Asian/ Curry/ Dinner/ Recipes

Easy Nyonya Chicken Curry

26/05/2020
 

A creamy coconut base wraps around aromatic curry leaves, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass in this fragrant Nyonya Chicken Curry. Packed full of tingling spice with just the right amount of heat!

Blue bowl heaped with hot Nyonya chicken curry.

Why We Love This

The amount of fresh ingredients in this makes for a very aromatic dish. No packets or pastes – it’s all from scratch and so easy to make at home. You’ll impress yourself and anyone else who tries it.

A big dish like this is great to cook for family and friends. There’s not a lot of heat, but you can add extra chopped chilli on the table for those that like to revel in the spice.

 

Top view of a full bowl of Nyonya chicken curry.

What is Nyonya curry? 

A light and aromatic coconut based chicken curry, popular in Singaporean and Malaysian cuisine. Traditionally used with bone-in chicken such as legs etc, our recipe is simplified slightly and uses thighs instead.

Nyonya is a fusion of Chinese and Malay culture and food that dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Marriages between Chinese sailors and Malay women led to the creation of a whole new culture and cuisine. Known as Nyonya (or Peranakan or Straits Chinese), it blends the best of both worlds together, with fresh aromatic ingredients like turmeric, galangal, chilli and lemongrass taking centre stage.

If you’re a history nerd like us and love learning about the amazing edible world we live in, you can read more about the fascinating history of Nyonya culture and cuisine here. And if you’re ever in Singapore, we highly recommend a visit to the gorgeous Peranakan Museum.

This particular Nyonya Chicken Curry was inspired by a blend of our friend’s recipe and cooking tips from Singapore,  a version we found in Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible, and our own tasty tweaks we’ve made after endless iterations of cooking it together.

What You’ll Need

We love cooking curries in our Le Creuset Casserole Dish because the enamel coating means the curry ingredients don’t stick (not to mention making it suuuuper easy to clean). Plus, the cast iron retains heat so it stays nice and warm for when we’re ready to eat. Plus, it’s easy to think of using the gorgeous French-made cookware for European dishes only – but this dish cooks a downright delicious curry just as well as any boeuf bourguignon!

Most ingredients you’ll find at the supermarket, however, kaffir lime, curry leaves and lemongrass can sometimes prove a little tricky – try your Asian supermarket in the first instance and look for fresh, dried or jarred versions. You can also purchase kaffir lime leaves driedcurry leaves dried and lemongrass paste online.

Nyonya curry ingredients laid out ready to cook.

How to make Nyonya Chicken Curry:

Start by pouring half your curry powder all over the chicken pieces and setting aside in the fridge to let the flavour infuse for 30 mins up to half a day, depending on when you’re ready to cook.

Coating chicken in curry powder to marinate.

Meanwhile, heat 4 tbsp oil in a casserole dish or large pot, and add the curry leaves, kaffir lime leaves, garlic, ginger, shallots, lemongrass and chilli along with the rest of your curry powder. Fry everything together for a few minutes until lusciously fragrant. If the oil starts to cook off too much causing the ingredients to stick, add another 1-2 tbsp. Next, add your potatoes and stir fry for a 3-5 mins. Remove them from pan.

Stirring potatoes and spices together.

Now add your chicken pieces and 2 tbsp oil and fry gently until lightly browned.

Cooking chicken ready for Nyonya curry.

Pop the potato back in the dish and pour in the water. Bring it to the boil before reducing the heat to low. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Pour in the coconut milk and cook for a further 5 mins until thickened. (Option: You can remove from the heat and leave things here if you’re cooking in advance.)

Pouring coconut milk into Nyonya curry.

Just before you’re ready to serve, add in your tomatoes and stir through.

Adding tomatoes into Nyonya chicken curry.

Serve with fluffy white rice.

 

Cook’s Tips

  • If you find during the frying stage the ingredients start to stick, adding a little extra oil or slightly reducing heat should avoid burning.
  • Some people prefer to use chicken breast – this is fine, just account for the tougher cut of meat and marinate overnight if possible, then cook for slightly longer to really let that flavour sink in.
  • Cut the curry and lime leaves very fine so they melt into the sauce. If you want a less aromatic dish, keep the leaves whole, make a small tear in them to release the flavour and remove before serving.
  • Putting the tomato in the end helps to cook it through gently and allows it to retain its shape. If you put it in earlier and cook it too long, it will break down into the sauce and you’ll lose the extra texture.

FAQs

Could I make this curry in advance?

Yes. If you want to make in advance, pour in the coconut milk then turn off the heat and allow to cool before refrigerating. When you reheat it ready to serve, then pop in the tomatoes 5 minutes beforehand to warm them through.

Can Nyonya chicken curry be frozen?

We’d recommend eating it within 3-4 days, and only freezing if you’re really not going to eat it all in that time. It freezes fine, however, sometimes the potato can be a little watery or floury when reheating.

