamon, chopped and peeled carrots, and simmer for 10 minutes. Then add the onions and peanuts, and cook another 10 minutes. Finally provide the lime juice, adjust seasonings if desired to ensure a sweet, sour, salty mixture, and serve warm.
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© 2018 Ryan Thomas