Your choice of meat: 2 lbs of beef, cut into 1.5-inch cubes (The tougher, more sinewy the better. Choose the same cut you would to make pot roast with.
1 13.5-ounce can good coconut milk
1 lb of waxy, low-starch potatoes (the kind that makes horrible baked potatoes), cut into 2-inch chunks, skin on
8 ounces white or yellow pearl onions, peeled (or 3 medium yellow onions, quartered)
2 – 4 ounces Massaman curry paste
2 tablespoons of prepared tamarind paste
Fish sauce, to taste
Palm, coconut, or brown sugar, to taste
1/3 cup dry-roasted peanuts, optional
7-8 lightly toasted white cardamoms, optional
1 teaspoon of lightly toasted cumin seeds, optional
Scoop out about 3/4.cup of the top, creamy part of the coconut milk and put in a large heavy-bottomed pot along with the curry paste. Fry the paste in the coconut cream over medium-high heat until the mixture turns into a creamy paste, bubbles up, and the coconut starts to turn oily.
Add the meat into the pot; stir to coat the meat with the curry paste. Add the remaining coconut milk and just enough water to barely cover the meat.
Turn up the heat just until everything comes to a boil; immediately lower the heat so that the curry is gently simmering. Cook, covered, until the meat is almost tender. The cooking time varies, depending upon the cuts of meat. This could take up to 3-4 hours, and using a pressure cooker is not recommended.
Check on the meat periodically. If more water is needed to keep the meat submerged, add it to the pot and restore the gentle simmer after each addition.
Add the onions and potatoes to the pot along with 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. You should add the onions and potatoes at the point where you feel it would take about 20 minutes for the meat to be perfectly tender. Add the vegetables before that point and they become mushy and fall apart by the time the meat is properly cooked. Add the vegetables after the meat has been perfectly cooked and by the time the onions and potatoes are tender, the meat will have been falling apart. This is the part where exact time requirement is not practical and common sense is necessary.
About 5 minutes before the potatoes and onions are ready, start seasoning the curry to taste with the tamarind paste, sugar, and extra cardamom and cumin, if desired. If more fish sauce is needed, add it now. Try to recall the taste of the version of Massaman curry which you like and keep seasoning it with tamarind, sugar, and fish sauce, and tasting until you achieve that flavor.
If you want to add peanuts, do so at this point.
Remove the pot from heat and serve the curry over rice.