Adapted from The Curry Book: Memorable Flavors and Irresistibly Simple Recipes From Around the World, by Nancie McDermott.
Serves 8 to 10
This classic Thai dish is often served on special occasions. Thai people invite friends and relatives to their homes for a feast in celebration of weddings, births, housewarmings, or the ordination of a family member as a Buddhist monk. In this curry, the flavors of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg sing out over the standard Thai chorus of cumin, coriander, peppercorns, and dried red chilies. Along with these sweet spices, the inclusion of potatoes, peanuts, and tamarind suggests a direct culinary link with the kitchens of India.
This curry comes from southern Thailand, where many Thais follow the teachings of Islam. Mussamun is thought to be a pronunciation of the word "Muslim." In Thailand, mussamun curries are often made with chunks of beef, but chicken is popular as well. Make this one a day ahead and you will be rewarded with an extraordinary blossoming of spice-laden flavors. Serve with rice or noodles.
2 cans (each 14-ounce) unsweetened coconut milk (about 3 1\2 cups), divided
3 tablespoons mussamun curry paste, store-bought or homemade (Go to Nancie's curry paste recipe)
2 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-size chunks, skin left on
1 large potato, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks (about 1 1\2 cups)
1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and sliced lengthwise into thick wedges
1\2 cup dry-roasted salted peanuts
6 cinnamon sticks, each about 3 inches long
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons palm sugar or light or dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons tamarind liquid
1\4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, plus more if needed
Open 1 can of coconut milk and use a fork to stir the contents until smooth and well combined. In a 6-quart saucepan or Dutch oven, bring 1\2 cup of the stirred coconut milk to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the curry paste and cook 1 minute, stirring and mashing the paste into the coconut milk. Add the chicken and cook 2 minutes, stirring often, until the chicken begins to change color. Add all the remaining coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar, tamarind liquid and salt and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook 15 to 20 minutes, until the potato is tender and the chicken is cooked through. Add 2 tablespoons of the lime juice and stir well. Taste and add more, if desired. Remove from the heat and let stand 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl, removing and discarding the cinnamon sticks, or leaving them in as a traditional garnish not to be eaten. Serve hot or warm.
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