Today I am going to write about one of the best selling dishes in my cafe- Malaysian chicken curry.
What makes me write about chicken curry is that many customers ask me for the recipe, and I’m glad to show you how you can replicate it at home.
“This recipe has been used in my cafe for many years, approved by thousands of diners. Use it as the blueprint and make changes to suit your taste.’
I have spoken to many restaurateurs and we all agree that we can get easily bored with our own recipes. This is true because we cook and eat the same thing over and over, but this Malaysian chicken curry is one of the few exceptions. I have not changed the recipe for years. I normally serve it with plain rice, but it is also great with bread.
It is not difficult to cook Malaysian chicken curry. The challenge lies in finding the ingredients for the curry powder. What makes it so delicious is the ingredients and the quantity of each of them. The good news is that there is a wide margin of error to make this dish, so I can guarantee that your chicken curry will always taste deliciously and everyone will praise and admire it.
To begin with, I blend red chilies, onions, and lemongrass in an electric blender. These are the wet ingredients of the curry paste. The paste is sauteed in vegetable oil until it turns aromatic, then the other dry ingredients are added. The dry ingredients are a combination of several spices such as turmeric, coriander, cumin, fennel and fenugreek. You can find the full list of ingredients in the recipe. It is not always practical to buy all these spices in a small amount just to make a small batch of curry powder. You can buy the ready made curry powder if you wish. If you do this, please refer to the section below the recipe.
This is the best chicken curry I’ve eve had. It is an amalgamation Indian, Malay, and Chinese cooking techniques. For example, deep-frying the chicken and potatoes and then adding them to the curry mixture is a classic Chinese cooking technique to enhance the flavor of the food. The abundant use of spices is a signature culinary practice for the Indians and Malay. The Chinese normally prefer simple seasoning so that spices will not overshadow the flavor of the meat.
One of the key ingredients you should definitely include in this recipe is the curry leaves. You probably already guessed that this is indispensable as the name says it all. Curry leaves are abundantly available in Asian countries. Get the leaves from an Asian grocery shop if you can’t find them fresh at the market.
This is a curry with thick gravy, much like a beef stew or goulash. The key ingredient of the gravy is coconut milk. It is acceptable to use canned or packaged coconut milk, but freshly pressed is preferred if you are fortunate to get it. The taste of coconut milk is totally differently from soy or cow’s milk, so they are not interchangeable if you want to get the authentic flavor.
Malaysian Chicken Curry Recipe:
- 1kg of chicken thigh cut to two
- 20g (4 teaspoons) of flour
- 20ml (4 teaspoons) of light soy sauce
- 20g (4 teaspoons) of sugar
- 160g of onion
- 120g of red chilies with seeds removed
- 25 g of ginger
- 100g of lemongrass
- 30g of chili powder
- 50g of curry powder
- 18g (3.5 teaspoons) of salt
- ½kg potatoes
- 10g of curry leaves
- 130g of fresh coconut milk
- water to simmer the curry
- Cut the chicken thighs into large chunks, on the bone.
- Marinate the chicken in flour, light soy sauce, and sugar for an hour.
- Heat up some oil in the deep fryer and deep-fry the chicken for about one minute. Removed from the oil.
- Cut the potatoes to large cubes and deep-fry them for one minute. Remove from the oil.
- Blend the onion, red chilies, ginger and lemongrass in an electric blender.
- Saute the blended curry ingredients with vegetable oil for 2 to 3 minutes or until it turns fragrant.
- Add the dry curry ingredients into the wok. Add enough water to form a thick gravy.
- Add the curry leaves, coconut milk and chicken into the curry gravy.
- Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
- Add the deep-fried potatoes to the curry. Simmer until the potatoes become soft and the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 70 degree Celsius.
- Adjust the thickness of the curry gravy with water if necessary.
Tips And Tricks For Cooking Malaysian Chicken Curry
The instructions in the recipe are clear and simple enough. The tips and tricks below can help you produce an excellent Malaysian chicken curry even if you are new to cooking curry.
- Cook the chicken on the bone . The flavor from the bone and the marrow add body to the curry. If you use only breast meat to cook curry, the taste of the curry will be flat. The flavor from the bone also contributes to Vietnamese pho in my previous post, in which the bone marrow from the shin and leg are the important ingredients for achieving wholesome flavor of the stock. Authentic chicken curry is cooked in the same way. The locals do not use stock to prepare the curry.
- Marinate the chicken. This is not the most authentic way of preparing the chicken curry, but rather my improvisation by injecting a Chinese cooking element into it. I marinate the chicken to let the flavor penetrate deep into the chicken pieces. This will result in every bite of the chicken being flavorful, not just tasty on the surface. This is a common Chinese cooking technique of preparing most stir-fried dishes.
- Deep-fry the chicken and potatoes. My trick to add more flavor to the chicken curry is to deep-fried the chicken and potatoes before simmering them in the curry spices. Deep-frying creates additional aroma due to the Millard effect, much like stir-frying and baking. Numerous organic elements are created during deep-frying and producing flavor impossible to achieve by cooking on lower heat. I normally only deep-fried the chicken and potatoes for a minute, or until the surface turns light brown. The inner part of the chicken pieces will be cooked during the long period of simmering that follows.
- Blend the lemongrass, chili, onions, and ginger. Lemongrass is tough. Cutting the lemongrass into small pieces before blending will result in a finer blend. Make sure you blend it to very fine texture as we do not want any hard pieces of lemongrass in the curry. You can learn more about lemongrass in this video.
- Use fresh curry powder. The flavor of curry powder deteriorates over time, just like any other herbs and spices. There are a few alternatives if you have difficulties getting the ingredients for curry powder.
- Buy the ready-made curry powder. This is the easy way out as it saves time making your own curry powder. Buy a smaller package that is just enough for your consumption. Check the expiry date and make sure it is fresh. For this recipe look for Malaysian curry powder or Indian curry powder.
- Use half of the ready-made curry powder and half of your own blend. This way you will get the chicken curry with your own flavor and the ready-made one will supplement whatever spices you were unable to obtain.
Overall I like to use the second method as it yields the best result.
- 45g of coriander
- 15g of cumin
- 10g of turmeric
- 5g of mustard powder
- 10g of fenugreek
- 5g of black pepper
- 3 g of cinnamon
- 1g of clove
- 2 pots of cardamom
- Put all the ingredients in a electric blender and blend them to a fine powder.
- Curry leaves. Curry leaves are the important ingredients in this recipe. (How can it be called curry if there are no curry leaves in the curry?) I normally put quite a lot of curry leaves in the curry about 10g of leaves for 1kg of chicken. Put the leaves in the curry and let the curry simmer for at least ten minutes to release the flavor. You can keep the curry leaves in the chiller in an airtight container for one to two weeks. Keep them in the freezer if you want to preserve them for longer.
- Adjust the hotness of the curry. You can adjust the amount of red chilli and chilli powder to the desired hotness. Do not reduce the amounts of other herbs and spices as it would affect the overall flavor of the curry.
Chicken curry is best to serve with white rice. You can also serve it with bread such as chapati, tosai or roti canai. The Malaysian love to eat nasi lemak (rice simmered in coconut milk) with chicken curry and fried anchovies, roasted groundnuts, hard boiled eggs, and cucumber. Try this combination and you will love it. If you wish to try more variations of curry, check out my Green Curry and Massaman curry recipe.