Massaman Beef Curry

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One of the many memorable and popular dishes on the 6-nation backpack journey through South East Asia at The Union, was the luscious massaman beef curry created by Chef Lisa Henderson. For those who missed it – and for those who want to replicate it at home – here is the recipe.

Ingredients (Serves 6)

1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
3 star anise
6 cardamom pods
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
650 g stewing beef, cubed
2 cans coconut milk (2 X 400ml)
3 Tbsp massaman curry paste (purchased or scratch)
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp tamarind concentrate
2 Tbsp grated palm sugar (or brown)
2 bay leaves
1 stalk of lemongrass, smashed with the back of a knife
3 magrut (kaffir) lime leaves, crumpled and rubbed between palms to release oils
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 fresh Thai chile
5 small potatoes, quartered
lime wedges and thai basil for garnish
1/2 cup salted dry-roasted peanuts, crushed


Preheat oven to 350º. Combine cinnamon stick, star anise and cardamom pods in a cheesecloth sachet. Heat oil in a large fry pan. Brown beef in batches and transfer to a roasting pan. Add 2 T. coconut cream to pan. Cook over medium heat for 20 seconds or until hot. Add curry paste. Cook for 1 minute until aromatic. Add to the beef in the roasting pan. To the roasting pan, add remaining cans of coconut milk, fish sauce, tamarind, sugar, cheesecloth sachet, bay leaves, lemongrass, kaffir lime, onion and Thai chili. If necessary, add enough water to just cover the beef cubes. After about one hour, add the quartered potatoes. Cook in oven for 1.5 – 2 hours or until meat is tender. Serve with steamed Thai fragrant rice. Garnish with lime wedge, Thai basil and crushed peanuts.


Recipes Copyright © 2014 / The Union.


Ingredients, with the exception of beef, yellow onions, potatoes and peanuts, are available at South China Seas.

Chef Lisa Henderson, The Union.

Chef Lisa Henderson began her cooking career in Tofino in the early ’90s mentoring under a fiery Chilean at the popular Alley Way Cafe. In 1997 she went on to run her own kitchen at highly regarded RainCoast Café, which featured a modern and innovative menu reflective of her journeys throughout Southeast Asia. Lisa returned to Vancouver in 2009 with her family, opening Latitude on Main Street (now El Camino’s) before becoming Chef at, The Union in 1012.

Massaman Curry Paste


12 dried Thai red chiles, seeded
10 cloves garlic, peeled
3 lemongrass stalks, tough outer layers removed, thinly sliced
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
1-1/2″ piece peeled galangal, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
6 whole cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
1″ piece cinnamon stick
2 Tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup cilantro root and/or stems
1/4 cup salted, dry-roasted peanuts
1/2 cup ground nutmeg
1/2 cup ground turmeric
1/2 cup kosher salt


Preheat oven to 350º. Soak seeded chiles in warm water for 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Toss chiles, garlic, lemongrass, shallot, and galangal with oil and spread on a baking sheet. Toast until fragrant and lightly coloured – about 6 minutes. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, combine cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, and cumin in a small dry skillet and toast over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Let cool. Gently crush pods and remove cardamom seeds from pods; discard pods. Grind spices in coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Transfer spices to a food processor; add the chile mixture, cilantro, peanuts, nutmeg, turmeric, and salt, and process to a smooth paste. Makes about 1 cup. Cover and refrigerate for 1 month or freeze for up to 6 months.