Cape Malay Chicken Curry

by Beyond Kimchee on May 26, 2013 · 33 comments

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: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 onion, medium, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 1½ 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)
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, fresh, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½-1 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
  • 15 cardamom pods (whole pods)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 (14 ounce, 400g) can crushed tomatoes or diced tomatoes
  • 1½ 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.
Adapted from
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 4







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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

john@kitchenriffs May 27, 2013 at 12:33 am

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.


Pam H May 27, 2013 at 9:35 pm

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 :).


Holly May 27, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Ooops! I think you are right. Those two seeds were mixed up. Sorry about that!


Juliana Loh @bilbaobab May 28, 2013 at 10:22 pm

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


Nami | Just One Cookbook May 31, 2013 at 6:30 am

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… :)


Evan May 31, 2013 at 10:44 pm

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?


Holly June 2, 2013 at 2:37 pm

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


Asian Slowcooking June 3, 2013 at 2:21 pm

This chicken curry looks amazing and the ingredients are so fresh. Thanks for your post. Right now I am craving for this chicken!


Rina June 3, 2013 at 9:00 pm

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.


Adela June 3, 2013 at 11:02 pm

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!


Memoria June 5, 2013 at 11:53 am

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.


[email protected] June 11, 2013 at 3:23 am

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!


Grizelda Martin July 9, 2013 at 3:37 pm

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.


Holly July 9, 2013 at 10:59 pm

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!


Priya July 18, 2013 at 3:05 pm

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


George August 4, 2013 at 9:23 pm

You reminded me of the Cardamom my mom used. Love the pics. My curry is boiling right now.


Liz August 30, 2013 at 7:53 am

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


Kate September 2, 2013 at 8:36 pm

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!


Peter Trout October 3, 2013 at 7:08 pm

TRIED MAKING IT!!!!!!!!!!!!


Lyna November 5, 2013 at 5:54 pm

tx u 4 sharing! lovely shots!

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


Al Fabrizio November 18, 2013 at 7:50 am

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.


Bradley January 22, 2014 at 1:43 am

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


Holly January 22, 2014 at 11:18 am

Thanks, Bradley.


Pee February 15, 2014 at 5:28 am

In the pic you have the coriander and fennel seed labels switched.


Phoebe February 25, 2014 at 2:02 am

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!


Yumnah May 2, 2014 at 11:58 am

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


Holly May 2, 2014 at 10:24 pm

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.


Dee Gullan June 9, 2014 at 7:20 am

Loved this recipe. So tasty, easy and delicious!


Rikus August 2, 2014 at 8:27 am

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


Holly August 3, 2014 at 10:42 pm

Thank you, Rikus! Appreciate for your wonderful explanation.


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