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Kari Saramann
Saramann Beef Curry


Saramann Beef Curry

Saraman is a traditional dish of the Charm-Khmer in Cambodia who are mainly Muslims. All the spices used are of Indian origin. Chicken, duck, lamb can be used instead of beef. However, if you are a vegetarian, tofu can be substituted.

Tamarind is called "Aamlika" in Sanskrit or ampil in Khmer.  It has a sweet and sour taste, and is one of the staple ingredients in Southeast Asia.

Little story
Talking about tamarind fruit always takes me straight back to the time when I was gravely ill from severe dysentery during the Khmer Rouge regime when there were neither proper doctors nor medicines. My mother nearly gave up hope on me when I became deliriously weaker and weaker and had no strength to even respond to her when she called my name to check if I was still alive.

At that point, a village’s former traditional doctor ‘Krou Khmer’ took pity on my blind mother who was in tears almost all the time and begged anyone who would listen to her for help. He simply told her that ripe tamarind fruit would cure me. Immediately, two questions came to my mother’s mind: firstly, where could she find ripe tamarind fruit as it was not in season (Note: money was abolished then, hence, no shops). Secondly, according to her knowledge, tamarind is a laxative and is commonly used to help relieve constipation; so, would it make my condition worse?  As though he could read my mother’s mind, the Krou Khmer’ kindly offered to go and search for the  fruit; and reassured my mother that he did successfully treat many cases like me before with the fruit. As my mother was desperate for me to survive and had no other options, she agreed to let him treat me. So, off he went to search for the fruit. 

The day had nearly finished, and there was no sign of the ‘Krou Khmer’. As I was drifting in and out of consciousness, and as the sun was disappearing, my mother’s hope was going down with it too. She started to pray ... and ... to her joy, there he came bearing the fruit. Whilst hastily preparing the tamarind concoction for me, he told my mother how he nearly gave up hope of finding this most needed fruit for me. He said: ‘your daughter is very lucky. I searched all the tamarind trees in the village, and only the last tree had any fruit. In fact, I nearly missed it as it was right up at the top of the tree. I even had to wait until I could find someone to climb it to pick the fruit for me....’ 

I was indeed extremely lucky. This simple fruit saved my life.  


 Tamarind Block

Serves 4-6  

Coconut cream 2 x 400ml tins (800 ml / 1⅔ pt) – buy tins that have at least 60% coconut
Oil 3 Tbsp
Stewing beef2 1 kg /2.2 lb, cut into about 4 cm/ 1½ inch cubes
Cardamom 5 pods - squashed open (available at Asian grocery stores)

Onion 1 - finely chopped
Saramann Kroeung1 (spice paste) 3 Tbsp (40g) - see recipe
Paprika 2 tsp
Fish sauce 3 Tbsp
Palm sugar ½ cup (100g) - broken into small pieces
Concentrated tamarind juice3 2 Tbsp
Roasted unsalted peanuts ½ cup
Medium potatoes 2, cut into 4cm/1½ inch chunks
Salt 1 tsp
Coriander (cilantro) leaves, a few sprigs for garnish 

1 -
Separating coconut cream from milk - In a tin, the coconut cream floats and the milk remains underneath. To separate the coconut cream from the milk, just scoop out 1cup of cream from the top (½ cup from each tin). Note: add water to the coconut milk, if needed. Set aside. For those who like to make coconut cream  and milk from freshly grated coconut meat, see recipe

2 - In a wok or skillet, heat the oil over high heat until very hot, add the beef and then stir-fry until light golden brown – about 2-3 minutes (You may have to fry in 2 batches). Then add the coconut milk and the cardamom, and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours – stirring occasionally.  

3 - In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the coconut cream to the boil over medium heat until you see oil beginning to form - about 1 minute. Then add onion and stir-fry until translucent. Then stir in the spice paste and paprika, and continue stir-frying for 2 minutes or until oil starts to surface around the spice mixture. You may need to lower the heat slightly to avoid burning the spice.   

4 - Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beef to the spice mixture and mix well for 1 minute. Add in the meat juice and bring back to the boil. Then add the fish sauce, sugar, tamarind juice, peanuts, potatoes and salt, and mix well. Lower the heat to simmer for a further 1 hour or until the beef is tender and the sauce has thickened (alternatively, cook in a preheated oven - 170ºC/fan 150ºC/338ºF/Gas 3). Stir occasionnaly to avoid sticking to the bottom. Adjust to taste. Skim off some of the oil from the top.

5 - Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with a few coriander leaves, and serve with steamed rice or French baguette along with ‘Instant vegetable pickle’. 


Freshly made spice paste gives the best aroma. However, if time is short, you can use Masman curry paste which is available at supermarkets or Asian grocery stores. 

Chicken, duck, lamb can be used instead of beef.

If not available, you can use fresh tamarind fruit or a tamarind block, (available at Asian grocery stores) and extract the juice/purée by following this recipe

Did you know ...
This unattractive humble fruit, tamarind is a good source of many important minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron, selenium and magnesium. Potassium helps control heart rate and blood pressure; and Iron is essential for red blood cell production. Tamarind is also rich in many vital vitamins including thiamin, vitamin A, folic acid and vitamin-C which are essential for optimum health.


Tamarind Juice