By Billy Law, Malaysia Kitchen Ambassador.

Almost every Nyonya household has its own version of this classic curry dish, often a closely guarded secret recipe that is not easily pried out of elderly relatives. My family has our own version too which is on the hotter side with a hint of sourness from the tamarind paste.

My mum always prepared a big pot of this dish for special occasions like Lunar New Year or birthdays and usually there would be none left by the end of the parties except for a pool of curry sauce. That’s why you need to be sure to make extra roti jala to mop up the addictive saucy goodness.



Serves: 4


  • 1 (1.2kg) whole free-range chicken, jointed
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 1 Tbs tamarind paste, mixed in ½ cup water
  • 2 stalks curry leaves
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • Rempah (spice paste)
  • 20 g belacan (dried shrimp paste)
  • 10 g dried red chillies (use less or seeded chillies if you don’t like it too hot), soaked in hot water for
  • 30 minutes, then drained
  • 5 large fresh red chillies, seeded
  • 10 g candlenuts
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 100 g French shallots (about 10–12), peeled
  • 15 g fresh turmeric, peeled (or 1 tablespoon ground turmeric)
  • 5 g galangal, peeled
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, white part only.


To make the rempah, blend the rempah ingredients until you achieve a fine paste.

Heat oil in a wok, to a medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Add rempah paste and keep stirring for about 10 minutes until the paste thickens, darkens in colour and the oil begins to separate from the mixture.

Add chicken pieces and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add coconut milk, tamarind water, curry leaves, salt and sugar. Give it a quick stir, turn the heat down low, cover and simmer until chicken is cooked and tender, about 45 minutes.

Serve with roti jala or roti canai.

Prep time: 30min Cook time: 60min