Burmese-Inspired Chicken Braised in Coconut Milk & Turmeric with Sweet Potato

October 5, 2016

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: My aunt’s family lived in Burma in the ‘60s and when they came back to the U.S., they brought a recipe for “kaukswe,” a coconut-chicken-curry dish from the southern part of the country. Kaukswe has specific components—Chinese egg noodles, fried crispy noodles, lime juice, chiles, coconut milk—but over the years I have played around with the chicken-coconut milk braise and simplified the dish into a quick, satisfying meal that’s fairly easy to whip up.Sara Jenkins

Serves: 4 to 6
Prep time: 8 hrs 20 min
Cook time: 1 hrs 20 min


For the soup

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon dried ginger
  • 1 tablespoon dried turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as grapeseed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 1-inch piece peeled ginger
  • 1 peeled shallot
  • 1 dried chile, on the hot side (I like de árbol)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil or a neutral cooking oil, such as grapeseed
  • 1 cup cubed sweet potato
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 limes, 1 juiced and 1 quartered
  • 1 pinch salt, to taste

For the crispy shallot topping

  • 1 peeled shallot, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup neutral cooking oil, such as grapeseed
In This Recipe


For the soup

  1. Cut the chicken thighs into about 1-inch pieces and marinate overnight with the dried ginger, turmeric, coriander, and 1 tablespoon of neutral oil. I like the overnight marinade, but if you forget, simply toss the chicken pieces with the spices before you start cooking.
  2. In a food processor, mince the garlic, ginger, shallot, dried chile, and the roots and/or stems of the bunch of cilantro.
  3. In the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, heat the coconut oil. Then add the cubed sweet potato. Fry until golden brown on at least 2 sides of each cube. Scoop out of the pan, leaving the oil, and set aside. Add the chicken pieces (a few at a time so you can brown them without having them cool the pan down) and let them begin to brown. Season with a pinch of salt. When they are mostly browned, add the minced shallot-ginger-garlic-cilantro stem mixture and let cook out a little. Add a couple tablespoons of the chicken stock and let reduce until the mixture is soft and cooked. Add the rest of the chicken stock and the reserved sweet potatoes and bring to a simmer.
  4. Meanwhile use the method below to fry the crispy shallots (this can also be done as much as a week ahead of time, as the shallots will keep in a closed container at room temperature for a week at least).
  5. Simmer the soup for about half an hour, until the chicken and sweet potatoes are close to tender. Stir in the fish sauce, lime juice, and coconut milk and bring up to a simmer. Stir in a quarter cup of cilantro leaves and taste for salt. Serve garnished with the crispy shallots, a couple of sprigs of raw cilantro, and the lime wedges

For the crispy shallot topping

  1. In a sauté pan over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the shallots and stir frequently. As the oil continues to heat, the shallots will start to color. When they get to golden brown, scoop them out of the oil and drain on a paper towel. You want to pull them out of the oil a little before dark brown, as they'll continue to cook and crisp up on the paper towel.

More Great Recipes:
Soup|Southeast Asian|Cilantro|Coconut|Coriander|Milk/Cream|Shallot|Sweet Potato/Yam|Turmeric|Chicken|Chicken Thigh|Make Ahead

Reviews (81) Questions (1)

