Poh’s Nyonya Chicken Curry

What I like most about this dish is that you get to make your own curry paste (or in Nyonyan cuisine ‘a rempah’). Please see Malay for spice if you want more information.

When I cook this meal I reduce the sauce until it sticks to the chicken, the roof of your mouth and, of course, your fingers :).

I have tried it with boneless chicken breast but I have to say I prefer using chicken drumsticks. The bones make for a tastier sauce and the thighs for tenderer meat. If you don’t like the look of the bones at serving time use two forks to jerk the chicken.

My notes say that I originally got the recipe from Taste.com.au and that it was by Poh Ling Yeow. I can’t find that original post now but she wrote that it took her lots of trial and error to get that ‘authentic taste.’ She wrote “The first time I made this and it worked, I jumped around like a lunatic, I was so happy. I felt like I had conjured magic, to make a dish like this and have it hitting all those familiar notes of home”.

The ingredients list might look a bit daunting at first but trust me it is worth it. I have of course tweaked it a bit for my lazy cooking style and reduced the chili content for my family. Add your favourite whole chilis after the paste has been sautéed if you like it hot.

Oh, by the way, you can double the recipe as this meal freezes well. I recommend keeping any leftover rice in a separate container for a stress free microwave reheat though.

  1. Make the rempah
  2. Cook the spices and then mix everything in one pot
  3. One pot simmer

You will need:

  • Rempah Ingredients:
    • 1 tsp table salt
    • 1 tsp brown sugar
    • 3.5 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
    • 1.5 tsp whole cumin seeds
    • 1.5 tsp whole fennel seeds
    • 1 tsp powdered kashmiri chili (at the minimum)
    • 1 Tbsp dried belacan (shrimp paste)*
    • 1 Tbsb powdered turmeric
    • 3 cloves garlic
    • 270g red shallots (sliced)
    • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
    • Note *: I sometimes use a treacle consistency type of belacan but find it too sticky and harder to blend than the dried version.
  • Curry Ingredients
    • 3 Tbsb coconut cream
    • 10 sprigs of curry leaves
    • 1 star anise
    • 2 whole cloves
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 1.5kg chicken thigh fillets
    • 500g potatoes
    • 500ml coconut milk
  • Rempah Equipment
    • a chopping board
    • a long sharp knife
    • a medium sized bowl
    • a small plate
    • a wet blender with a very small bowl
    • a dry spice mixer (or a mortar and pestle)
  • Curry Equipment
    • a chopping board
    • a long sharp knife
    • a measuring cup for the coconut milk
    • 2 large plates
    • a large deep frypan or stockpot
Make the rempah

I listed all the ingredients for the curry itself and the rempah for your shopping lists but I’ve actually posted the rempah recipe separately here – A Nyonya Rempah.

Cook the spices and then mix everything in one pot

In summary:



  1. Peel, halve and parboil the 500g of potatoes in the saucepan. Rinse and then drain them.
  2. Bring the 3 Tbsp coconut cream, 1 star anise, 2 whole cloves and the 1 cinnamon stick together. Then chuck them in the pot.
  3. Bring your Nyonya curry paste out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature somewhat. If you are using a frozen batch you should have defrosted it fully by now. Chuck the paste in the pot too.
  4. Sauté everything that is in the pot for about 10 minutes. Watch the colour of the Nyonya paste change and the oil start to separate out. See the image below showing the raw paste on the left and the cooked paste on the right. By now your kitchen is smelling amazing :).20160317_153528
  5. To the pot, add the 1.5kg chicken thigh fillets, pausing to mix them with the spice blend as you go.
  6. Add the now parboiled potatoes, 10 sprigs of curry leaves and 500ml of coconut milk to the pot and simmer until the potatoes and chicken legs are cooked through.

Serve with lots of your favourite rice. Mine is Basmarti and please don’t tell anyone I use the store bought packets you microwave for 90 seconds.


Poh is amazing,


Related Links:
  • see all recipes using chicken here
  • see more Southeast Asian posts here
  • see all curry recipes here

Please consider subscribing to get a weekly email summary of our posts.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.