Peranakans are descendants of early Chinese settlers in Penang, Malaysia. The Malaysian word is nonya which refers to the respect and affection held for women within their society. The food is a blend of Chinese and Malay spicing and flavouring. Typically the food is spicy, tangy, herbal and aromatic. This simple curry is no exception.
2.5 tablespoons curry powder (see below)
1.25kg chicken drumsticks and thighs (skinned)
3 sticks lemon grass
2 tablespoons groundnut oil
good piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
300 g waxy potatoes, peeled and quartered
200 g shallots, finely diced
6 kaffir lime leaves, very finely chopped
12 fresh curry leaves, very finely chopped
2 green chillies, very finely chopped
300 ml coconut milk
2 tablespoons tamarind paste (if not available mix 1.5 tablespoons lemon juice with half a teaspoon sugar)
2 medium tomatoes, quartered
sprinkle of sugar (less than a teaspoon)
It's perfectly acceptable to use a good quality shop-bought curry powder, otherwise see directions below!
Start by rubbing 1.5 tablespoons of the curry powder over the chicken pieces and set aside. Now prepare the lemon grass - in order to get maximum flavour from the lemon grass, slice off the tough end and then slice the lemon grass lengthwise. Tie together with twine and set aside.
Use a good heavy bottomed pan or wok with a lid and set over a medium high heat. Pour in the oil and when hot add the ginger slices, stir fry until the ginger just starts to brown giving off a wonderful fragrance and adding flavour to the oil. Discard the ginger at this point and add the quartered potatoes and allow them to brown on all sides before setting aside with a slotted spoon- don't worry they will continue cooking later in the process. Now add the finely chopped shallots and stir fry for 3 minutes until they start to turn golden. Immediately add the remaining curry powder, lemon grass, lime leaves, curry leaves and green chillies. Continue cooking for 3 to 4 minutes, the smells will be tantalising! Now quickly add the chicken, stir to mix well and then return the potatoes to the pan or wok with 450ml of water. Season with a little salt and bring to the boil before reducing the heat down to below medium. Cover and allow to cook gently for approximately 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes add the coconut milk, chopped tomatoes, a sprinkle of sugar and the tamarind paste (or substitute if using) and allow to cook for a further 10 minutes uncovered. Whilst cooking continue to spoon the sauce over the chicken. Finally remove the lemon grass bundle.
The wonderful curry is now ready to be served with plain white rice, or can be set aside and re-heated later depending upon your timings. You will really enjoy this tremendously rich and flavoursome curry!
For those that prefer their own curry powder here's a basic curry powder recipe that works very well. The heat can be adjusted by adding pure chilli powder, however the basic recipe below does not include it:
5 whole cloves
3 dried red chillies, crumbled
1 teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
1.5 teaspoons whole mustard seeds
2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
1 tablespoon whole cummin seeds
2 tablespoons whole corriander seeds
Take a small frying pan and dry roast the coriander, cummin, peppercorns, mustard seeds, cloves and dried chillies, over a medium heat. Stir gently until the aromas start to be emitted and as the spices begin to darken add the fenugreek and tumeric, stirring for no more than 15 seconds.
Empty the spices onto a clean dry plate, spread and allow to cool. Once cool, grind in a spice grinder as finely as possible. Store in a clean jar away from heat and daylight. Delicious!