Back in the beginning of November we went to Sway in Austin and had the most amazing Jungle Curry. It was spicy! Spicy with loads of flavour and I wanted to try to recreate it. In “The Complete Asian Cookbook” by Charmaine Solomon there is a recipe for Kaeng Masaman or Muslim Curry and was classified as a very spicy curry. Ooh, I thought, maybe this could be close to the curry from Sway. Hmmm not so much. The flavour was really good but I had to spike it quite a bit at the end of cooking to get some spiciness.
First up was to make the curry paste. Given what I had in my pantry I used already ground spices, except the cardamom pods. The only two ingredients I didn’t have was mace and shrimp paste. And because it is hard to find galangal I substituted ginger.
In a small bowl mix 2 tsp of chilli powder (I do wonder if the book had an error and should be 2 tablespoons), 2 Tablespoons of ground coriander, 1 tsp cumin, and 1 tsp ground cinnamon. Set aside.
In a small skillet heat up 5 cardamom pods without any oil. Shake the pan so the pods don’t burn. You want them to be golden brown. Grind them finely in a spice grinder.
In a skillet saute 1 1/2 cup of chopped onion in olive oil. Once softened add 5-6 finely chopped garlic cloves.
Place in a food processor. Add about an inch or so of ginger, coarsely chopped, and about an inch of sliced lemongrass.
Pulse until it becomes a paste.
Add the spices and pulse to blend.
Cover and chill for a few hours to let the flavours blend.
When it’s time to make the curry gather the ingredients together. The one thing I don’t have access to is tamarind pulp. So I left that out. The rest is pretty easy. In a large skillet bring cubed beef, 14 oz of coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of fish or oyster sauce, 15 cardamom pods, and a few dashes of ground cinnamon to a boil. Then lower to a simmer. Cook until the meat is cooked and tender. The book did mention that you shouldn’t cover the skillet because it will cause the coconut milk to curdle.
Remove the cardamom pods when the beef is cooked. That way it won’t get confused with the peanuts! Stir in a large handful of roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped. Add all the curry paste you made earlier with 2 tablespoons of lime juice.
At this point, I tasted for spiciness. I was already to be blown away but it was very mild! So I added more chilli powder but not wanting that to be a dominating flavour I also added red pepper flakes until I got some heat. The flakes are great because they don’t overwhelm the rest of the dish but brings the heat.
Garnish with some peanuts and cilantro. While this wasn’t close enough to the jungle curry it was a really nice curry. And it showed me that making homemade curry paste isn’t overly difficult. So I’ll be playing around with the flavours for my own paste. :)