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 Curry
- 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.