Asian Recipes/ Curry/ Dinner/ Recipes

Easy Nyonya Chicken Curry Recipe

26/05/2020 (Last Updated: 14/10/2020)

A warming, creamy curry that comes together so easily, and is big enough to feed the whole family. Infused with fresh curry leaves, kaffir lime and lemongrass, this fragrant Nyonya Chicken Curry recipe is packed full of tingling spice and just the right amount of heat!

Blue bowl heaped with hot Nyonya chicken curry.

Why We Love This

This easy Nyonya chicken curry is made with simple, real ingredients. No packets or pastes – it’s all from scratch and so satisfying to make at home. You’ll impress yourself and anyone else who tries it!

A big curry recipe like this is great to cook for family and friends. It’s easy to adapt to suit everyone’s spice tolerance. Add extra chopped chilli right into the dish, or serve separately on the table for those that like to revel in the spice.

P.S. Prefer vegetarian curries? Try our Sri Lankan pumpkin curry or Burmese eggplant curry instead!

Top view of a full bowl of Nyonya chicken curry.

What is Nyonya Curry? 

Nyonya curry (also known as kari ayam in Malay) is an aromatic coconut curry dish, popular in Singaporean and Malaysian cuisine. It’s traditionally served with bone-in chicken legs and nasi kunyit (turmeric sticky rice), but we’ve simplified the process slightly and use 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

A Le Creuset Casserole Dish makes cooking this curry a breeze because the enamel coating stops the curry ingredients from sticking while also being super easy to clean. The cast iron also retains the heat so your curry stays nice and warm for when we’re ready to eat. If you don’t have one, you can use a wok, saucepan or deep frying pan.

  • Chicken – We use chicken thighs as they are juicy, tender, and really soak up those curry flavours! Sub with any cut of chicken you prefer, or use tofu for a vegan curry.
  • Curry Powder – We love using S&B curry powder. Sub with your own homemade curry powder or Japanese curry roux for an even thicker sauce.
  • Coconut Milk – Sub with coconut cream for a thicker curry sauce.
  • Fresh Aromatics – Most ingredients you’ll find at the supermarket, however makrut / 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. If you can’t find shallots, sub them for brown onion.
  • To Serve – Serve over freshly cooked jasmine, basmati, sticky rice or long grain rice. Optional garnish with shredded makrut / kaffir lime leaves and thinly sliced chilli.
Nyonya curry ingredients laid out ready to cook.

How to Make Nyonya Chicken Curry:

  1. 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.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 4 tbsp vegetable 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 remaining 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.
  3. Next, add your potatoes and stir fry for a 3-5 mins, then remove them from pan.
  1. Now add your chicken pieces and 2 tbsp oil and fry gently until lightly browned.
  2. Return the potatoes back in the dish and pour in the water. Bring to the boil before reducing the heat to low. Let it 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.)
  3. Just before you’re ready to serve, add in your diced tomatoes and stir through. Serve with fluffy white rice.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Ingredients Starting to Stick? – Add a little extra oil or slightly reduce the heat to prevent ingredients burning.
  • Prefer to Use Chicken Breast? – That’s 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.
  • Potatoes – Frying the potatoes first helps them hold their shape in the final dish. We also use this technique in our Vietnamese chicken curry.
  • Leaves – We recommend chiffonade slicing the curry and lime leaves finely 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.
  • Tomato – Adding the tomato at the end helps to cook it through gently and allows it to retain its shape. If you add it in earlier and cook it too long, it will break down into the sauce and you’ll lose the extra texture.

FAQs

Can I make Nyonya curry in advance?

Yep, 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’re ready to reheat and serve, add in the tomatoes 5 minutes beforehand to warm them through.

Can this curry be frozen?

We 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

  • Make it Vegan – Swap out the chicken for tofu. Viola!
Potato and chicken based Nyonya curry in a blue bowl with a spoon.

