Malaysian Chicken Kapitan (Kari Kapitan)

Cook Eat WorldAsianMalaysian Chicken Kapitan (Kari Kapitan)
By Published On: March 15th, 2021

This amazing Kapitan Curry (Kari Kapitan) from Malaysia has an abundance of flavour, colour and texture – a festival for the taste buds. Creamy and rich, with fragrance for days, this classic dish is one of the tastiest South East Asian curries on the menu. Get the recipe…

Chicken Kapitan Curry

Aye aye Chicken Kapitan! This is one of my all-time favourites! Those who know me know I can't get enough Malaysian food in my life and this is one of the best! It's one of my 10 Best Chicken Curry Recipes and you'll see why! It's also features in my go-to list of the Best Malaysian Curry Recipes - be sure to check out those!

This curry was a favourite of mine when I lived in Sydney, Australia - virtually every lunchtime I'd visit my favourite Malaysian restaurant for my favourite Nyonya chicken curry, Kari Ayam Kapitan - or Chicken Kapitan as we non-Malaysians know it.

What is Chicken Kapitan Curry?

This chicken curry is a Nyonya dish of Malaysia - Nyonyan cuisine is a blend of Chinese and Local Malaysian foods cooked by the Peranakan people. It has a distinctive cuisine, a combination of Chinese ingredients and techniques with fragrant and fresh local South East Asian ingredients. In Malaysia some of these dishes are considered the finest examples of cuisine in the region. This Kapitan chicken curry is one such delight. A rich, fragrant and lightly spiced kari or curry.

In my Kapitan recipe, I cook it the way it was always served in Sydney, with potatoes in the sauce - I love the combination of juicy chicken with soft, creamy potatoes. The sauce is coconut based, so has a lovely creamy consistency and the sauce itself fragrant over spicy. I use a mild chilli powder in this dish - usually an Indian Kashmiri Chilli powder as it adds great colour, without spicy heat. You can also substitute with paprika for no heat at all.

Making a Kapitan curry paste

Our Kari Kapitan starts with a curry paste - we blend shallots with aromatics like lemongrass, galangal, fresh turmeric, garlic and shrimp paste. Turmeric is a wonderful super-food that aids in digestion and lends the most amazing orange hue to the dish. Fresh will give great colour and flavour, but powder is fine too.

I like to pre-grind my lemongrass, it helps absorb into the paste more when blending. But a good, powerful blender will do the job too. Lastly, an interesting ingredient are candlenuts. Native to South East Asia, they are used only in cooking to help bring texture and thickening properties to pastes and sauces. They're not eaten as nuts - in fact when raw, they are slightly toxic! As a substitute use macadamia nuts.

Once blended, with the chilli powder/paprika and a little Malaysian curry powder the paste becomes the base for the dish. You can follow my recipe for Malaysian Curry Powder or buy a store-bought version. Failing that use an easy to find 'mild curry powder'.

Frying the paste in oil before activates all the flavour and cooks out the raw ingredients. We're left with a wonderful aroma and mild, fragrant paste which is ready for the next step - the chicken and coconut milk.

Once the chicken goes in, it's stirred well and then the coconut milk is added - this brings a fragrance and texture of its own. The small potatoes are dropped into the simmering sauce and the whole thing left to cook for 30-40 minutes to develop in flavour, until the potatoes are soft and creamy.

Nothing is more satisfying that serving Kapitan Chicken over fluffy Jasmine rice - I'll go for copious amounts of sauce and most likely devour the whole thing in 5 minutes or less. I'm immediately transported back to that lovely Malay restaurant (now sadly gone) with every bite. I just know you're going to love Chicken Kapitan as much as I do...

More delicious South East Asian curry recipes to try at home

These are all absolutely delicious. It's little wonder that South East Asian Curries are up there as my favourites in the World. High praise... get some of my favourites below.

How to make my Chicken Kapitan

Chicken Kapitan Curry | recipe

Chicken Kapitan

Rate this recipe

5 from 1 vote
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Recipe by Lee
Course Main Course
Cuisine Malaysian
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Total Time1 hour
Servings (adjustable) 6
Calories (per serving) | 872

Video Recipe


Spice paste

  • 1 cup shallots (peeled & roughly chopped)
  • 2 lemongrass stalks (white parts only, very finely sliced - or pounded)
  • 4 slices galangal (fresh)
  • 2 tsp fresh turmeric (about 2-inch/4cm)
  • 4 garlic cloves (peeled)
  • 8 candlenuts (or macadamia nuts)
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (or paprika)
  • 1 tsp Malaysian curry powder (or mild curry powder)
  • 1 tsp salt


  • 4 tbsp coconut oil (or vegetable/peanut etc)
  • 2.2 lb skinless & boneless chicken thighs (cut into chunks) (about 1kg)
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp tamarind pulp (mixed with 1/2 cup water)
  • 8 small potatoes


  • Using a food processor or hand blender, blend all the spice paste ingredients together into a smooth paste.
  • In a work or deep pan, heat the oil over a moderate heat until hot. Add the spice paste and stir fry for 10 minutes. If it begins to stick a little.
  • Add the chicken and stir fry for a further 2-3 minutes before pouring in the coconut milk, 2 cups water and the tamarind water. Stir well and bring to a simmer.
    Add the potatoes and submerge. Reduce the heat to medium/low and simmer gently (uncovered) for 30-40 minutes, stirring regularly until the potatoes are soft.
  • Serve with lots of fluffy jasmine rice and some fresh elements like tomato, cucumber and cilantro on the side.


Calories: 872kcal (44%) | Carbohydrates: 64g (21%) | Protein: 36g (72%) | Fat: 54g (83%) | Saturated Fat: 30g (188%) | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 172mg (57%) | Sodium: 590mg (26%) | Potassium: 1934mg (55%) | Fiber: 8g (33%) | Sugar: 8g (9%) | Vitamin A: 340IU (7%) | Vitamin C: 61mg (74%) | Calcium: 95mg (10%) | Iron: 7mg (39%)
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