Cape Malay Chicken Curry

Cape Malay Chicken CurryI must admit that I am not a curry expert.

I am not an expert making very authentic curries but I do enjoy eating various types from all over the region, though.

For living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, you can get really delicious curries from everywhere in the city. Malaysian, Indian, Pakistani, Lebanese, Middle Eastern, African… you name it. Maybe because there are so much to choose from and so easily accessible, I just take my family to the nearest restaurant whenever we get the curry craving kicking in. No wonder I never bother to cook curries at my own kitchen.

I found this recipe not long ago and thought I can start training myself making curries with this recipe.  It is called Cape Malay Chicken Curry. This is not an authentic Malaysian curry. But the name Cape comes from the town called Western Cape in South Africa where a good number of Malaysians dwell, and whom originated this recipe.

The flavor of this curry is really nice and easy to get used to for those who are the curry beginners. The addition of either diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes brings a slight tang to the over all flavor but not over-powering the entire dish.

Hope you like it. My family thoroughly enjoyed it.


curry spices

First of all, gather up your spices in the mortar or in a mini processor.


Cape Malay chicken curry-2

Start grind them together. Oh, the aroma…


Cape Malay chicken curry-4

Until they get to combine very well.


Cape Malay chicken curry-3

I picked most the cardamom pod skins and discarded them. One of the Indian lady at the shop where I purchased the spices told me to do that.


Cape Malay chicken curry
Chop onion, garlic, and ginger finely…


Cape Malay chicken curry-5Saute onion and ginger in some oil over medium heat until soft.


Cape Malay chicken curry-6Add the spices and cook together until the holy fragrance fills up your kitchen.


Cape Malay chicken curry-7Add crushed tomatoes. You can used canned diced tomatoes as well.


Cape Malay chicken curry-8Bring the sauce to gentle boil.


Cape Malay chicken curry-9Add the chicken pieces. Chicken thighs, drumsticks, or breast. bone-in pieces will bring better flavor.
Cover with a lid and lower the heat to simmer for 20 minutes.


Cape Malay chicken curry-11Add garlic, brown sugar, and lemon juice. Stir all together to combine.


Cape Malay chicken curry-12Cover the lid again but with a little opening for the steam to escape, continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. And your curry will be ready to serve. Actually with any braised food, it tastes much better on the next day which I did.  The chickens are so tender and full of  flavor. Loved the aroma and the slight tang from the tomatoes. It was just perfect for our Thursday night dinner.


I have been really busy recently with lots of things of life. Trying to juggle everything without dropping any (I am not sure if I am describing correctly), it is hard to find a quiet time to sit down and think of blogging.

A little stressful… But everything will be alright. I know.

Wishing all of you to have beautiful days of May!



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Cape Malay Chicken Curry

Cape Malay Chicken Curry

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Serving Size: 4

Cape Malay Chicken Curry


  • 1 onion, medium, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes (you can use fresh hot peppers to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons fennel, ground (or 4 teaspoons whole fennel seeds)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, fresh, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
  • 15 cardamom pods (whole pods)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 (14 ounce, 400g) can crushed tomatoes or diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 lbs chicken pieces
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 -3 teaspoons salt


  1. Gather your spices together, and peel and chop the ginger. Put the 10 spices -- from the coriander seeds down to the garam masala -- in a mortar and pestle or even in a coffee bean grinder. Mash them together so the cardamom pods burst and the whole thing becomes a mess of spices.
  2. Then heat the oil in a pot, add the onion and ginger over fairly high heat, and stir now and then, for a few minutes. Add the spices you mashed or grinded, and stir. You might need to add more oil: spices slurp up oil as they fry. Don't worry, you will be able to skim it off again later.
  3. Stir and fry spices and onion for about 2 minutes. Add the can of chopped tomatoes and stir. The heat should be high enough so everything bubbles together.
  4. Add the chicken pieces, and stir to coat well, keeping heat high until everything is bubbling away.
  5. Turn heat way down until it just simmers, put on a lid, and cook for about 20 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle over the garlic, sugar, lemon juice and salt.
  7. Simmer with lid at a small angle, for about 15 minutes more.
  8. Stir through, taste the sauce, and adjust seasoning to taste.
  9. Please note that it is easy, near the end of cooking, to skim off extra oil/fat with a spoon, as it collects in corners of the pot. On my photos you can see there isn't much oil or fat on the dish.
  10. Adapted from







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  1. 1


    I love curry! I’m no expert, either, but I’ve never met a curry I didn’t like. This looks terrific! Great flavor – definitely something I should try. Thanks so much.

  2. 2


    I love your recipes. I do think that in your spice picture, you have the coriander seeds and the fennel seeds mixed up. The round ones are coriander and the oblong ones are fennel :).

  3. 4


    this is amazing! you make everything from scratch, it’s so admirable and the photos are stunning! thanks for the tip on lemon juice! this step by step is so inspiring and wonderful, it makes me want to attempt curry from scratch! I usually get the vacuum packs of fresh curry paste from the singapore market

  4. 5


    Ahhh what a perfect picture to show how delicious this chicken curry is! I’m drooling like crazy over here… Do you like Staub? I’ve been collecting Le Creuset pots, but I heard great things about this brand that I want one… :)

  5. 6

    Evan says

    If I wanted to omit the garam masala, can I substitute something else? If not, how drastically different will the flavors be if omitted entirely?

