Video: How to make Sri Lankan chicken curry

Molly Paul, whose family is from Kerala in India, shows how to make chicken curry.


Molly Paul
Molly Paul
Molly and Shimrath Paul came to Dunedin 24 years ago and say it's now home.

She is Indian, was born in Malaysia and lived in Sri Lanka, but her family is from Kerala in the south of India.

Her cooking tends to reflect her exposure to so many cultures. This chicken curry is probably basically Sri Lankan but the technique is from her mother, who came from Alleppy in Kerala and was a very traditional cook. It has been adapted to living here, she says.

She tends to vary the ingredients depending on what she has, and the quantities according to taste.

This is quite a quick dish to prepare and goes well with rice or naan or pita bread - well-toasted crumpets are a favourite when her family has it for brunch, she says.


Molly Paul's Indian chicken curry. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Molly Paul's Indian chicken curry. Photo by Gregor Richardson.

Molly Paul's chicken curry


1kg skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp curry powder (Mrs Paul uses a Sri Lankan blend)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
5cm cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
1 whole cardamom pod, bruised
10cm piece of pandan leaf
1 curry leaf
7.5cm piece of lemongrass
2 green chillies (optional)
2 cloves garlic sliced
2.5cm piece of ginger, chopped finely
2 onions, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp vinegar (optional)
1 tsp coconut milk powder mixed in a little water (first measure)
3 tsp coconut milk powder mixed in a little water (second measure)
3 potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
oil for frying (she uses rice bran oil)


First mix the curry powder and pepper and rub it into the chicken. If you slit the flesh, the flavours will penetrate further.

Set aside to marinate.

Put 3-4 chicken thighs in a microwave-proof dish and microwave for three minutes. Then brown them on both sides in a little hot oil. Set aside while you do the next batch.

Heat a little oil in a large pan and add the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, then, when sizzling, add the curry leaf, pandan leaf, lemongrass and chilli, stirring until fragrant.

Add the chopped onion, ginger and garlic. Cook until the onion becomes transparent and caramelises around the edges.

Then add the chopped tomatoes, and as they start to break up with the cooking put in the browned chicken pieces.

Stir, taste for salt, pepper and curry powder and adjust the seasoning if required - this dish should be quite peppery.

If the tomatoes are acid, you probably won't need to add vinegar. Turn the heat down and cover, cooking slowly so the flavour develops - about three minutes.

To make the gravy, when the chicken mix has cooked down a little and the juices and oil are running, turn over the chicken and add the first measure of coconut milk powder dissolved in a little water. Rinse the dish in which you rested the chicken after frying with hot water to collect the flavoursome remnants and add to the pan. The liquid should come a bit over half way up the chicken. Cover and cook until the chicken is done.

To prepare the potatoes, heat 10cm or so of oil in a pot and slip in some of the rinsed and dried potato slices. Stir so they don't stick together and allow to cook until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel while you cook the next batch.

When ready to serve, place the pieces of chicken in a dish and layer over the potatoes. Return the pan with the gravy to the heat. Add the second measure of coconut milk, mixed with a little water. Stir and heat through, then remove the pieces of cinnamon, pandan leaf, curry leaf and lemongrass from the pan and pour the gravy over the chicken.

Serve with rice or bread.



• Mrs Paul uses chicken thighs rather than breasts because with the bone in they have more flavour. They work best if they are skinned. She says her method of microwaving them briefly first stops them falling apart while cooking.

If you don't have a microwave, cook them longer before making the gravy.

• She buys fresh pandan leaf, curry leaf, lemongrass and chilli when she sees them and freezes them, so they are available all the time.

• Coconut milk powder is more convenient than tinned coconut milk, which often has a lot of wastage. If she has any coconut milk left over, she freezes it in ice cube trays.

• Instead of coconut milk, you could use yoghurt, especially if you think the dish is too peppery or hot. Yoghurt has a cooling effect.

• Her mother used to grind her own spices, which Mrs Paul does sometimes, but it's easy to get good spice mixes now, she says.

• You can substitute beef or lamb for the chicken, but you may need to cook it longer, or precook the beef.

• Like any curry, this tastes better the next day.



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