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Malaysia Down Under: Nyonya Chicken Curry

nyonya chicken curry

Malaysia is a melting pot of culture and offers a fusion of flavours, ingredients, experiences and traditions.

To showcase all that this unique destination has to offer, Sydney is hosting the two-day Malaysia Fest from December 3-4, a multi-layered, sensory experience for people interested in Malaysian cuisine, and the fashion and lifestyle scene.

The free family-friendly event at Pyrmont Bay Park will include multicultural dancing with Malay, Indian and Chinese influence.

Cooking sauces and pastes, beverages, snacks and desserts will be available to sample and Tourism Malaysia will be on hand to showcase Malaysia’s unique wonders, attractions and cultures. For more information visit

Meanwhile, here’s a national favourite to try at home to get you in the mood.

You don’t get more definitively Malaysian than this classic Nyonya dish. It is the mainstay of every Malaysian pot luck dinner.

Simple to make and bursting with flavour, you’re sure to love it!

Nyonya Chicken Curry

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 5-6


  • 3 Tbs coconut cream
  • 10 sprigs of curry leaves
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 1/2 kg chicken thigh fillets
  • 500g baby chat potatoes, peeled, halved and parboiled
  • 2 bird’s eye chillies deseeded and halved lengthways
  • 500ml coconut milk
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1 tsp sugar

Rempah (wet spice paste)

  • 3 Tbs ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground fennel
  • 15 dried long red chillies*, deseeded*, soaked in boiling water until soft, drained and chopped
  • 20g belacan
  • 25g fresh turmeric root, peeled and sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced
  • 270g red eschallots OR Spanish onion, peeled, sliced
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

* Dried chillies – There are several types of dried chillies. For this recipe please choose the type that are about finger sized. The smaller ones are very hot and the broader, larger ones mild. Also please never replace dried chillies with fresh ones as they don’t impart the smokiness of flavour and depth of colour required for this dish.

* Deseeding chillies – Before soaking, snip chillies into quarter segments with scissors into a colander with largish holes and then shake the seeds out.


To make the rempah, blend the rempah ingredients until you achieve a fine paste.

Heat heavy based saucepan or wok, to a medium heat. Add rempah, coconut cream, curry leaves, star anise, cloves and cinnamon stick and saute for about 10 minutes. You will know the paste is ready when it thickens, darkens in colour and the oil begins to separate from the mixture. Add chicken pieces and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add potatoes, chillies, coconut milk, salt and sugar. Cover and simmer until chicken and potatoes are cooked through.

Serve with steamed jasmine rice or roti canai.

This dish is very different from a Chinese style fried rice because of the distinctly Nyonya flavour combination of dried shrimp, shallots, garlic and dried chillies.


Written by Robyn Foyster

With over 30 years experience as a journalist and TV producer, Robyn Foyster is the owner and publisher of the lifestyle websites, and

Robyn was voted one of the 30 most powerful women in media at the 2015 B&T Women In Media Awards.

Previously, Robyn was the Publisher and Editor of Australia's three biggest flagship magazine brands - The Australian Women's Weekly, Woman's Day and New Idea.

Robyn won Editor of the Year at the 2007 Magazine of the Year Award and under her helm The Australian Women's Weekly won the inaugural 2008 Australian Magazine Award for Australia's best mass market magazine and New Idea won the MPA's coveted Magazine of the Year award.

She can be contacted on [email protected]


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