Malaysian Chicken Curry

Each household holds its secret in making a good chicken curry. Mmm, perhaps? I am not a huge enthusiast of curry yet it is an occasional treat. What constitutes as a good curry depends on who you are asking. Some with a higher tolerance for spicy food might favor a spicy soup base, some might choose a soup base with an intense nutty flavor while others might prefer  a dense soup base.

The curry that I am making has a mild heat / spiciness with a subtle tart flavor yet a concentrated soup base. What I love about this is I can consume the soup without feeling heated! Although I usually make it on the day of serving, this curry taste better the very next day. 


Chicken curry might sound difficult and time-consuming. But on the contrary, it is rather simple and doesn’t take that much time. As I show the step-by-step guide in making this curry, I will also briefly introduce some of the spices and herbs used.

Alright, let’s get started. The ingredients are 2 garlic bulbs (or 15 – 18 cloves), 2 medium-sized yellow onion, 3.5 inches of ginger, 2 stalks of lemongrass, 2 tablespoon of tamarind paste (or 1/3 of a lemon), 8 candlenuts, 2 cinnamon sticks, 5 cloves, 1 can of coconut milk, 15 – 20 curry leaves, 1/4 cup of “Adabi” curry powder, a whole chicken about 5lbs (or a mixture of chicken thighs and drumsticks), 2 russet potatoes (or 5 medium potatoes), 5 – 8 tablespoon of vegetable (or cooking) oil


First and foremost, wash and clean the whole chicken and use a knife to cut into smaller pieces (roughly about 3 inches for each piece). If using chicken thighs and drumsticks, you can either cut in half or leave it as it is. Set aside for later use.


Use a peeler to peel 2 russet potatoes (or 5 medium-sized potatoes). Then use a knife to cut the potatoes into smaller pieces (about 2 inches).


Use a knife to remove the skin of yellow onion and roughly cut into smaller pieces. Place in a food processor and blend until it resembles a paste. Place in a clean bowl.


(PEEL GARLIC) Place the flat side of the knife on top of each garlic clove. Then place the heel of your other hand on top of the knife and press firmly. The garlic skin will easily come off. Discard the skin. (PEEL GINGER) Use the edge of a spoon to scrap against the ginger to peel off the skin. Place the garlic, ginger and candlenuts into the food processor and blend until it turns into a paste. Place into the bowl with the onion paste.

Candlenuts serve as a thickener and gives the curry a creamy texture. If candlenuts is hard to get, substitute with macadamia nuts. Candlenuts and macadamia nuts has close similarity in appearance but candlenuts cannot be eaten raw. 


Use a knife to cut the lemongrass into 4 equal parts. Since the lower stalk (near the bulb) is thick, it is advisable to cut into half (lengthwise). Better still, use the flat side of the knife to lightly crush it in order to release its flavor. It has a very light flavor with an aromatic citrus scent. On a side note, I love to use lemongrass to make fried chicken. Click this link “Nasi Lemak to find out how to do it.  


It’s time to start cooking! Heat 5 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large pot on medium heat.


Once heated, add in the mixture of ginger & garlic paste, onion paste, curry leaves, lemongrass and “Adabi” curry powder. Fresh curry leaves are very aromatic and I love cooking with curry leaves. So what’s curry leaves? It is a type of herb with a slight citrusy aroma and reminds me of curry powder. But curry powder doesn’t come from curry leaves – both are distinctly different. Do not substitute fresh curry leaves with dried curry leaves. The dried ones lack the aroma of the fresh ones.

I have chosen to use Adabi’s curry powder, which is a Malaysian brand. It’s a pre-mixed curry powder with a mixture of chilli powder, herbs and spices.    

Stir-fry on medium low heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. The mixture is on a drier side since not much oil is used. But if you prefer a smoother paste, add in 2 or more tablespoons of vegetable oil. 


Next, add in the chicken and use a wooden spatula to mix the chicken with the paste. As you do this, the chicken will be coated with the spices. Fry for a few minutes for the chicken to absorb the flavor of the spices. 


Next, add in 4.5 – 5 litre of purified water followed by potatoes and tamarind paste. Tamarind paste can be bought from Asian grocery stores and widely use in curries. It is dark brown color and sticky. It is usually sold together with the seeds. It adds a subtle tart flavor to the curry. There’s not a need to remove the seeds from the tamarind paste. The seeds can be removed once the curry is cooked. If you don’t have tamarind paste, replace it with lemon juice (extracted from 1/3 of a lemon) which should be added at the end.

Close the lid and cook on medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked and potatoes become soft, about half an hour. Whenever chicken is cooked in soup or boiling water, it’s better not to use high heat. Slow cooking helps the chicken to remain tender and juicy. 


Once cooked, turn on low heat. Add in the can of coconut milk. However, I reserve 1/4 cup of the coconut milk to cook the rice. Personally, I feel that curry taste better with steamed rice cooked with coconut milk. Coconut milk tones down the spiciness and adds a nutty flavor. Cook for another 3 minutes but do not boil the curry with coconut milk in order to retain as much flavor from the coconut milk. Turn off the heat immediately. 


Serve immediately. For leftover, let it cool completely before store in the fridge. For the purpose of safety, hygiene and freshness, consume within 3 days. Like I said earlier, I prefer to eat curry the following day as the soup is richer in flavor and more balanced. 


Please click the link “Malaysian Chicken Curry” to download the pdf version of this recipe. Enjoy! 

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