Mussamun Curry Beef with Potatoes and Peanuts

Gaeng Mussamun Neua

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Vibrant with a chorus of cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves, and cardamom, mussamun curry is the centerpiece of celebration meals throughout the Thai kingdom. In the classic version, generous chunks of beef are simmered slowly in coconut milk until tender, then seasoned with tamarind and infused with an elaborate paste redolent of sweet spices. Thais love it with chicken as well, especially drumsticks.

Here I have used tender beef sliced thinly to cook quickly. You can also use ground beef or lamb shaped into meatballs, or chicken legs or wings. Any way you make it, gaeng mussamun is a glorious dish, our house curry for parties, and for carrying to potluck suppers along with jasmine rice. Originating in the Muslim communities of southern Thailand, mussamun curry always makes a memorable feast.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless beef, such as tri-tip, flank steak, or rib eye; or 1 pound boneless chicken thighs or breast; or 8 chicken legs
  • 3 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • ¾ cup mussamun curry paste
  • cups chicken or beef broth
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in big, bite-sized chunks (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large onion, quartered lengthwise and cut in large chunks (about cups)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dry-roasted salted peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, or tamarind liquid, or Indian-style tamarind chutney

Method

Slice beef crosswise into very thin, 2-inch strips. (If using chicken, chop thighs into big, bite-sized chunks, and slice breast meat crosswise into 2-inch strips.) Set meat aside.

In a medium saucepan or heavy skillet, bring 1 cup of the coconut milk to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant and beginning to thicken. Add the curry paste and cook 2 to 3 minutes, pressing and stirring to dissolve it into the coconut milk. Add the meat and cook 2 minutes more, tossing to coat it with the sauce.

Add the remaining 2 cups coconut milk, the chicken broth, potatoes, onion, fish sauce, palm sugar, and salt and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the peanuts and lime juice, transfer to a serving bowl, and serve hot or warm.