Nonya cuisine is a unique example of a very succesful fusion cuisine created when Chinese people moved to Malaysia and adapted their cooking to add local spices. Nonya recipes are closely guarded family secrets and it is not easy pry them out of elderly relatives. Recently, there have been a proliferation of new nonya cook books and we can now experiment and recreate them and tweak them to achieve the flavours that we remember.
Curry Kapitan is named for Kapitan China, the title that the Portugese gave to the head of the Chinese clans in Melaka in the 15th century. This recipe is an adaptation from my friend’s mum.
800g chicken thighs or any other cut.
2 sticks of lemongrass, bruised
5 kaffir lime leaves
1 can coconut milk
juice of 1 lime
salt to tast
Spice paste – to blend
10 red chillies – more if you like it hot
1 thumb size piece fresh turmeric
1 thumb size piece of galangal
3 candlenuts (buah keras), sliced – You can substitute brazil nuts if you can’t find thi
½ tsp belacan granules
3 cloves garlic
Blend the spice mix.
Fry the spice mix, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass in a little oil over a medium heat until fragrant. If it gets dry, add a couple of spoons of coconut milk.
Add the chicken and cover the chicken with the spice mix. Asian prefer chicken thighs and dark meat as these cuts are more flavourful and the bones give the curry another level of flavour. Chicken breast gets very dry in curry like this. Keep stirring until the chicken is browned.
Add the coconut milk and bring to boil and until the chicken is tender. Add the lime juice. Season to taste.
Serve with white or coconut rice.