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Auntie Ruby’s Nonya Curry Chicken

I know I am biased. Every boy grows up loving the curry his Mum made and I am no exception. Mum’s version is the best. I have memories of eating it with white bread, sucking clean every bone and wiping up every bit of the curry. Hers is a Nonya version and it is sometimes called Curry Kapitan.

These are the reasons why I like it:

  • The meat is cooked just right; firm and yet tender to the bite. If you see the meat falling off the bone, it is a clear sign that the curry is overcooked and that won’t be my mum’s.
  • There is sufficient oil in the curry which adds to its smooth mouth-feel. It is supposed to be a curry, not soup. Her curry is drier and not swimming in coconut milk. Note that spices are oil-soluble.  
  • The wonderful fragrance of spices and herbs is a clear sign that the curry was made from fresh spices and herbs.

Let’s start with some basics about what makes for a good curry.

You need a good-tasting chicken. I normally get the fresh ones from the wet market and avoid the frozen variety from the supermarts. Free-range chicken will, of course, taste better. Spices need to be fresh. Use fresh spice powder mix or toast and grind seeds. As for chilli paste, I will normally make paste from dried chilies or buy ready-made fresh paste from the market. Shallots or onions are essential to give body to this curry.

As for potatoes, get the yellow fleshed ones, please. They are tastier and have a nice, crumbly texture.

A wok or a wide-mouthed, traditional curry claypot will work well for cooking this dish, ensuring even cooking throughout and a curry that’s thickened through condensation.As you can imagine, if accompanied by a veg like cucumber and bread or rice at the dining table, this chicken curry is a complete meal.

In this recipe I will omit adding spices like cumin or coriander seeds as these take it towards the Indian direction. My mum’s lean towards the Nonya version which allow the lemon grass and turmeric to shine through.

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