Variations & Substitutes

  • Make this dish vegan by swapping out the chicken for tofu. Viola!
  • You can swap shallots for a brown onion.
  • For the kaffir lime leaves, you can purchase these fresh, frozen or dried at your local Asian supermarket or online. If you’re really stuck, substitute with regular lime zest. This will yield a different flavour though.

Potato and chicken based Nyonya curry in a blue bowl with a spoon.

Spice up your life with these popular Wandercooks curries:

 

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating below!

Chunky Nyonya chicken curry in a blue bowl.

Easy Nyonya Chicken Curry

A creamy coconut base wraps around aromatic curry leaves, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass in this fragrant Nyonya Chicken Curry. Packed full of tingling spice with just the right amount of heat!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Course: Curry
Cuisine: Malaysian, Singaporean
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 643kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $15

Ingredients

  • 1 kg chicken thighs, chopped
  • 3 tbsp curry powder
  • 10 curry leaves fresh, finely chopped
  • 8 kaffir leaves fresh, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 4 cm ginger finely chopped
  • 3 shallots finely chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass finely chopped
  • 1 chilli small red, finely chopped (add more if you like it spicy!)
  • 5 potatoes medium, quartered
  • 2 cups water
  • 300 g coconut milk
  • 2 tomatoes diced into large chunks
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil for cooking

Instructions

  • Start by pouring half your curry powder all over the chicken pieces and setting aside in the fridge to let the flavour infuse for 30 mins up to half a day, depending on when you're ready to cook.
  • Meanwhile, heat 4 tbsp oil in a casserole dish or large pot, and add the curry leaves, kaffir lime leaves, garlic, ginger, shallots, lemongrass and chilli along with the rest of your curry powder. Fry everything together for a few minutes until lusciously fragrant. If the oil starts to cook off too much causing the ingredients to stick, add another 1-2 tbsp. Next, add your potatoes and stir fry for a 3-5 mins. Remove them from pan.
  • Now add your chicken pieces and 2 tbsp oil and fry gently until lightly browned.
  • Pop the potato back in the dish and pour in the water. Bring it to the boil before reducing the heat to low. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Pour in the coconut milk and cook for a further 5 mins until thickened. (Option: You can remove from the heat and leave things here if you're cooking in advance.)
  • Just before you're ready to serve, add in your tomatoes and stir through.
  • Serve with fluffy white rice.

Video

Notes

Cook's Tips
  • If you find during the frying stage the ingredients start to stick, adding a little extra oil or slightly reducing heat should avoid burning.
  • Some people prefer to use chicken breast - this is fine, just account for the tougher cut of meat and marinate overnight if possible, then cook for slightly longer to really let that flavour sink in.
  • Cut the curry and lime leaves very fine so they melt into the sauce. If you want a less aromatic dish, keep the leaves whole, make a small tear in them to release the flavour and remove before serving.
  • Putting the tomato in the end helps to cook it through gently and allows it to retain its shape. If you put it in earlier and cook it too long, it will break down into the sauce and you'll lose the extra texture.
FAQs
  • Could I make this curry in advance? Yes. If you want to make in advance, pour in the coconut milk then turn off the heat and allow to cool before refrigerating. When you reheat it ready to serve, then pop in the tomatoes 5 minutes beforehand to warm them through.
  • Can Nyonya chicken curry be frozen? We'd recommend eating it within 3-4 days, and only freezing if you're really not going to eat it all in that time. It freezes fine, however, sometimes the potato can be a little watery or floury when reheating.
Variations & Substitutes
  • Make this dish vegan by swapping out the chicken for tofu. Viola!
  • You can swap shallots for a brown onion.
  • For the kaffir lime leaves, you can purchase these fresh, frozen or dried at your local Asian supermarket or online.  If you're really stuck, substitute with regular lime zest. This will yield a different flavour though.

Nutrition

Calories: 643kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 64g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 160mg | Sodium: 342mg | Potassium: 2546mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 835IU | Vitamin C: 112mg | Calcium: 161mg | Iron: 14mg
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks

 

Easy Nyonya Chicken Curry

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    Dave Purslow
    08/10/2017 at 1:20 am

    5 stars
    Just love this fusion cooking, loved the Choo Chee curry as well.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      10/10/2017 at 10:12 am

      Thanks Dave that’s awesome to hear – I think there’s nothing like getting a little experimental in the kitchen and seeing just what incredible flavours you can put together!

  • Reply
    Ben Myhre
    06/10/2017 at 10:29 pm

    OK, this is a great recipe (although I might switch out the chicken for tofu) and I love your ladies’ style. subscribed.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      07/10/2017 at 8:00 am

      Thanks Ben, tofu sounds delish – enjoy!

  • Reply
    Andreya
    06/10/2017 at 4:02 pm

    4 stars
    Hy girls, It looks so delicious and tasty. I usually prepare chicken curry like this method only but with fewer ingredients. Thanks for sharing the recipe 🙂

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      06/10/2017 at 4:04 pm

      Oh awesome Andreya – thanks for your lovely comment. Do let us know if you give this version a try, we’d love to hear what you think!

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