Amah’s Chicken Curry

February 3, 2011

Amah’s Chicken Curry

Recipe and image from ‘Heavenly Fragrance’ by Carol Selva Rajah, published by Periplus Editions (2007)

Carol Selva Rajah is a Malaysian food consultant, author and presenter. Raised in Malaysia but having lived in the United States and now Australia, her style is influenced by both Eastern and Western styles of cooking. Carol is a proud ambassador for the Malaysia Kitchen Australia program, which aims to promote Malaysian cuisine and the many wonderful Malaysian restaurants across Australia.

My Amah or nanny had the uncanny ability to tease the most tantalizing aromas from a handful of garlic gently sautéed with golden caramelized onions. She would then brown the chicken in this, smother it with perfumed herbs and freshly dry-roasted ground coriander and cumin to produce this unforgettable dish, which combines fragrances reminiscent of anise, parsley and lemon – Carol Selva Rajah.



3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 inch (3 cm) fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 stalk curry leaves, plucked and minced

2 lbs (1 kg) boneless chicken thigh fillets, sliced into bite-sized pieces

2 cups (500 ml) thick coconut milk

6-8 whole curry leaves

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

½ teaspoon ground white pepper

Fresh juice of 1 lime

Fried Onion Rings

2 tablespoons ghee or butter

2 small onions, thinly sliced into rings

Amah’s Curry Powder

3 tablespoons coriander seeds, dry-roasted and ground

1 tablespoon ground red pepper

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

2 teaspoons ground white pepper

1 teaspoon ground cassia or cinnamon

Prepare the Fried Onion Rings first by heating the ghee in a skillet and sautéing the onion rings over medium heat until golden and crisp, 2-3 minutes. Remove the onions and drain on paper towels.

Grind the garlic and ginger to a smooth paste in a mortar.

Heat the oil in a wok and stir-fry the ground paste and chopped onion until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Add the minced curry leaf and stir-fry for 1 more minute. Increase the heat to high, add the chicken pieces and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until the meat changes colour. Add the Amah’s Curry Powder ingredients and stir-fry until well combined. Pour in 1 cup of the coconut milk, cover and simmer for 3-5 minutes.

Stir in the remaining coconut milk, reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered until the curry has thickened 2-5 minutes. Add the whole curry leaves and season with the sugar (if using), salt and pepper, stirring well to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired and remove from the heat. Transfer to a serving bowl, top with the Fried Onion Rings and drizzle the lime juice over the top. Serve immediately with steamed rice.

What’s your favourite curry?

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