Chicken curry is one remarkable oriental dish that stands out from the rest.
When you mentioned curry, you will inadvertently relate it to the complex flavor derived from a myriad of Asian spices and herbs. You will think about the unique head and neck movements of Indians dance. You will be mesmerized by the love story of Shah Jahan, who erected Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world for the beloved console Mumtaz Mahal. You will think about eating Indian rice served on a large piece of banana leaf, with the irresistible chicken curry seeping through the heap of fragrance biryani rice.
Of course, you would love to cook up a pot of curry with the curry smell strong that reaching to your neighbor’s dining room. However, cooking curry requires grounding various herbs and spices with a mortar and pestle. While this is by far this most authentic method to cook curry, there is a get around the way you can use to prepare a beautiful pot of curry in a very short time.
You can jump to the recipe section below right now if you want to see how easy it can be. However, there is a need to know three simple yet important trade secrets before you start. These three secrets will elevate your curry to the next level. The flavor will be more authentic, and the aromatic fragrance will reach your neighbor’s dining hall from your kitchen that makes them envy.
Three important rules you should know to make great chicken curry
I have cooked a variety of curries in the restaurant over a decade. I can conclude that there are three universal principles underpin the complicated interplay of spices in making curry.
You are on the way to be a successful curry chef as long as follow these simple principles.
Let's get started:
1. Use the best curry powder available.
As I mentioned before, the best way to prepare the authentic curry is to ground all the fresh spices with mortar and pestle. Some traditional market in Asian sell ground the spices on the spot, in which you can ask the vendor to supply the spice mix based on your recipe. These vendors are experienced curry cooks, and their recommendation is always trustworthy.
While this is not practical in the modern home kitchen, freshly prepared curry powder in vacuum packaging are available for the same purpose.
The manufacturer has done all the heavy lifting for you. These curry powders consist of the spice combination for a specific curry dish. For example, you can use the Baba’s brand Curry Powder for meat in the following chicken curry recipe. If you want to cook a fish curry, then the Curry Powder for Fish is more suitable. And if you want to cook a pot of rendang (which is a type of Indonesian curry), you can use the rendang spice mix naturally.
Freshly ground spices yield the best curry. The flavor and aroma of spices will inevitably deteriorate over time. Therefore, make sure you buy the curry powder with the longest expiry date (or best before date).
Buy a small amount of curry powder just enough for your cooking. Let the grocery shop keep the freshest stock instead of sitting in your kitchen cabinet.
2. Be generous with the spices and aromatics
Spices bring out the flavor, and the aromatic vegetables provide the texture of the dish.
Be generous with the amount of the spices used. The quantity of the spices in most of the western developed curry recipes are far less than the original Asian recipes. Although some people does prefer a weaker version of curry, you need to include sufficient spices as stated in the recipe order get the authentic flavor.
While the spices provide the flavor, the triumvirate that comprises of onion, chili and ginger provide the body and texture of the curry. Some recipe does include other ingredients like ginger, garlic, and lemongrass. The following recipe uses onions, chili, ginger and garlic, which forms a distinctive flavor of the typical Malaysian chicken curry. Get an electric food processor to blend all of them to save time.
These aromatic vegetables provide the base flavor of the curry, which works similarly to the onion, carrot, and celery for the typical French stew.
3. Use fresh coconut milk
You have the aromatic vegetable provides the texture, and the spices render the flavor. But that is not all. If you prefer to have a genuinely wholesome curry, you need at least one or a combination of some other ingredients to accentuate the flavor. That is where coconut milk comes into the picture.
Coconut milk is the most common Ingredients for this purpose. Although it is not essential for the dry curry, it is the necessary ingredient for making curry with plenty of gravy.
If you can get the supply of freshly pressed coconut milk, you are well on the way to make the best chicken curry. However, fresh coconut milk is not available worldwide. If you need to use the processed coconut milk available in supermarkets, made sure it has at least 20% of fat content. Otherwise, you need to use more than the amount provided by the recipe to get the sufficient flavor as the fresh coconut milk.
