Beef cheek massaman curry

Get massaman bang for buck by using this cheap cut.
Get massaman bang for buck by using this cheap cut. Photo: Katrina Meynink

This curry is deep, dark and soothing – the beef cheeks having had a wonderful wallow in the massaman. Be careful when seasoning the finished curry with tamarind extract, the strength of tang varies considerably between brands. Add it slowly – you can always add more, you just can't take it out. A good curry is about balance: heat, spice, sweet, sour and salty.


Massaman curry paste

7 red chillies, roughly chopped (remove some seeds for less heat)

1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted

3 tsp cumin seeds, toasted

½ tsp cardamom seeds, toasted

6 cloves

⅓ cup roasted unsalted peanuts

5 large eschallots, roughly chopped

1 tbsp brown sugar


2 cinnamon quills

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp coconut oil

1kg beef cheeks, trimmed of sinew

1 x 400ml tin coconut cream

1 x 400ml tin coconut milk

2 tbsp tamarind extract

½ cup master stock, if required

500g desiree potatoes, quartered (skin-on so they hold their shape)

3 tbsp palm sugar

juice and zest of 1 lime

50ml fish sauce (or to taste; check gluten-free if required)

1 tsp ground coriander

additional tamarind extract, to taste

​To serve

steamed rice

¼ cup fried shallots

½ red chilli, finely sliced

coriander leaves


1. For curry paste, add all ingredients to a food processor and blitz to combine and until a relatively smooth paste forms. If the mixture keeps catching, add one tablespoon of water to help smooth the paste.

2. Place a large heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Dry roast the cinnamon quills and bay leaves for 30 seconds. Add the coconut oil and the beef cheeks and brown briefly on all sides. Remove the beef cheeks and set aside.

3. Add the curry paste and cook until it becomes fragrant and splits. Add the coconut cream, coconut milk and tamarind extract.

4. Return the beef to the saucepan. Cover and cook over low heat for 3½ to four hours. Keep an eye on it, the sauce should reduce enough so by the end of the cooking time it is only just covering the beef. If it is reducing too quickly, top up with ½ cup of master stock or water.

5. Remove the lid, add the potato and simmer until the potatoes are soft (about 20 minutes). Season to taste with the palm sugar, lime, fish sauce, ground coriander and a little tamarind extract. Taste as you go – you want a balance of salty, sweet and sour with a dusky warmth from the coriander.

6. Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves (optional). Serve with steamed rice and top with fried shallots, fresh chilli and coriander, if using.

More cheap cut curries

Find more of Katrina Meynink's recipes in the Good Food Favourite Recipes cookbook.

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