Malaysian Style Chicken Curry (Kari Ayam)

Kari Ayam

Kari Ayam is what they call this in Malaysia, in English simply Chicken Curry. It is a dish made out of chicken usually the bony parts like ribs, wings, thighs and legs marinated in a spice blend of chillies, ginger, garlic, lemon grass, shallots, belachan and candlenuts cooked with coconut milk together with potatoes served with rice and roti.

I don’t know what makes this dish so addictive to me, is it the spices, the tasty chicken broth from the bony chicken used in this dish, the pungent but umami filled belachan or the oily crispy chewy roti that accompanies it? I guess it’s a combination of all of the above because if one of these elements is not here then I am afraid you will not have the same experience.

I was initially introduced to this one back in Malaysia and this was one of my usual lunch fare when I go to a nearby food stall near our office, I usually order roti with it which I used to wipe all of the remaining sauces from my bowl as well as my plate. It’s such a comfort dish, a dish where you try it once you will definitely want to have it over and over again.

Malaysian Style Chicken Curry (Kari Ayam)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6
Spice Paste
  • 8 pcs shallots, peeled
  • 10 dried chillies, seeds separated
  • 4 fresh red chillies, seeds separated
  • 5 pcs candlenuts
  • ½ head garlic, peeled
  • 2 inch ginger
  • 2 pcs lemongrass, roughly chopped
  • 20 g belachan
  • 1.5 kg chicken, use bony parts
  • 3 pcs medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2½ cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 pcs star anise
  • 4 pcs cloves
  • 6 pcs green cardamoms
  • 6 pcs curry leaves
  • fish sauce
  • brown sugar
  • oil
  1. In a food processor combine all Spice Paste ingredients, process until it becomes a paste. Add chilli seeds to adjust to the hotness you want.
  2. Place spice paste in a covered jar and let the flavours mature for at least a day.
  3. In a bowl combine spice paste and chicken then let it marinate for not more than 30 minutes.
  4. Heat oil in a big wok then sauté cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, green cardamoms and curry leaves, stir fry until fragrant.
  5. Add the marinated chicken together with all of its marinade and fry on low heat, continue to fry until it’s really fragrant. (You might need to open your windows when doing this especially if you made a spicy hot version)
  6. Pour the chicken stock, turn heat to high and bring to a boil.
  7. Lower heat, cover the wok then simmer for 10 minutes.
  8. Add the potatoes, cover again then simmer in low heat for 30 minutes.
  9. Add coconut milk, cover then simmer for 20 more minutes.
  10. Season with fish sauce and brown sugar then serve with freshly cooked rice and roti.


Kari Ayam Wide


13 Responses

  1. I haven’t mastered how to eat this amazing bowl of goodness gracefully yet, but hot dang it is one of my all time faves. Although I don’t always use the boney meats (because Im such a grub eating it).
    I don’t use the candlenut, actually never heard of it before. Will have to see if I can source some to try.
    Thanks for this, looking forward to trying. 🙂

  2. Kristy says:

    It is definitely addictive! I feel the same way about chicken curry. It’s the spices for me. 🙂

  3. Oh, so delicious – Raymund – love the look of this.

  4. Karen says:

    This sounds like real comfort food.

  5. Tessa says:

    Looks fantastic Raymund!

  6. Loving your spices Raymund! You know I have everything in my pantry to make this except the candle nuts. I know there is an exchange for this so will have to look it up. My boys would love the spice!

  7. Dear Raymund,

    I love curry chicken and these days, I just use the awesome Tean’s brand curry chicken paste from Malaysia though I add some fresh lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and julienne ginger, cloves and cinammon. This wonder paste saves so much prep time let alone costing just $2 a packet.

  8. Mike says:

    Looks really nice and I will try it this weekend (once I’ve hunted down some candlenuts!) but I am curious as to why you used fish sauce – from my time living & working in Penang I know this is not something Malay cooking uses, in fact it is frowned on (my gf at the time was from Penang and her mother told me a good Malay cook never uses fish sauce). Generally fresh chillis are also only used a garnish and not in dishes themselves – the heat comes form dried chilies or powder.
    But hey, I am being *really* picky here (sorry!) and I am still going to cook this as it looks great as I’ve had trouble finding a recipe for a really good Kari Ayam. But I will be leaving out the fish sauce 😉

    • Raymund says:

      Thats OK, the fish sauce is just a Filipino thing 🙂

      • Mike says:

        Fair enough Raymund – sorry to be critical…. each to their own!

        I made this last night using your recipe but it came out a pale brown instead of the red/orange colour you got…. not sure why but it still tasted pretty good. 🙂

        One question – when you say “oil” in the ingredients list, how much do you actually use? I used 2tbsp expecting the oil to separate in step 5 like it does when you make a rendang – is this how do you it or do you just use more oil which then comes up to the top naturally during cooking? I did not actually cook it as long as you did (probably 20 mins less) as I started cooking too late so that may also explain it.

        Anyway, I will have another go and try to follow your recipe more closely next time – and this time I might even try the fish sauce! 😉

        • Raymund says:

          For the oil I use around same amount as you or a bit more. With oil, salt, pepper and sometimes sugar I leave it without quantity as these depends on the one who eats the food, I dont want it to be salty or bland to other people. And yes the additional oil floating on top is from the chicken, I included the skin as it adds more flavour. As for the red orange tint, it must be the difference in chillies used because sometimes I have same colour as the one you were explaning.

          • Mike says:

            Thanks Raymund – next time I will make sure I give it the extra cooking time as per the recipe as I don’t think my flavours were developed enough. I also used chicken thigh (as chicken skin is so high in saturated fat) so that could also be why the oil didn’t separate. I was still happy with what I got but I am definitely going to give this one another go 🙂

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