Various curry recipes use tomatoes, milk, and yogurt instead of coconut milk to enhance the flavor. You will expect the flavor is different, but they are all workable. I use coconut milk in the following recipe as this is the typical Malaysian style chicken curry.
Why is Malaysian chicken curry so popular and liked by everyone?
Malaysian chicken curry is one of the best I ever tasted. As you might be able to guess by now, there is a huge population of Indians living in Malaysia, who have brought along their culinary skills and the culture and the tradition. As you know, India is famous for curry.
Malaysian chicken curry involves a set of unique ingredients. The aromatic includes ginger, lemongrass, red chili, and onions. The locals people use ready made curry powder that consists of fennel, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and black pepper. They improvised the curry from India by adding curry leaves to flavor the curry and potatoes to thicken the gravy.
- 1 stick of cinnamon (about 5 cm)
- 2 star-point of star anise
- 2 pieces of clove
- 5 cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon of cumin
- ¼ teaspoon of fennel
- 50g of onion rings
- 3g of curry leaves
- 1 medium size tomato, cut to 4
- 50g of ginger
- 50g of garlic
- 500g chicken cut into large chunks, bone-in, skin-on
- 900ml of water
- 250g of potatoes
- 75g of curry powder
- 16g of salt
- 150ml of coconut milk
- 100ml of vegetable oil
- Heat up the oil in a wok.
- Saute the ingredients A until aromatic.
- Add ingredients B and stir-fried for 1 minute.
- Blend ingredients C and add to the wok.
- Add ingredients D and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the potatoes, salt, coconut milk, and curry powder. Simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft and the chicken chunks are fully cooked.
Seven additional tips about making fantastic chicken curry
The three fundamental principle cover the most important area of curry making. Besides that, I have a list of tips and tricks for you. These are my practical experience for the finer detail in curry making.
- Bone-in, skin-on. Cut the chicken into large chunks, bone-in and skin-on. The bone contribute the flavor, and the connective tissues will thicken the curry. The skin and fats under the skin also contribute to enriching the flavor of the curry. Therefore, lean breast meat is not the choice for making curry, as it lacks fat and connective tissue. Chicken thigh is the best part of making chicken curry.
- Stir from time to time. The ground spices tend to stick to the bottom of the wok when you cook the chicken curry. This problem can happen even if you use to cook it over a tiny flame. You need to stir the curry from time to time to avoid so that it will not stick. Alternatively, transfer the curry from the stove to the oven once it comes to a boil and continues stewing it in the oven. The temperature distribution is more even in the oven and therefore eliminate the problem of sticking to the bottom.
- How long should you cook the curry? I usually do not set a timer to remind me when to turn off the heat. The duration of cooking depends on some factors. You can cook a little longer for a thicker gravy. Make sure the potatoes are soft enough, and the chicken is fully cooked. Since the chicken chunks are large and with bone attached, it takes at least half an hour for the internal temperature to reach 70°C / 160°F. I use the kitchen thermometer to test the doneness of the chicken every time before turn the heat off.
- Chili. The quantity of chili is not very stringent, which you can adjust accordingly to the level of hotness you desire. Reduce the amount if you prefer less hot and spicy. This recipe uses red chili only, but you can add chili powder if you like hotter curry.
- Coconut milk. Add the coconut milk in the last 15 minutes of stewing. Coconut milk can be consumed uncooked and therefore does not require prolonged stewing.
- Potato. Potato is the most common root vegetable to make curry. Potato serves two purposes. First, it helps to thicken the gravy. Secondly, it has an earthy flavor which enhances the flavor. Cut the potatoes into 3cm cubes. Since chicken curry takes about 30 minutes to cook, you should add the potatoes half an hour after stewing.
- The use of curry leaves. The name is self-explanatory why it is called curry leaves. Curry leaves is not an essential item for making curry. However, it enhances the flavor of the curry, and you will get a flavor that is more authentic.
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