81 Reviews

Lindsay S. March 1, 2019
My whole family loved this. The only change I made was adding a scoop of sticky rice on top as I served it. Question: the coconut milk is the kind in the can right? not the milk cartons? I was confused by the unsweetened part. aren't all the cans of coconut milk unsweetened?
Sarakenna12 February 22, 2019
Loved this dish! Made it for a dinner party. One of our guests is vegetarian so I subbed veggie broth, tofu, and cauliflower. I marinated firm/pressed tofu overnight as described in the chicken preparation. After browning and removing the potatoes, I sautéed the tofu lightly in oil in the same pot as the potatoes. Removed the tofu and then lightly sautéed to cauliflower until cooked/crisp. Added the paste, broth, tofu and cauliflour back to the pot and simmered for a few minutes before adding in the coconut milk. Served it with traditional egg noodles, fried shallots (a must!), lime, siracha, and cilantro. Turned out fantastic. Everyone loved it.
Lainey N. February 12, 2019
MmMmmMmmm so yummy and so easy. Easy to riff too. I reduce and serve over rice.
Roxie Y. February 12, 2019
I'm anxious to make this recipe and have some friends over. Does everyone who commented love cilantro, or is it not to strong of a flavour? I really dislike cilantro, does it overpower? Is there anything I can sub with?
Susan H. February 12, 2019
I adore Cilantro and enjoy as much as possible! You could substitute with perhaps 70 / 30 Flat Leaf Parsley & Basil
Cassie E. February 17, 2019
I was never a fan of cilantro but in dishes like this it is a key flavour and not an overpowering one. OH, make this recipe. It's amazing!
Lindsay S. March 1, 2019
Definitely sub basil. Some people just have an aversion to cilantro! I love it.
caarin February 8, 2019
I've made this recipe many times now. This week I used less liquid, doubled the sweet potatoes, so that there was an even amount of potatoes and chicken, and added spinach from my CSA at the very end. I cut the simmer time down, put it in a large pie dish and topped with a coriander pastry crust to make a curry chicken pot pie. Baked for 30min at 375°. Oooooh. ahhh. Superyum.
Erin W. February 7, 2019
The most amazing soup! Although there are multiple steps, it’s surprisingly easy to make. I can not wait to make this again!
Anne E. January 30, 2019
Oh and I had some frozen cauliflower that needed to be used and tossed that in about four minutes before some time.
Anne E. January 30, 2019
This was fabulous. In the interest of time and laziness (let’s be honest), I didn’t do that presautee business with the potatoes. It was amazing. Pretty much followed the recipe. Easy and incredible.
Amy M. January 29, 2019
This is absolutely delicious and I will make again and again! I like to increase the amount of sweet potatoes just a bit. I could also see exchanging or adding some other veggies as well. I also like to serve it over a small amount of rice. The crispy shallots are definitely worth making! I double the amount of shallots and only use 1/2 cup of grape seed oil and it worked fine.
Lizabeth L. January 26, 2019
This was better than I could have imagined. Used 1 T of Thai Kitchen fish sauce and 1 pasilla chile. I will make this again - most likely try the full 2 T fish sauce or invest in a higher end bottle (red boat). I cannot believe how amazing and beautiful this dish is. I hope you will try it. Better than any Thai restaurant I have been to!
Lindsay January 26, 2019
This is amazing! Great recipe. I followed the recipe almost exactly, just omitted the Chili for my kids who don’t like spicy food! I’m excited to make it again. I think next time I’ll add some green beans at the end.
Rachel T. January 24, 2019
This curry is one of my favorite things I have made in a long time. The flavors are just a delight. I think this would be great for a dinner party or gathering.
Karen S. January 24, 2019
OMG this is so yummy. I let the chicken absorb all the flavorful goodness overnight and followed directions as written except I forgot to buy the pepper. Instead I added a heaping tablespoon of Thai chili garlic paste to the broth (before the coconut milk). Total deliciousness, this recipe is definitely a keeper. FYI, my husband and I finished the whole thing so I would recommend making adjustments if you are serving more than two adults.
Natasha January 23, 2019
What's a good substitute for the fish sauce? I have a severe allergy to seafood, particularly shellfish, and can't have fish sauce because it often is made with ground up shrimp in it.
Author Comment
Sara J. January 26, 2019
just use some soy sauce but maybe a little less
Matthew February 9, 2019
You can find a vegan fish sauce on Amazon and some health food stores, maybe even Whole Foods. There are also recipes online you can find with a Google search. Good luck!
Anne E. January 22, 2019
This was delicious. It came together so easily. I didn't have time to pre-sautee sweet potatoes or marinade for longer than it took to food process the cilantro business but not convinced it made much difference. I used coconut cream instead of milk just because and tossed in a frozen bag of cauliflower towards the end. Loved by all.
Jenny January 21, 2019
I made this last night, after a day of skiing. I had marinated the chicken the night before, so the prep was quick and easy, and I skipped the fried shallots, and it was still wonderful.
coldheartmountain January 20, 2019
This is a superbly delicious, yet easy recipe, with many parts available for making ahead. The house smelled so good while this was cooking; if this recipe appeals to you, go for it— it’s a keeper. I messed around with the quantities of chicken and sweet potato, and it came out perfect. I believe you could successfully use different vegetables as long as your ratios equal out with the original recipe, too. Thank you for sharing this!
ashley July 8, 2018
Seriously amazing! Everyone who's eaten this at my dinner table has gone back for seconds or thirds. I especially love that this recipe is easily adapted for an AIP diet by omitting coriander and chile.
Reed May 6, 2018
Made this tonight. The most delicious curry I've ever cooked. I added some extra carrots and only 1 tbs of fish sauce. I served it with rice. The flavor is outstanding. You have to try it. Thanks Sara for sharing such a fantastic recipe.
tammy F. April 19, 2018
My favorite curry ever!!!