Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Just Like My Nan Used To Make - Kari Ayam (Nyonya Chicken Curry)

I'm going to introduce you to yet another classic Nyonya dish that I have grown up nan's ever-so delicious Kari Ayam or chicken curry. This is a very simple and popular Peranakan dish both in Singapore and Malaysia. For those of you who are only familiar with the ambiguous Indian Madras or Vindaloo will be so surprised to learn that there is life beyond those plain Jane takeaway curry. (In the husky, seductive voice of the Marks and Spencer commercial) This is not just any curry, this is the one and only aromatic, delectable and tantalising Nyonya Chicken Curry.

Like most Nyonya cuisine, everything begin with the rempah. And this spice paste once again plays an integral part in this dish. It gives the dish its gutsy depth and richness, without which will just be a soulless coconut broth.

Another noteworthy ingredient used in this recipe is the perfumed curry leaves. This is not to be confused with the mildly fragrant plant of the same namesake here in the western world. This shiny dark green leaves exude a distinctive nutty and citrusy aroma when gently fry in hot oil which along with the cinnamon, cardamon and cloves, contribute immense flavours to the finish taste. Not perhaps the most easy ingredient to get hold of here, but it can normally be found in all good Chinese supermarket in Chinatown. In fact, I bought my from my local supermarket which have recently started to stock up on this and that makes me believe that this fantastic herb will soon be the next 'It' thing.

Ingredients ( Serves 4)

10-12 pieces of chicken thighs and drumsticks (you can remove the skin for healthier option)
5 tbsp sunflower oil
3−4 springs of curry leave, leaves picked and discard the stem
3 cardamon pods, gently crushed
4 whole cloves
1 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
550ml coconut milk
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 tsp sugar
sea salt, to taste

For the rempah/spice paste:
10 shallots or 1 large onion, chopped
1in length fresh ginger, skinned and chopped
6 garlic clove, skinned
2 stalk lemongrass, cut into rings
2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
4 dried red chillies, soaked in warmed water (use less if you don't like it too spicy)
1 tsp ground turmeric


Pound the ingredients for the rempah/spice paste into a paste in a mortar and pestle or alternatively do this in a food processor.

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Stir-fry the spice paste for 5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning, until fragrant. Add the curry leaves and the cardamon and stir-fry for another minute before adding the chicken pieces and the potatoes. Toss well to coat well with all the spices before adding in the cloves, star anise and cinnamon stick. Pour in the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Add the sugar and salt to taste. Simmer uncovered  for 40-45 minutes, until the chicken are cooked through and the curry sauce have thicken. Serves with a bowl of steamed rice.

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