Malaysian Monday 55: Chicken Curry / Kari Ayam

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Monday everyone.

I‘ve had to drag myself to the computer today! We’ve had a brilliant sunshiny sort of day with just enough breeze to temper the heat. The kind of day where all I wanted to do was sit and watch  butterflies dart about the garden. No “must-dos” or “should-dos” on my mind, everything’s been mañana. But I couldn’t let this Monday drift by without a Malaysian food offering could I?

Luckily, this is one I prepared mid-week. It’s the kind of curry that can be thrown together with hardly any grinding or blending involved, and it uses store-bought curry powder.  This curry is actually a really good example of a classic Malaysian dish because the ingredients blend Chinese, Indian and Malay influences together.

Everyone adds their own little tweak to this curry, and truth be told, I’ve attempted to cook it quite often but something always seemed missing. Asking for the recipe from Mum wasn’t very helpful either, I’ve mentioned before, Malaysian cooks are very vague about measurements, it’s all “a dash of this and a pinch of that”. I knew that I had to use onions, star anise, cinnamon sticks, curry leaves, and curry powder, but in what amounts?

Then I stumbled across a recipe from the people behind Mamak (a Malaysian retaurant in Sydney), over here on the Gourmet Traveller website.  Looking at the ingredient list, I saw that their recipe included cardamom seeds and lemon grass. Ah, maybe those were the missing ingredients.

I did notice however, the recipe didn’t include coconut milk, but I’ve always used a little to give the curry some richness. Just to double check, I sent Mum a quick SMS asking if I should add coconut milk to chicken curry. “Yes,” came the reply. “Or you could use ideal milk (what we call evaporated milk) or yoghurt if you prefer”.
So off I went, and ended up with a curry that was very close to what I remembered from childhood. I found that adding a lot more curry powder than I usually do seemed to add the desired boost, and lemon grass definitely added an extra level of flavour. 

The best part about this curry is that it can be made as mild or as spicy as desired. I pulled some of the chicken out after the initial cooking stage, and added it to a separate pot with more coconut milk to tame it down, and both the Mini Critics loved it. Looks like this will become a firm family favourite from now on.

Enjoy the rest of the week:)

And don’t forget, if you’d like to join 3 Hungry Tummies and I for our Muhibbah Malaysian Monday event, I’ll be hosting this month.  Please send all entries to its(dot)sharon(at)gmail(dot)com.

Chicken Curry
(with help from Gourmet Traveller and Mamak).

(Oh dear, I’m going to be very Malaysian and give you vague amounts based on what I remember because when I went looking for the piece of paper I’d jotted my measurements down on, it was gone! I’m looking at you Mr. Kitchen Hand...)

1 whole chicken (mine was about 1.3kg), chopped into pieces, with the bone on. I removed the skin from as much of the chicken as possible, mainly because I don’t like how the skin gets sort of ”flabby” in curry. You can use chicken thighs/ legs if you prefer.

1 stick cinnamon,
2 star anise,
5 cardamom pods
Half a spanish onion diced, plus 2 small eschallots diced.
Chunk of ginger (about an inch long) - skinned and grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves (this is what gives the curry its distinctive smell, I’m not sure what would make a good substitute).
2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, kept whole but bruised with the back of a knife.
about 4 heaped tablespoon meat curry powder made into a paste with a little water (Mum swears by a brand called Baba’s which is quite hard to find here, but I found one called Burung Nuri and it works well too.)
about 1/4 cup coconut milk (the canned stuff is fine. Don’t use too much or it will dilute the flavour)
Potatoes - I only used 1 because I forgot to buy some and that’s all I found when I started cooking.
Salt and a pinch of sugar to season

Chilli powder can be added for extra heat if desired.

Heat some vegetable oil in a large pan (large enough so that all the chicken can fit), and when hot, saute the onion for a few minutes until fragrant and softened. Add the cinnamon, star anise and cardamom, stir until fragrant. Then add the garlic and ginger, stir to mix, then add the curry leaves and stir. Then add the curry powder paste, stirring well so everything doesn’t stick or burn. Adjust heat if necessary. The mix should be smelling sensational by now.

