A new curry recipe! Today I’m sharing a Chinese/Malaysian fusion chicken curry from Nyonya cuisine. Doing my research for the recipe; I became really intrigued by Nyonya cultural background and found some wonderful reading about it that I would like to briefly share with you in order to fully understand and appreciate this curry we are making today (*).
I’ve always thought that a country’s cuisine is a very holistic approach to discover its history, culture and idiosyncrasies; cooking something exotic (to us) is such a wonderful way of travelling without leaving your home, analogous to reading one of those great books that transport you to a different place. I can get so inspired by world’s cuisines that I get to experience a little obsession with the subject, searching, reading and going into expeditions to find ingredients and cook!
(*)The Peranakan or the Baba Nyonya community (also known as the Straits Chinese), evolved in the fifteenth century when the Chinese arrived in Malacca and intermarriage with local women took place. The Peranakan culture is a unique blend of two cultures – Malay and Chinese – intermixed into a fascinating synthesis with elements of Javanese, Batak, Thai and British cultures. Today, they are found throughout Malaysia and Singapore with strongholds in Malacca, Singapore and Penang.
The word Peranakan is derived from the Malay word ‘anak’ which means ‘child’. The term refers to the local-born as well as the offspring of foreigner-native union. Baba is the term for the male and Nyonya for the female.
Peranakan food is a wonderful combination of Malay and Chinese cuisine with influences from Indonesia, Thailand, India, Holland, Portugal and England. Nyonya food is clearly unique and Malaysian/Singaporean in identity. Using ingredients such as galangal, serai, chillies, tumeric, ginger, tau cheow, tamarind, lime juice, belachan, buah keras, gula Melaka; spices such as star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and leaves such as daun kesum, daun kaduk, daun cekok, daun limau perut and pandan.
I hope that after knowing a little more about this wonderful culture you feel like tasting it with the following unique curry recipe. Trust me, the flavour will surprise you, is neither Indian nor Thai, is just Nyonya, and it’s delicious!
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
- a dash of olive oil
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 4 cloves
- 6 cardamom pods
- 2 teaspoonful or red curry paste (adjust according to taste in spiciness)
- 4 chicken thighs, diced
- 2 tins of coconut milk (or 1 tin of coconut milk + 1 cup water or chicken stock for a lighter gravy)
- 1 courgette (zucchini), diced (the original recipe has potatoes on it, I used courgette instead, since as it’s served with rice, there goes my starch quota)
- Fish sauce to taste
- Steamed Basmati rice to serve
Heat the oil in a cooking pot, sauté the dry spices (cinnamon, star anise, cloves and cardamom) for some seconds, add the curry paste, remove and stir fry until fragrant.
Put in the chicken and toss to coat with the paste, brown for a few minutes.
Pour the coconut milk , add the courgette, season with fish sauce, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for around 25 minutes or till the courgette is soft (or the potato if using is cooked).
Serve with steamed Basmati rice and enjoy!