This is my second attempt at making chicken curry (Singapore style) from scratch i.e., no premade paste/mixes whatsoever. The first time I made it, I found the coconut milk too thick and the heat wasn’t quite there. (But PJ loved the thickness and thought it tasted like the chicken curry you can find at Singapore’s economical rice stalls – chup chye peng). The curry was also too yellow (turmeric!) and not reminiscent of what my mum makes at home (fiery red).
So for my second attempt, I’ve made some changes after consulting my mum (less turmeric, more chillies, less coconut milk) and I’m quite pleased with the results (although a friend who ate this would have preferred more heat). Oh well, there’s no pleasing EVERYBODY. Bottom-line is that I enjoyed it. =)
Serves 3-4 as part of a meal
Prep time 30-40 mins
Cook 35 mins
Warning! It requires a lot of work to prep the ingredients, but it’s worth it.
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 chicken (about 1.5kg, cut into small pieces)
- 400ml coconut milk
- 200ml water (replace with coconut milk if you prefer thicker gravy)
- 2 stalks lemongrass, thick bottom third only, outer layers discarded, inner part bruised
- 1 tsp salt
For the Spice Paste
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick (about 2-3cm)
- 4 candlenuts (buah keras) or macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
- 10-11 small shallots, peeled
- 2-3 large cloves garlic
- 3-4 dried red chillies, soaked to soften, deseeded, cut into short lengths
- 1 fresh red chilli padi (more if you desire more heat), partially deseeded
- 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 3 tsp coriander powder
- 2 tsp parika powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
1. To make the Spice Paste, dry-toast the cumin, fennel and cinnamon over low heat in a skillet until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Then grind the spices (roughly break the cinnamon into small pieces first) to a powder in a dry grinder (handheld coffee or spice mill works well) or blender.
2. In a blender, add the candlenuts/macadamia nuts, shallots, chillies, garlic and ginger and grind to a paste, adding a little oil if necessary to keep the mixture turning. Scoop out the mixture into a mixing bowl and add the powder from step (1), ground turmeric and nutmeg. Mix well. (Note: Mixing in a bowl prevents your plastic blender container from being stained by the turmeric – a painful lesson I took.)
The end result: Homemade Spice Paste
3. Heat the oil in a wok/large pot and add the Spice Paste. Stir-fry over low to medium heat, 4-5 minutes.
4. Add the chicken pieces and stir-fry until they change colour and are coated with the Spice Paste, about 5 minutes.
5. Add the coconut milk, water, lemongrass and salt and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Simmer gently with the wok/pot uncovered, stirring from time to time, until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes.
6. Serve hot with steamed rice or toasted baguette.