When the Chinese migrated to Malaysia and Singapore in the 15th and 16th century, the confluence of cultures gave birth to a new one, known as Nyonya (or Peranakan or Straits Chinese). This rich chicken curry epitomises the flavours of this now-cherished cuisine.






Skill level

Average: 3.3 (158 votes)


  • 4 chicken marylands
  • 80 ml (⅓ cup) vegetable oil
  • 1 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 3 waxy potatoes, quartered
  • 625 ml (2½ cups) chicken stock
  • 250 ml (1 cup) coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp grated palm sugar
  • Sliced red chilli, coriander sprigs and steamed rice, to serve

Spice paste

  • 10 dried red chillies
  • 1 tbsp shrimp paste (belachan)
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 candle nuts (see Note) or macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 15 Asian red eschalots (see Note), roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp grated turmeric or 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, chopped

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


To make spice paste, soak chillies in boiling water for 30 minutes or until softened, then drain. Meanwhile, wrap shrimp paste in foil and cook in a small, heavy-based frying pan over medium-low heat for 4 minutes each side or until fragrant (open foil to check). Place coriander, fennel and cumin seeds in a small, heavy-based frying pan over medium-low heat and toast, shaking pan occasionally, for 4 minutes or until fragrant. Transfer to a food processor and process to a coarse powder. Add soaked chillies, shrimp paste and remaining ingredients, and process to a smooth paste.

Using a large, sharp knife, cut chicken marylands in half between the joint, then trim excess skin and fat. Heat oil in a large wok or saucepan over medium heat. Add spice paste and whole spices, and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until fragrant. Add chicken and potatoes, and stir to coat. Add stock (it should just cover mixture; add extra stock or water if necessary), bring to a simmer, then cover with a lid and cook over medium-low heat for 40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender. Stir in coconut milk and sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes or until heated through.

Scatter with sliced chilli and coriander sprigs, and serve with steamed rice.


• Candle nuts are used as thickeners. Candle nuts and Asian red eschalots are from Asian food shops.

Photography Steve Brown

As seen in Feast magazine, May 2014, Issue 31.