Kurmah, Spice and Everything Nice

These are the ingredients to make a wonderful dinner.

Indeed, as I mentioned in a previous post, I have fallen in love with the use of spices and how it changes the entire dimension of food 360 degrees. The spice trade made it all happen.

I am really pleased that although good research is needed to be successful, there are available sources of spices here in the Philippines. Mainstream herbs and spices such as dried basil or black pepper are widely available in any supermarket. But the good ones, referring to those specific spices for one to recreate an Indian dish, are hidden like pearls inside clams in the deep ocean.

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My own spice trade started a year ago when I aimed to cook something in the Indian route however, as I read every recipe, there are spices which I am not too familiar with in terms of availability. Determined, I researched on suppliers of these spices and without that much effort, Assad’s Mini-Mart appeared on the screen. Apparently, it has been the go-to place for Halal products and Middle Eastern goods. I felt so ignorant, culinary-wise. I have scheduled my travel to Assad’s a lot of times but haven’t been pushing through. But about a few months ago, I insisted on ending the wait and journeyed my way to the inner depths of the City of Manila – one train ride and a 20-minute walk away.


There was a welcoming scent of spices that woke up my senses. I am finally here, I thought to myself. It was the Mecca of spices! I grabbed a basket and worked my way through the narrow aisles and fervently inspected every nook and cranny just to have my hands on those coveted spices. One by one, I tick one item off my list. Dried sage. Fenugreek seeds. Garam masala. Caraway. Cardamom pods, green and black. Whole nutmeg. Tahini. There were a lot more things that I wanted to take home but I am in a tight budget. I restrained myself from buying other things but I am incredibly pleased with what I bought to stock my spice rack. Now I can say that I have a decently-stocked spice rack. The next time I will be going back there, I am eyeing on a number of spices more such as dried mint.


The successful journey bore fruits. I was able to push through with the India-inspired Gourmet Sunday plus, the first dish I made using the treasures I found – Beef Kurmah, a Malaysian curry of beef. It was a treat to the palate. There is punch after punch of flavor every spoonful. And the smell in the house as I cooked the spices was an experience. The dish was great. It satisfied my initial craving of something curry. And now, armed with a stocked spice rack, I am off to conquer the land of curry. This will be an exciting adventure.


Assad’s Mini-Mart is located along United Nations Avenue . If you’re coming from Taft Avenue, walk your way toward Quirino Avenue Extension, or take a cab or pedicab. It is on the right side of the road.


I suggest you boil the beef first to tenderize it or else it’ll be a bit tough unless you want some bite in your food. I used brisket, that’s why.

Beef Kurmah
Recipe from Latchy of Food.com

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1kg stewing beef (chuck)
8 spring onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 teaspoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
3 cardamom pods
1 tablespoon chopped fresh lemongrass (only white part)
500ml coconut milk
1 small red chile, chopped
60g ground almonds

Heat half the oil in a pan add steak in batches and brown all over, remove from pan.

Heat remaining oil in the same pan add spring onions, garlic and ginger and cook until spring onions are soft.

Add the coriander, cumin, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and lemon grass cooking and stirring for about 3 minutes.

Return the meat to the pan add coconut milk and chili and simmer covered for about 1 to 1/2 hours until meat is tender.

Add the nuts and stir until heated through.

Discard cinnamon, cardamom before serving.



  1. Your pictures have made me feel really hungry again!!!

    I’m surprised at how difficult it is for you to find spices that we consider common here and yet we are even futher away from their source than you!

    Even a small supermarket here (5 miles away) would stock a good selection of spices (in fact all of the spices in your recipe above) and in the larger supermarkets (approx 20 miles away from us) we can get literally sacks full of whole spices for us to grind ourselves and all for very reasonable prices.

    I wonder if this is due to the English love of curries or if it is even more deep rooted in history dating back to the spice trades of the 17th to 18th century?

    I would say that most English households have a curry at least once per week, and maybe as much as 25% of the population make those curries up from raw ingredients at home rather than buy take away or ready meals. Most of our home made curries are based on Indian dishes but the spices are common to dishes from all over Asia.

    1. Hey Ian! Thanks for giving me a heads up on Akismet’s sneaky actions.

      Yes. Not really hard in terms of ‘spices’ per se but Indian spices. We have loads of other spices which are more common in South East Asia and some Western ones but Indian spices here take a lot of research to find some. Really glad that my research went well and found a supplier. You guys are incredibly lucky!

      I’m probably leaning on the fact that Britian and India had a really strong relationship way way back. The exchange of culture definitely benefited both.

      1. Thanks for un-spamming me :-)

  2. I am sell Nutmeng, stem and cloves, Pepper, etc

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