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Singapore Nyonya Kari Ayam (chicken curry)


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A large component of this curry is the curry powder.  You can use a store bought curry powder, but unless it's specifically a Nyonya style one (I can't find a good one in NYC, but maybe those in Asia can), the final curry can come out quite differently.  It's hard to make a small batch of curry powder from scratch due to the scaling - the batch I make is just under one kg total, which I then split into 85g packages which are put in zip lock bags with the air removed as much as possible and then frozen.


The rempah (spice paste) isn't very complicated so I don't make it in large batches.  This recipe is for 4 chicken thighs, a little less than 1.5 pounds.


Curry powder:

420g coriander seed

150g cumin seed

100g anise seed

150g whole dried chilli (dried prik chee faa or other medium spicy chilli), snipped into pieces, seeds removed

50g turmeric powder

50g white peppercorn

26g true cinnamon

14 pieces whole clove

1 whole nutmeg

18 cardamom pods

1 whole star anise

25g poppy seed


Put all of the spices on a baking sheet, except the poppy seeds, and bake at 200-250F for about 45 minutes or until completely heated through and fragrant.  Add all the spices to a heavy duty blender (in batches if needed) and blend on high speed until completely powdered (or preferably a large spice mill).  Spread on a baking sheet and allow to cool completely.  Portion into 85g packets, seal and freeze the extra.


4 skin on, bone in chicken thighs

8.5 ounces coconut milk

1/3-1/2 cup oil (rice bran oil or other neutral oil) - you need a lot more oil than expected to fry the rempah properly

55 g curry powder

1 stem curry leaves, destemmed

4 kaffir lime leaves


chicken seasoning:




20-30g curry powder



120g shallot (preferably the Asian shallot), finely chopped

25g ginger, peeled and sliced thinly

5 cloves garlic

1t Malaysian belacan (shrimp paste) - different from Thai shrimp paste


1. Season the chicken thighs on both sides with a sprinkle of salt, msg and sugar and then the curry powder and let sit at least 30 minutes to marinate.


2. Pound the shallot in a mortar until broken down a bit, then add ginger and pound more, then add garlic and pound until it is a rough paste. Break the belacan into small pieces and then pound into the paste


3. Heat the oil in a saucepan or small wok big enough to hold the chicken over medium heat and fry the rempah until soft and fragrant


4. Add the curry leaves and kaffir lime leaves and fry until fragrant


5. Add about 1/4 of the coconut milk and whisk to combine, then whisk in the curry powder.  If it gets too dry and paste-like, add a bit more coconut milk.  Fry until some of the red oil starts to separate out of the liquid.


6. Add the rest of the coconut milk reserving a tablespoon or two, plus about 1/2t salt, 1/4t msg and 1t sugar, and whisk to combine.


7. Bring to a low boil (if not already there) and add the chicken thighs, skin side down.  Add a little bit of water if necessary to cover the chicken then cover the pot and cook over low heat (to maintain the low boil) for about 8 minutes.


8. Remove the cover and turn the chicken (scraping the bottom of the pan for any spices that may have stuck) and continue to cook uncovered until the chicken is cooked through.  The curry should thicken considerably.


9. Once cooked, remove the chicken and set aside. Remove as much of the layer of oil that has accumulated on top of the curry as possible, then add the reserved coconut milk and taste for seasoning.


10. Serve with jasmine rice


Edited by KennethT (log)
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