A Malaysian classic, and often one of the first curries Malaysians learn to cook from their moms. The rich and spicy base, combined with the comforting flavors of chicken and potatoes, makes for a cozy, curried meal. —Yi Jun Loh
4 to 6
(2-inch) piece ginger
dried red chiles
Thai red chiles, for extra spice (optional)
Malaysian curry powder (usually labelled "meat curry powder"), I use Baba's or Alagappa's
chile powder, plus more to taste
10 to 15
2 1/2 pounds
bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks
In a food processor, blend the shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, and both chiles until they form a smooth paste. (Alternatively, you can take the more traditional, and more laborious, route—pounding it with a mortar and pestle until smooth.)
Heat up the oil in a deep pot or wok set over medium heat. Add the blended paste and stir-fry until it turns fragrant and intensifies in color. This should take 6 to 8 minutes.
Then, add the curry powder, chile powder, and salt, frying for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until the spice paste starts to glisten and split and you can see an oily film separate from the paste itself. This is the “pecah minyak” stage. (If your paste is cooking too quickly and starts to burn, add a teaspoon or two of water.)
When the spice paste has reached the “pecah minyak” stage, add the cinnamon stick, star anise, curry leaves, and chicken. Mix and continue frying for 3 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is evenly coated in the curry paste. Then, pour water into the pot until the pieces of chicken are just covered. Cover the pot with a lid and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes, and simmer for another 25 to 30 minutes, until both the chicken and potatoes are cooked through.
Finally, pour in the coconut milk. Give it a quick stir, and let the curry simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes. Taste the curry, adding more salt at this stage if necessary.
The curry is best served hot. It’s especially great with steamed white rice along with other Asian sides, or with Malaysian breads like roti canai or roti jala.