Chicken curry is a dish that I grew up with. But the chicken curry of my childhood was just a coconut milk based stew made yellow with curry powder. Homey and really comforting but, well… it lacked fire somehow. Later on, when I learned to cook, I would add combine a teaspoonful of cayenne powder with the curry powder. And, much later, I would learn to add the spices during the sautéing stage and not after.
One thing I learned during a trip around Southeast Asia is that there are many, many ways to cook curried dishes — Indian-style curry has yogurt, Thai-style curry has coconut milk or cream, and that inclusion of potatoes is a European modification.
Curried dishes can be quite dry or saucy and the color of the stew varies depending on the kind of curry paste used — yellow, red or green. I’ve already gotten my hands on the recipes for all three kinds of curry paste, I do intend to make them one of these days but, for now, let me just share with you this five-step chicken curry recipe (six, if you include the step when you serve the dish) as an update and addition to my 2005 chicken curry recipe.
Thai Chicken CurryPrint Pin
- 1 whole whole chicken or chicken quarters, 1 to 1.5 kilograms
- 2 to 3 stalks lemongrass
- 2 kaffir lime leaves dried or fresh
- 1 to 2 finger chilies
- 2 to 3 sprigs Thai basil
- 1 onion or 2 to 3 shallots
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic
- 1 thumb-sized knob ginger
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 to 3 tablespoons curry powder
- 2 cups coconut cream
- patis (fish sauce) to taste
Prepare the herbs and spices
- Finely slice two to three stalks of lemongrass.
- Finely slice an onion (two to three shallots would be better).
- Crush and roughly chop two to three cloves of garlic.
- Peel and slice a thumb-sized piece of ginger.
- Strip the leaves of a couple of sprigs of Thai basil.
- Separate the kaffir lime leaves.
Saute the spices
- Heat the cooking oil in a thick-bottomed pot. A pot or pan with a thin bottom will likely cause scorching since you will be simmering the stew in a thick coconut cream.
- Saute the onion (or shallots), garlic, lemongrass and ginger until the onions start to turn translucent.
- Add the curry powder. Now, not later. Spices do have essential oils and you want those oils released for maximum flavor. Stir for about 30 seconds.
Brown the chicken
- Add the chicken pieces. Stir to coat each chicken piece with the curry. Cook, stirring often, until the chicken is lightly browned.
Simmer the chicken
- Pour in the coconut cream.
- Throw in the finger chilis, kaffir lime leaves and basil.
- Season with patis (fish sauce).
- Stir, cover and simmer for 40 to 45 minutes. Check the liquid after 20 minutes or so. If the mixture appears too dry, add a little water, no more than a quarter of a cup. Too much water and you’ll have a soup instead of a stew.
The optional potatoes
- If you want to add potatoes, add them after the first 20 minutes, bring to a gentle boil then continue simmering.
- Before turning off the heat, taste and season with more patis (fish sauce) if necessary.
Serve the Thai chicken curry
- You’re now ready to serve your chicken curry. Place a chicken (and potato, if using) on top of hot rice, smother with sauce and serve at once.
- Alternatively, serve the chicken (and potatoes) in individual bowls with some of the sauce.