Malaysian Chicken Kapitan (Kari Kapitan)

Cook Eat WorldAsianMalaysian Chicken Kapitan (Kari Kapitan)

By Lee Jackson ↣ Published on: March 15, 2021

This amazing Kapitan Chicken 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.

A bowl of Malaysian Chicken Kapitan Curry (Kari Kapitan) with rice and salad.

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 treats, like Curry Laksa, Nyonya chicken curry, Kari Ayam, Nasi Lemak, Nasi Goreng and of course, THIS masterpiece, Kapitan Chicken!

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 also features in my illustrious list of the Best Malaysian Curry Recipes. High praise, but you'll see why if you care to cook this treasure yourself.

What is Chicken Kapitan Curry?

Kapitan Chicken 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 sauce.

In my Kapitan Chicken 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 sweet paprika for no heat at all.

Why it works

Kapitan curry is one of the most delicious, aromatic and creamy Malaysian curries. Its perfume will linger around the house enticing anyone within a mile radius. Alongside a bowl of fluffy jasmine rice, kapitan is as close to chicken curry perfection as is humanly possible!

Stuff you'll need

Fresh is the way with Kapitan Curry. Most of the flavour comes from fresh ingredients with a few extra flavour bombs thrown in for good measure. Here’s what you’ll need to create the magic at home.

  • For the curry paste - Fresh shallots, lemongrass, galangal or ginger, fresh turmeric (for the most amazing flavour and colour) and garlic. Then blend those with some candlenuts (or macadamia nuts), shrimp paste, Kashmiri chilli powder, Malaysian curry powder (I have a splendid recipe for that too) and a little salt.
  • Coconut milk – coconut milk brings a rich, fragrant creaminess to the sauce.
  • Chicken thighs – always thighs (or bone-in portions of chicken) – never breast! It dries out too much.
  • Tamarind pulp – Tamarind pulp or concentrate brings a little unique sourness to the sauce. You can spritz in a little lime or lemon juice if you don’t have tamarind.
  • Potatoes – A few chunks of potato help extend the sauce and also give a delicious creamy texture that sits wonderfully with the chicken.
Fresh Turmeric for a Malaysian Chicken Kapitan Curry (Kari Kapitan).

Step by Step

Chicken Kapitan is one of the simplest Malaysian curries to make at home. Here's how in five simple steps.

  1. Step 1 - Make the curry paste – I use a stick blender/immersion blender to blend all the paste ingredients together into a smooth paste. You can also use a food processor, a blender or bullet blender too. You can of course, go old-school and use a pestle & mortar. The rule is to pound the toughest ingredients first and then one-by-one, pound in the next ingredient. In this case I would pound in this order: Galangal, lemongrass, candlenuts, shallots, turmeric, garlic and then stir in the remaining paste ingredients.
  2. Step 2 - Fry the paste – add the coconut oil (oh, the aroma!!!) to a wok or deep sauté pan and fry the paste. This activates all the oils and flavour, it also cooks out the rawness for a more mellow harmonious flavour.
  3. Step 3 - Add the chicken to the paste and stir for a couple of minutes.
  4. Step 4 - Add the potatoes and coconut milk – and a little water then bring to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes and chicken are tender.
  5. Step 5 - Serve! – This curry calls for lots of fluffy, fragrant Jasmine rice, so don’t be shy with preparing as much as your pan will hold, this is not a dish for portion politeness.
The curry paste for Malaysian Chicken Kapitan Curry (Kari Kapitan).
The curry paste being fried for Malaysian Chicken Kapitan Curry (Kari Kapitan).
Curry paste and chicken thighs are combined for Malaysian Chicken Kapitan Curry (Kari Kapitan).
Malaysian Chicken Kapitan Curry (Kari Kapitan) simmering in a pan.
A bowl of Malaysian Chicken Kapitan Curry (Kari Kapitan).

Pro Tips to make your life easier

  • Machine blending - I use a blender to create the curry paste, slogging it out with a pestle and mortar is so much fun, but after a few times, not so much fun so I opt for speed now. I find an immersion blender is best as it really creates a smooth paste, a bullet blender creates excellent results.
  • Batch Curry Paste - Make a large batch of curry paste and freeze it! – My recipe below allows you to calculate larger portions of everything, so why not up the paste quantity and freeze in portions? This will cut a massive chunk out of the preparation time.

Serving and storing suggestions

  • Serving - Serve this curry with lots of Jasmine rice. You can also serve with the most amazing flaky, buttery roti/paratha. You can buy frozen paratha bread from any Indian supermarket/store. It takes a matter of minutes to cook from frozen and when flaked it’s a sensational accompaniment to Kapitan Chicken.
  • Alternative meats - You can happily use this paste and recipe for other protein versions. Try with pork, beef, lamb or goat. You’ll need to cook the meat for longer (about 1½ hours), so add a little more water and then the potatoes in the last 30 minutes.
  • Fridge storage – Kari Kapitan will stay fresh in the fridge 5-7 days
  • Freezer storage – Chicken Kapitan is a good option for freezing, although the potato can get a little mushy during reheating, either endure there’s no potato in your frozen leftovers, or just be happy that it’s so tasty, albeit with a little mushy potato. Choosing a waxy potato will help avoid too much break-up.

Ready to get cooking?

Are you ready!? Honestly, Kapitan Chicken one of those curries that I have nothing but LOVE for. A simple, quick and utterly delicious elixir, that takes me back to my favourite Malaysian restaurants in Sydney and also the balmy nights I spent guzzling it in Kuala Lumpur. I just know you're going to love Chicken Kapitan as much as I do...

Any Questions? (FAQ)

Have a question about my Malaysian Kari Kapitan, Chicken Kapitan Curry?

What does Malaysian Kapitan Curry taste like?

Kapitan curry is a mild, fragrant curry – a creamy coconut gravy is spiced mildly and features an abundance of fresh fragrance from lemongrass, galangal and more.

Is Kapitan curry spicy?

No, this Kapitan Chicken curry about 4/10 spicy. You can of course eliminate all the spice from your version, or add more to make it as spicy as you like.

A bowl of Malaysian Chicken Kapitan Curry (Kari Kapitan).

Malaysian Chicken Kapitan (Kapitan Kari)

Rate this recipe

5 from 1 vote
Print 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

Ingredients

Spice paste

Other

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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 Kapitan Chicken with lots of fluffy jasmine rice and some fresh elements like tomato, cucumber and cilantro on the side.

Notes

  • Machine blending - I use an immersion blender to create the Kapitan Chicken curry paste, a bullet blender creates excellent results too. You can use a regular blender, food processor or use a pestle & mortar too. If you use a pestle & mortar, grind the ingredients one by one in this order: Galangal, lemongrass, candlenuts, shallots, turmeric, garlic and then stir in the remaining paste ingredients.
  • Batch Curry Paste - Make a large batch of curry paste and freeze it! It will cut a massive chunk out of the preparation time.
  • Serving - Serve this curry with lots of Jasmine rice or frozen paratha bread (you can find this at any Indian supermarket/store).
  • Alternative meats - Try with pork, beef or lamb. You’ll need to cook the meat for longer (about 1½ hours), so add a little more water and then the potatoes in the last 30 minutes.
  • Fridge storage – Kapitan Chicken will stay fresh in the fridge 5-7 days
  • Freezer storage – Chicken Kapitan is a good option for freezing, although the potato can get a little mushy during reheating, either endure there’s no potato in your frozen leftovers, or just be happy that it’s so tasty, albeit with a little mushy potato. Choosing a waxy potato will help avoid too much break-up.

Nutrition

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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