Curry leaves (Murraya koenigii  - I have a plant in a pot in my courtyard garden. It's pretty easy to grow and seems to handle the Sydney winter ok).

Add the chicken pieces, potato and lemon grass and stir to coat well in the mix, then add enough water to just cover the chicken. Cover the pan, bring to the boil, then simmer with the lid slightly ajar until the chicken is cooked and potatoes are tender. At this stage, add about 1/4 cup coconut milk if using, bring back to a simmer for a minute or two and remove from heat. ( If curry seems too dry, add a little bit more water, if it’s too thin, simmer it for longer until thickened. Do this before the coconut milk is added though.)

Season well with salt and a pinch of sugar to taste.

Serve with rice, or roti canai or roti jala. The curry tastes better the next day too. Great for dipping with bread at breakfast :)


Barbara said...

Days like that are why we have drafts in our folders, Shaz!!
Wonderful curry recipe. I don't know that I have ever seen curry leaves around here...but now will keep my eyes open.

Heavenly Housewife said...

Delicious dish, I'm always looking for yummy curries to cook for Mr. P. I like the idea of growing your own curry leaves. Is it a tree, or a bush, or a plant? I can only really find the dried ones here.
*kisses* HH

Vanille said...

Curry leaves are called "kaloupilé" in my home island.
I always find something missing too when I try to recreate dishes my Mum is used to cook. There's something magic about childhood memories and taste...
Have a great week Shaz !

♥LOVE2COOK♥ said...

Lovely chicken curry ya! Yup, all the ingredients are necessary for a chicken curry! I too add lemongrass, it's a must for me. Adding coconut milk/evaporated milk/yoghurt will make the curry little creamy n thick. I loved it too...hehehe!

Basically, pass me the whole bowl ya. I'll have it for our lunch today.

I've sent an entry for MMM yesterday too! :D

Juliana said...

Shaz, love curry but never use the "raw materials", always in a can...must be nice able to make your own curry :-)

cikmanggis said...

shaz dear..nampak kari pagi pagi begini pun rasa nak makan nasi:)sedang cari idea apa nak masak untuk MMM kali ini:)kekeringan idea:(

chocolatesuze said...

mmm i could really go for some curry right now! and you're so lucky with your own curry leaf plant!

3 hungry tummies said...

Fabulous looking curry Shaz! I always have a packet of burung nuri in my pantry too. Surprisingly my curry plant has survived 4 Melbourne winters :)
P.S I do have a hong kong ccf recipe, I will try to do a post on next week?

grace said...

cinnamon, cardamom, and coconut milk, oh my! great curry, shaz, obviously. :)

Hungry Dog said...

Oh man, this looks so good! It's quite chilly here right now and I could totally go for a big heaping bowl of this. I am totally bookmarking--I have never seem to come across the right curry recipe.

shaz said...

Barbara - I wish I was more organised. I don't really have a drafts folder :) Just random photos!

Heavenly Housewife - it's a small shrub here. I think if put into the ground in the tropics it can grow quite large, but it seems to grow quite happily in the pot.

Vanille - You're so right, I remember reading somewhere that older food memories can't quite be trusted. Also, that's interesting to know about the name, my grandmother (who spoke Tamil) called these "kari pillay".

♥LOVE2COOK♥ - thank you for contributing dear! You can have the curry but you must swap me some of your fried chicken he he he.

Juliana - this one is pretty simple which is why I like it :)

cikmanggis - takpe CM, anything pun boleh, sebab CM duduk Malaysia kan? Masak apa-apa pun boleh kira masakan Malaysia :)

chocolatesuze - I'm hoping I manage to keep it alive :)

3 hungry tummies - wow, that's good if it can survive melbourne winters. Oooh, cannot wait for CCF recipe.

grace - right on :)

Hungry Dog - I find curry can be a bit tricky because so much depends on sourcing the raw ingredients, which can be hard outside of the tropics.