Nyonya kapitan chicken curry

by Norman Musa

A traditional Malaysian dish from Norman Musa’s Demo Kitchen debut

Kari ayam kapitan nyonya—or ‘captain’s curry’—is a traditional Malaysian dish.


For the spice mix:
2 tbsp coriander seeds
½ tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
5cm cinnamon stick

For the paste:
3 banana shallots
5 garlic cloves
5cm fresh turmeric (or 2 tsp ground turmeric)
2½cm fresh ginger
2½cm fresh galangal (or extra ginger)
½ medium onion
8 dried chillies, soaked in boiling water for 10 mins
1 tsp shrimp paste, dry-toasted
4 crushed candlenuts (kemiri nuts—can be replaced with macadamia nuts)

6 tbsp vegetable oil
2 lemongrass sticks, halved
1½ tsp fine sea salt
½ tbsp brown sugar
800g boneless chicken thighs
100ml coconut milk
3 tbsp kerisik (roasted coconut)
6 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced (or strips of rind from 2 limes)
1½ tbsp lime juice


Dry toast the spice mix in a frying pan on a medium heat for 1 min, then transfer to a spice grinder or pestle and mortar and grind until fine.

Using a food processor or a hand blender, blitz together the paste ingredients with the bottom halves of the lemongrass and a dash of water until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and mix well with the ground spice mix.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and sauté the tops of the lemongrass for 1 min to infuse the oil. Add the paste and spice mix and sauté for 2 mins until the oil separates. Add the salt, sugar and chicken and cook for 2 mins to seal.

Add the coconut milk together with 300ml water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 mins, stirring once or twice, until the chicken is cooked through.

Finally add the kerisik, lime leaves and lime juice and cook for 2 mins. Serve with jasmine rice.

Recipe: Norman Musa