Classic Malaysian Chicken Curry using convenient premixed curry powder and whole spices. Delicious served with flat breads and rice.
Chicken Curry is a very popular dish in Malaysia. People love it so much that they serve it daily as well as during celebrations. Many of the Chinese people there even serve it during Chinese New Year. Curry powder is easily available and this makes it possible for everyone to cook and enjoy this dish in the comfort of their own homes. Some have even added their own unique twist to the basic Indian recipe.
Spices Used in Chicken Curry
The ingredient that distinguishes one Chicken Curry from another is the combination of spices used. In Malaysia, the people there prefer redder and spicier curries. Hence, more chilies are used in the spice mix. Paler and milder curries like this Chicken Korma which uses only a little ground chili are delicious but not as popular.
It is unclear where curry powder originated even though this spice mix is popularly used in the UK, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean. The closest thing to curry powder in the Indian sub continent is probably masala. Indian chicken curry typically starts with whole or ground spices. Hence, the taste varies greatly from family to family and region to region.
Here in the US, curry powders are not as commonly found. Some Indian grocers do carry a small selection of Madras curry powder from India and the UK which are milder than the curry powder from Malaysia. Occasionally, you will find small jars of curry powder in the spice rack at the local grocery store. These are all mostly yellow in color and very mild in flavor.
Change of Curry Powder Used
In my original posting on July 25th, 2014, I used a mild Madras curry powder from the UK as it is most easily available here. Since it is milder than what I am used to, I added a teaspoon each of ground cumin, fennel, and chili powder.
Malaysian Chicken Curry is much more fiery in taste and appearance and so I have decided to update the photos in this post using my preferred Babas Curry powder from Malaysia. Please note that this is not a sponsored post. I have been using Babas curry powder for many decades now and continue to buy this curry powder from Malaysia whenever I visit my parents in Kuala Lumpur. You can compare the difference in the color of the dish in these pictures versus the one in the video. The good news is that you can now buy this curry powder online here.
Tips for the Best Curry Color
I continue to add a teaspoon each of ground cumin, fennel, and chili powder to make my curry paste as I have always done for decades now. This is one trick I learned from my uncle who made fantastic curries and Bak Kut Teh. It just adds a little more oomph to the curry.
Another option is to add two fresh red chilies when blending the shallots, garlic, and ginger. In my personal opinion, this gives the curry the even better color. Also, if you are using boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breast meat, add 4 bone-in chicken thighs with skin to give the curry better flavor and the best color. The fat from the skin makes the curry look brighter and more appetizing.
Curry leaves are frequently used in Southern Indian cuisine. These leaves are edible with a pungent and slightly lemony flavor. They can be found in the refrigerated section of most Indian grocery stores. You can freeze or dry these leaves for later use. Like my Mom, I always add a sprig of curry leaves to my Chicken Curry.
Similar Products Used in Making This Chicken Curry
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Babas Meat Curry Powder, 8 Ounce
Babas Meat Curry POwder – 8oz (Pack of 6)
KitchenAid 9-Cup Food Processor
Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 4-1/2-Quart Round French (Dutch) Oven, Cherry Red
Pyrex Prepware 1-Cup Measuring Cup
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 star anise
- 1 sprig curry leaves (stem removed)
- 1½ lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs * (cut into bite-sized pieces) (675g)
- 3 medium potatoes (peeled and cubed)
- ½ cup coconut milk (120ml)
- Salt to taste
Spice Paste **
- 5 to 6 shallots (large shallots) or 1 medium onion (peeled and cut into small pieces)
- 3 cloves garlic (peeled and halved)
- 1 inch ginger (peeled and cut into pieces)
- 3 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground fennel
- 1 tsp chili powder (optional)
- Blend shallots (or onion), garlic, and ginger with ¼ cup (60ml) water. Transfer to a bowl.
- Add curry powder, ground cumin, fennel, and chili. Mix to form a paste.
- Heat vegetable oil in a medium sized pot. Stir fry cinnamon stick, star anise, curry leaves, and spice paste over medium heat until fragrant, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add chicken and stir until chicken turns opaque, about 3 minutes.
- Pour in ½ cup (120ml) water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add cubed potatoes, coconut milk, and salt. Bring it back up to a boil, reduce heat, and continue to cook for another 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
- Turn off stove and allow curry to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Chicken curry is delicious served with Roti Canai, Roti Jala (Malaysian Net Crepes), Nasi Biryani, Nasi Kunyit, and Nasi Lemak. Do give it a try.
NOTE: The original publication of this post was on July 25th, 2014. This republication comes with minor changes to the writeup and recipe.
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