Guest Post: Malaysian Chicken Curry (Kari Ayam)

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Not too long ago, I was invited by Ann from PigPig’s Corner as a guest on her blog, sharing an authentic Malaysian recipe Tamarind Prawns (Asam Prawns). Today, Ann is with us on my blog, sharing one of my favourite dishes – Malaysian Chicken Curry (Kari Ayam). Let’s not waste too much time as I have started to drool by looking at the pictures! Please welcome Ann from PigPig’s Corner.

Leemei appeared as a guest blogger on my blog and shared a delicious Malaysian-nyonya recipe – assam prawns – not too long ago, now it’s my turn to share another Malaysian dish here. When Leemei suggested that I cook chicken curry, I was really tempted to ask her if I could use instant paste.

Chicken curry with potatoes is the most common curry dish found in Malaysia. Because of its popularity, instant chicken curry spice paste and Malaysian meat curry powder – the most popular brand is Baba’s – can be widely found. They are extremely convenient and really tasty. My point being, I have NEVER cooked chicken curry from scratch. Anyway, I was too embarrassed to even mention the word instant and so I decided to brave it.

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After doing some researching online, I found that there are so many variations of Malaysian chicken curry; quite a few involves meat curry powder, some with belacan (shrimp paste), and others with tamarind paste or even yoghurt. What I can conclude is that any curry made with lots of dry and fresh spices and contains chicken, potatoes, a healthy amount of coconut milk and lots of gravy can be called Malaysian chicken curry.

The most commonly found dried spices in Malay curries are cinnamon (kulit kayu manis), star anise (bunga lawang), clove (bunga cengkih) and cardamom (buah pelaga) and. These four spices are always found in Malay food and are known as “rempah empat beradik” meaning the four siblings. As for wet or fresh spices, always the holy trinity of aromatics, onion, ginger and garlic, as well as shallots, and red chillies.

Here is an extremely versatile spice paste that I use for my chicken curry. You can use this as a base for any other types of curries i.e. add some tomatoes and you get ayam masak merah (Malay-style red cooked chicken) or even simple stir-fries.

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For curry chicken, try not to use starchy potatoes i.e. baking potatoes as it makes the gravy really starchy and the potatoes mushy. You can find out more about the different types of potatoes here http://eattheseasons.co.uk/Archive/potatoes_maincrop.htm. I like to sweeten curries with sweetened condensed milk (that’s my grandmother’s secret recipe), it adds extra depth to the gravy and makes it extra creamy. Serve with rice or roti!

Malaysian Chicken Curry (Kari Ayam)

Yield:

Ingredients:

Spice paste: makes 3 cups, you can store this in the fridge for up to a week.

400g (about 16) shallots, peeled
20 dried chillies
100 g (about eight) fresh red chillies
1 bulb garlic, peeled
4-inch ginger
40g belacan (shrimp paste)
4 lemongrass, coarsely chopped
10 candlenuts

1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise
5 cloves
5 green cardamoms
6 curry leaves (fresh or dried)
1.5-2kg chicken, chopped
4 tbsp oil
1 ½ cups spice paste
2 ½ cups water
550g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
400 ml coconut milk
a pinch of salt
sweetened condensed milk or sugar
reserved dried chilli seeds

Method:

1. To make the spice paste, remove the seeds from the dried chillies and reserve the seeds for future use (to adjust the spiciness). Soak dried chillies in warm water for about 15 mins to soften the chillies. Coarsely chop all the ingredients and pound the spices with a pestle and mortar or blend until a paste is formed.

2. Heat up of oil in a wok or a pot. Add cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, green cardamoms and curry leaves, fry on low heat until fragrant.

3. Mix in spice paste and fry on low heat until fragrant. Continue until red chili oil floats on the surface. Stir occasionally.

4. Add chicken, stir fry until the chicken is coated with spices and lightly cooked on the surface.

5. Pour in water. Bring to boil then lower heat to simmer for about 10 mins uncovered.

6. Add potatoes, cover and let it simmer on low heat for another 30 mins.

7. Stir in coconut milk, cover and let it simmer on low heat for a further 30 mins.

8. Add salt and sugar to taste. If it’s not spicy enough, add some reserved chilli seeds.