Massaman curry paste

Feel free to vary this curry paste to your own taste, and you’ll learn how you like it soon enough. I actually like it pretty spicy, so often add extra chilli, and I love it with lots of kaffir lime leaves and extra coriander root. Go play… 😉

Flavour: Spicy and fragrant

Yield: 1 small jar – around 200-250ml total


  • 6 shallots
  • 1 bulb of garlic (yes, that’s bulb, not clove…)
  • 2 stalks lemongrass (peel off the tough outer layers before using), thinly sliced
  • 6 dried chillies – the large kind – cut into large pieces
  • half-inch chunk of galangal, peeled and julienned (you can substitute with ginger, if you prefer)
  • 12 kaffir lime leaves, de-veined and finely sliced
  • 4 pods cardamom,
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed
    • or, if you can’t get coriander seed, use coriander roots – use the roots from a whole bunch, scrubbed and coarsely chopped – which is what I usually do, as otherwise it’s a waste product that should never go to waste
  • half tablespoon cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • quarter teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 6 fresh bird’s eye chillies, roughly chopped
  • small bunch coriander stems, roughly chopped (just use the thicker, lower parts of the stems – the bits you’d usually throw away)
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil


  1. Roast the garlic and shallots with the skin on (this step is optional, but yields a more mellow flavour, which is optimal) – this should take 30-40 minutes in the oven at around 175
  2. Once cooled, peel the garlic and shallots, and set aside
  3. Toast your chillies and lemongrass in a dry skillet over a medium heat until slightly browned – this should take about 3 minutes
  4. Add your galangal, kaffir lime leaves, cardamom pods, coriander seed (if you’re using roots instead, leave them out at this stage), cumin seed, and peppercorns to the skillet – toast until fragrant, which should take about 2 minutes
  5. Remove spices from heat
  6. Put all toasted spices in pestle and mortar with salt, cinnamon and turmeric, and pound until it’s all roughly ground and combined
    • At this stage you can choose whether to continue with the pestle and mortar, or transfer to a food processor…
  7. Add roast (or raw) garlic and shallots, fresh chillies, and coriander stems (and coriander roots, if you’re using these) – pound/pulse until you get a smoothly blended curry paste
    • If you’re using a food processor, the whole process will take between 3-5 minutes to get the right consistency; if you’re using the pestle and mortar, prepare for some meditation as it’ll take you up to about 30 minutes!
  8. Add sunflower oil, and pulse/stir until well combined
  9. Plop your curry paste in a jar – it’s ready to use immediately, and will keep in the fridge for up to a month

One thought on “Massaman curry paste

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