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…
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.
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.
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.