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Kari ayam and rice in a bowl from above.
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4.43 from 7 votes

kari ayam - malaysian curry chicken

Kari ayam is a great way to mix up your curry repertoire. It's kind of like Indian but not really. What it is is sure to please.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Malaysian
Keyword: kari ayam, malaysian chicken curry
Servings: 4
Calories: 737kcal
Author: romain | glebekitchen


malaysian curry chicken

  • 8 chicken thighs or a mix of drumsticks and thighs
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 inch cinnamon bark (cassia)
  • 2 potatoes coarsely chopped (yukon gold works well)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 5 sprigs fresh curry leaves (leaves removed from stems, stems discarded)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 4 tbsp neutral oil (e.g. vegetable or corn oil)

curry paste

  • 3 large shallots
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 inch ginger root
  • 5 tbsp malaysian curry powder
  • 0-2 tsp kashmiri chili powder depending on your spice tolerance (see note)
  • 3 tbsp neutral oil plus enough water to puree the paste


Make the curry paste

  • Combine the shallots, ginger, garlic, Malaysian curry powder, kashmiri chili powder and oil in a blender.
  • Add a couple tablespoons of water. Puree. If it won't go add more water a tablespoon at a time until it does. In my blender it takes around 5 tablespoons of water. Every blender is different.

Cook your potatoes

  • Cook the potatoes in salted water until just barely done. They will cook a little longer in the curry. Reserve one cup of the cooking water. Set the potatoes aside.

Malaysian curry chicken

  • Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil in a pot large enough to hold the final curry over medium low heat. When the oil is hot add the cinnamon and star anise. Let cook for 15-20 seconds.
  • Add the curry paste. Cook the curry paste, stirring occasionally, until the oil separates. Cook another two or three minutes after that. This should take about 10 minutes total. You don't want to skip this. Frying the paste cooks the raw spice flavour out. Smooths the flavours out.
  • Add the chicken and stir to combine. Cook for a minute or two. You aren't trying to brown the chicken here.
  • Add 1/2 cup of the reserved potato cooking water. Stir, scraping up any bits on the bottom until it's pretty well combined.
  • Add the coconut milk, fish sauce and curry leaves. Stir to combine.
  • Slip in the lemongrass stalk and bring to a simmer. Cover. Cook for 20 minutes.
  • Add the potatoes. Stir to combine and simmer until the chicken is done. This takes another 10-15 minutes.
  • Serve with jasmine rice and a flat bread like roti or parathas.


The Kashmiri chili powder is optional. It depends on how spicy you like it. Leave it out and it's medium spicy. One teaspoon moves it into spicy territory. Two teaspoons is pretty hot. Up to you.


Serving: 4servings | Calories: 737kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 44g | Fat: 58g | Saturated Fat: 25g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 194mg | Sodium: 910mg | Potassium: 1012mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 222IU | Vitamin C: 55mg | Calcium: 111mg | Iron: 8mg