Spice up your life with more delicious curries:

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

Large bowl of Nyonya chicken curry, topped with chilli pieces.

Easy Nyonya Chicken Curry

A warming, creamy curry that comes together so easily, and is big enough to feed the whole family. Infused with fresh curry leaves, kaffir lime and lemongrass, this fragrant Nyonya Chicken Curry recipe is packed full of tingling spice and 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

Instructions

  • Pour half the curry powder over the chicken pieces and pop in the fridge to marinate for minimum 30 mins (up to half a day, depending on when you're ready to cook).
    3 tbsp curry powder, 1 kg chicken
  • Meanwhile, heat 4 tbsp vegetable 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 remaining curry powder. Fry everything together for a few minutes until lusciously fragrant. Note: If the oil starts to cook off too much causing the ingredients to stick, add another 1-2 tbsp oil. Next, add your potatoes and stir fry for a 3-5 mins. Remove them from pan.
    3 tbsp curry powder, 10 curry leaves, 8 Thai makrut / kaffir lime leaves, 4 cloves garlic, 4 cm ginger, 3 shallots, 1 stalk lemongrass, 1 chilli, 6 tbsp vegetable oil, 5 potatoes
  • Now add your marinated chicken pieces and 2 tbsp oil and fry gently until lightly browned.
  • Return the potatoes back into the pot 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. (Optional: Remove from the heat and leave things here if you're cooking in advance.)
    2 cups water, 300 g coconut milk
  • Just before you're ready to serve, add in your tomatoes and stir through.
    2 tomatoes
  • Serve with fluffy white rice.

Video

Recipe Notes

  • Chicken – We use chicken thighs as they are juicy, tender, and really soak up those curry flavours! Sub with any cut of chicken you prefer, or use tofu for a vegan curry. Prefer to Use Chicken Breast? That’s 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.
  • Potatoes – Frying the potatoes first helps them hold their shape in the final dish. We also use this technique in our Vietnamese chicken curry.
  • Coconut Milk – Sub with coconut cream for a thicker curry sauce.
  • Fresh Aromatics – Most ingredients you’ll find at the supermarket, however makrut / 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. We recommend chiffonade slicing the curry and lime leaves finely 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. 
  • Shallots – If you can’t find shallots, sub them for brown onion.
  • Tomato – Adding the tomato at the end helps to cook it through gently and allows it to retain its shape. If you add it in earlier and cook it too long, it will break down into the sauce and you’ll lose the extra texture.
  • To Serve – Serve over freshly cooked jasmine, basmati, sticky rice or long grain rice. Optional garnish with shredded makrut / kaffir lime leaves and thinly sliced chilli.
  • Ingredients Starting to Stick? – Add a little extra oil or slightly reduce the heat to prevent ingredients burning.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Easy Nyonya Chicken Curry
Amount per Serving
Calories
643
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
24
g
37
%
Saturated Fat
 
16
g
100
%
Cholesterol
 
160
mg
53
%
Sodium
 
342
mg
15
%
Potassium
 
2546
mg
73
%
Carbohydrates
 
47
g
16
%
Fiber
 
10
g
42
%
Sugar
 
4
g
4
%
Protein
 
64
g
128
%
Vitamin A
 
835
IU
17
%
Vitamin C
 
112
mg
136
%
Calcium
 
161
mg
16
%
Iron
 
14
mg
78
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Easy Nyonya Chicken Curry Recipe

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Cha No Hana
    08/05/2021 at 1:37 am

    Hi, girls, which curry powder would you recommend? I don’t mean a specific brand (as I’m not in Aus), but more the “type” of flavour, e.g. Madras / mild / Oriental S&B style etc.
    Many thanks!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      08/05/2021 at 9:47 am

      Hello! For this I’d recommend S&B, Ayam or Bolst’s curry powder. Any should work in a pinch, but those three in particular are great. 🙂 Let us know what you think!

  • 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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