Elly’s Nonya Chicken Curry for the Care to Cook Challenge

My little sis Elly with our Mum Cheryl (left) in Penang in the early 80s, and again with me (in the days when I was still bigger)

Our next entry for the Care to Cook Challenge comes from my little sister Elly. I say ‘little’ but must admit that Elly has towered over me for many years now, despite being five years my junior.

Elly has a very sweet tooth and I assumed when I asked if she’d submit a favourite recipe for this challenge, her contribution would certainly be a cake or pudding. But no, she’s gone and surprised me with this amazing looking Nonya Chicken Curry. My little sis is all grown up and is cooking very grown up food!

Nonya cuisine comes from the Malaysian island of Penang, where our Mum was born, and is now seen as one of the earliest examples of fusion food. Penang is a melting pot for different cultures and food from the Nonya kitchen is influenced by Chinese, Malay and Thai cooking. My sister Elly will tell you more…

I make this for my partner Kelvin and to this day he still says it’s the best chicken curry he’s ever had, which from a Malaysian is pretty high praise. And if we think perhaps he is a little biased, I also made it for his father (a lovely man but one of very few words) who told me, “It’s good.” I almost fell over – hehehe!

The method is pretty short so makes it look likes it’s going to be quick but if you really make it from scratch (ie grind and pound all the spices with a mortar and pestle), it’s quite a lot of work and you’ll end up with muscles. However, it is worth it and even just thinking of it is making my mouth water!

Here we go:

Nonya Chicken Curry

4-5 tbsp oil
1 star anise
2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick

Spice paste (ground)

7 dried chillies, soaked
200g (20) shallots
3 cloves garlic
20g belachan (shrimp paste), toasted
20g (2cm) turmeric
3 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp fennel

1.5 kg meaty chicken pieces
300g potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
400ml thin coconut milk
100ml thick coconut milk
salt and sugar

Heat oil over a medium low flame and saute star anise, cloves and cinnamon stick. Add in spice paste and stir-fry well. Add 2 to 3 tbsp thin coconut milk (if it is too dry) and fry over low heat until fragrant and oil separates.

Add chicken and fry for a minute. Add potatoes and pour in thin coconut milk. Simmer until chicken is tender and potatoes are cooked.

Lastly, add the thick coconut milk and season to taste. Continue to cook until gravy is slightly thick. Serve with boiled white rice or roti.

Elly with her gorgeous daughter Loella

Do you have a favourite family recipe you’d like to contribute to TACT’s Care to Cook Recipe Challenge? Share a link to a post on your own blog or email me your recipe to be featured here on Bangers & Mash. The winning recipe will receive a copy of TACT’s cookbook signed by the charity’s patron and celebrity cook Lorraine Pascale. The closing date is 12 August – more details are here.

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8 thoughts on “Elly’s Nonya Chicken Curry for the Care to Cook Challenge

  1. Pingback: The Care to Cook Recipe Challenge, plus Bernadette’s Caribbean Pot Roast Chicken « Bangers & Mash

  2. Looks like a dish which is so rich in flavour. I must give it a try :-) Quick question: What’s the difference between thin and thick coconut milk – is it like full fat and low fat coconut milk

    • OK, I’ve heard back from my sister Elly. This is what she says:

      The difference for me has always been that the supermarket stocks coconut “cream” and coconut “milk” so I assumed the cream was the thick stuff and the milk the thin.

      However, that is very unscientific so I just checked on Wikipedia for the proper definition! Two grades of coconut milk exist: thick and thin. Thick milk is prepared by directly squeezing grated coconut meat through cheesecloth. The squeezed coconut meat is then soaked in warm water and squeezed a second or third time for thin coconut milk. So there you go!!

      • Ah, so the fat stuff is coconut cream and the thin is the milk – gotcha! Thanks :-)

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