Seriously, I have an obsession with chicken curry and it is one that I have been somewhat compulsive in my efforts to attain perfection! You see, in the old days, recipes related to me by my mother were nothing like recipes that we easily find today with precise lists of ingredients, amounts and instructions. My parents eye-balled each ingredient’s proportions relative to every other, almost instinctively.
There was also the matter of the scale of the food dishes that were prepared in the old days. In the 1950’s to 60’s, large families were the norm, so preparing food meant that it was quite a ‘bulk-cooking’ operation in the kitchen. In my family, my parents cooked meals to feed 10, or more, at the table almost every single day. Now, in my own tiny family of two (just hubby and me), it’s pretty challenging to have to adjust proportions which were not quite so precise in the first place!
Still, my love for curry leaves me with no end in sight towards finding the next great curry recipe. I must admit that I always seek to create curry spice pastes from scratch. Nothing is more satisfying for me than gathering together wonderfully colourful, aromatic and pungent spices and condiments, then pounding or blending them into a lovely saffron-coloured spice paste or rempah. I avoid recipes using commercially made curry pastes, simply because I like to have the least possible processed ingredients in my food. I know some people swear by particular brands of curry paste, and I am sure their curries taste wonderful!
So here is a tried and tested recipe for chicken curry, Malaysian style, and specifically, of Penang Nonya cuisine, that presents a heart-warming, complex spicy blend of wonderfully natural flavours. Curry always come together better the next day, so prepare this a day ahead to enjoy a much more enhanced flavour!
This recipe serves 4 persons (source, with changes: “The Penang Nonya Cookbook” by author Cecilia Tan).
CHICKEN CURRY RECIPE
1/2 Chicken, chopped into smaller chunks
5 tbsp Cooking Oil
1 1/2 cups Coconut Milk
1 cup Water
1 tsp Sugar
Sea Salt, to taste
4 tbsp Coriander seeds, toasted
1 tbsp Cumin seeds, toasted
1 Stalk Lemon Grass, bottom 3 inches of stalk only, lightly bruised
15 – 20 Dried Chillies, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes and drained before use
10 Shallots, peeled
5 Cloves Garlic, peeled
5-cm knob of fresh young Ginger, peeled
2.5-cm knob of fresh Turmeric, peeled
1. Wash and drain chicken. Chop into 8 to 10 pieces.
2. Separately pound spices (A), (B – red chillies only) and (C) until fine using a mortar and pestle. Set aside. Alternatively, use a high powered blender to blend spices. Note: If your blender rotates dry on its blades as you blend, pour a little oil into the spice mixture, but do not add water.
3. Heat oil in a wok over medium fire. Add all pounded ingredients and stir fry till fragrant. Add bruised lemon grass. While stir-frying, add 2 to 3 tbsp of the coconut milk to prevent paste from burning.
4. When oil starts to float to the top of the paste, add chicken pieces and stir fry to coat chicken pieces evenly with the spice paste. Continue to stir fry for a few minutes, till chicken just starts to cook on the outside.
5. Pour in the remaining coconut milk and water. Bring back to a boil, then lower heat and leave to simmer till chicken is nearly cooked. Add sugar, and salt to taste. Continue simmering until chicken pieces are cooked through. Dish out and serve hot with freshly cooked jasmine rice, or with cut slices of bread loaf.