    • 7

      Holly says

      I think gram masala brings distinctive flavor to this curry so if you omit it will change the flavor quite a bit.

  6. 9

    Rina says

    wow~ i look awesome. Tho I’m Malaysian but I’ve never try this recipe. Gonna try it later when I’m at home. By the way, recently I went to one korean restaurant here and I ate bulgogi. It was so delicious. I dont know what they put inside but seriously it’s really amazing.

  7. 10

    Adela says

    I love curry… all kinds of curry and until I discovered many kinds of Indian curry dishes (Masala, Korma, Vindaloo, etc.), I experimented with various Indian spices which is such a departure from Korean spices/seasonings. I think this is what I’m going to make for tonight’s dinner. What I do with chicken all the time is what Bajan (people from Barbados) do always, always… whether they make Fish or Chicken dishes… make small slits on the chicken/fish pieces and squeeze fresh lime juice and a bit of salt and pepper and let them sit for 10 minutes or so … this process takes out the “smell”, tenderizes and brings out the flavour more. Also, I sprinkle with fresh coriander on top of the curry just before serving. Love your photo steps… all recipes should be done this way… thanks Holly so much!

  8. 11


    Thank you for sharing this recipe. I made it today, and it was AMAZING! The chicken was tender; the flavors were perfectly aligned. Everything was perfect, even the amount of salt (2 tsp). The ONLY change I made was to add less lemon juice because I am one of the rare few who don’t like the taste of lemon in savory dishes no matter its function haha. I squeezed the lemon a little and that was it. I used skinless chicken thighs and drumsticks. Next time I will try this dish with skinless chicken breasts. YUM! My mother enjoyed it, too.

  9. 12


    I too love curries and so interesting to be able to try them from all over. This one I could try right now. (I noticed the spice mix up too, but I figured they were both in there so what difference would it make) :) Sounds like you’ve inspired others to make it too! YUM!

  10. 13

    Grizelda Martin says

    Thank you for this amazing recipe ! Tried it last night and it looked exactly like in your pictures :-) Was really good , for my stomach and my soul ! I usually rebel against recipes and tweak it the way I see fit , but I am glad I kept my rebellious ways in tact with this one !
    Best Wishes , G.

    • 14

      Holly says

      Thanks Grizelda. I am so glad that you liked this curry as well. We all do tweak recipes sometimes and some turns out good regardless and some don’t. I am glad that you stick with this recipe. Cheers for you!

  11. 15

    Priya says

    hello…looks delicious..want to try it this weekend… just wanted to knw whtr they curry is spicy?

  12. 17

    Liz says

    can i leave out the cinnamon or will it make a big difference to the dish ? and how spicy is it ? we like spicy so could i add some chilli’s

  13. 18

    Kate says

    The pictures caught my attention right away and after seeing the spice mix I knew I had to try it! Made this curry tonight and it was really delicious, and made my house smell wonderful. Looking forward to eating the leftovers tomorrow – you’re right when you say these kinds of dishes are even better the next day!

    Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  14. 20

    Lyna says

    tx u 4 sharing! lovely shots!

    am a noob cook…2nyte was my 1st attempt at making chicken curry… it was delish!

  15. 21

    Al Fabrizio says

    Well this is an incredible recipe. I’ve made this, with just a few minor modifications to feed my 4 and 1 year olds: I’ve substituted Paprika for the pepper flakes and cut back a little on the black pepper. I made the sauce w/o the chicken – to save for later use – and found it produced such a thick rich flavor (much to my liking), that I ‘thinned it’ with some tomato sauce. It did dilute the flavor some making it less rich, but I think the little ones will like it better this. I have to ramp them up to the full-on curry. Awesome recipe – thanks for the share.

  16. 22


    I know you’re not a curry expert so this is why i am helping you, please don’t take it as an insult, in your picture where you name the spices you have mixed up the fennel seeds and coriander seeds, just swop the names around

  17. 25

    Phoebe says

    Made this recipe. It was easy and so so delicious. When I added the tomatoes I added half a can of water as well to give it a little more wetness. Definitely recommend this if you’re looking for an easy curry that tastes rich and amazing!

  18. 26

    Yumnah says

    Just checked the directions, when do you add the ginger? I added it after everything was done hope it turns out okay :)

    • 27


      Hi Yumnah

      The ginger should be cooked with onion. I mentioned in the tutorial but I guess I missed out in the recipe directions. Thanks for letting me know.

  19. 29

    Rikus says

    Thanks , nice recipe
    Just to add to your explanation on the Cape Malay
    Western cape is actually a Province , not a Town, interestingly it has more plant species than the whole of Europa combined.It is roughly the size of Greece. Most of the Cape Malay live around Cape Town , the Capital of the Province

  20. 31

    Quelian says

    Thanks for the recipe – tried it this evening and it worked perfectly – hot, spicy and sour. I served it with mashed potato with fennel (flesh and seeds) and buttermilk mixed in. This combination worked very well. I have had curry in South Africa and I think it was a little bit fruitier, but I prefer your recipe.

  21. 32


    I have lived in the Western Cape all my life …… there is no TOWN by that name, it is a region or province! Our wonderful Malay people will not concur with your description of a “good number of Malaysian people dwelling there”! Sorry, but I had to point this out….. in some way it is rather offensive to us when so many mistakes are made when describing the origins of a recipe!


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