Nyonya chicken curry tomato rice and fried drumettes

Nyonya or Peranakan curry is a combined spices from Chinese, Malay, Indian and Indonesian. Peranakan are Chinese migrants’ settlers in Penang and Malacca. With inter-marriage occurs; so too “Nyonya”. Its means a socially distinguished women address as Madam or Aunties.

I grew with curries and have always love them especially chicken curry with potatoes is cooked in every household in Penang, Malaysia, no matter what races or occasions. I remembered going with grandma to dry market in the Indian vicinity and bought fresh paste from the ‘paste man chewing betel leave and spice with red/yellow teeth.

All Grandma needed was to tell the man what curry she wanted to cook, and he would mix the different ingredients for her. As the years went by Grandma made the paste from scratch herself. She is also experimenting her spices and I watched her and there is no recipe written. So I had to browsed on google too for the amount needed to make the paste. Out there, there are many recipes you can browse for yourself.

Grandma said that chicken curry accompanying nasi kunyit, red eggs and red dessert with yellow mung beans is usually packed in a delicate and beautiful Nyonya wood basket as symbol of an auspicious and ritual belief acknowledging the first month of a new born baby. Called “mua guet”.

Penang Nyonya and especially Grandma’s chicken curry with potatoes is often served with nasi kunyit: Nasi is rice, kunyit is turmeric. Nasi kunyit is glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk and turmeric. It’s a traditional dish of Malay and Peranakan origins that is often served during celebration and auspicious events. 

Nasi kunyit also goes well with beef curry. Beef rendang is a spicy and fragrant beef dish that is slow-cooked “kind like stew type” over a long period of time. The resulting dish will be a deep brown colour with hardly any gravy left, hence the beef will still be succulent and tender.

I can only tell you it’s “a rich and tender coconut beef stew which is a thick spicy (extra if you can take hotter) and explosively flavoursome,” that’s I dare say for sure to win you over if you eat it and let it swirl around your mouth and taste bud.

Today, I am cooking chicken curry with potatoes, tomato rice and fried drumettes. It’s my first time making chicken curry from scratch – memory of what I remembered from Grandma and other chefs, tasting checking and adapting the amount to put, and it worked, I jumped around like a happy girl with a lollipop in her hand, I was so awe.

I felt like I am a mad kitchen scientist, to create a dish like this and have it striking all those usual notes of home, was a complete thrill with something of me in it alongside with my Grandma’s Nyonya curry and other chefs on google.

Let’s get experimenting or conjuring before our stomach starts growling loudly like a hungry tiger roar!!!!

Do the curry one day in advance. This ensures aromatic flavour develops overnight.

Chicken curry with potatoes Ingredients

4 Tbs olive oil
8 pieces boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite size
8 medium size washed potatoes, peeled and quartered; parboiled
6 curry leaves
165 ml coconut milk
100 ml coconut cream
450 – 600 ml water, if you want more curry gravy
salt to taste

Blend spice paste A

8 fresh red chillies, seeded and sliced
6 dried chillies, seeded
1-2 Tbs lemon juice
2 dessert spoons coriander
2 star anise, pounded
1 dessert spoon cumin
1 small piece cinnamon, pounded
1/2 inch fresh turmeric, peeled and sliced

Blend spice paste B

10 shallots, peeled and quartered
3 candle nuts
3 slices galangal
2 cloves garlic
1 lemongrass white part only, pounded, sliced
1 inch ginger, peeled and sliced


Blend all ingredients Spice Paste A and B separately to a very fine paste. Don’t mix the spice paste when blending. You needed to blend them in two separate blenders. If you don’t have 2 blenders. Blend spice paste B first then set aside. Wash and dry blender before blending spice paste A.

Heat up oil in a heavy base pot on medium high heat and stir-fry spice paste B for about 3 minutes or until aromatic; light brown in colour. Next add chicken and stir well. Then add salt, spice paste A, coconut milk and curry leaves. Stir for 3 minutes before adding the water.

Cover pot and lower heat to medium. Bring the curry to boil and then lower the heat, add potatoes and simmer for 20 minutes or so or until the chicken and potatoes is about to cooked. Add coconut cream and allow it to simmer further about 5 minutes till gravy is thick.

The following day.

Tomato rice Ingredients

4 c rice, washed and drained
400 g can tomato condensed soup
1 large onion, diced
1 slice ginger, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, sliced finely
2 1/2 c water
2 c chicken stock (bought)
4 Tbs butter


Place butter in pan fry garlic till brown, add onion and ginger. Next add rice to pan, fry in fat, stirring well until rice absorb the butter. Then transfer to rice cooker. Now add tomato soup, water, stock and salt. Cover the rice cooker and leave rice to cook through.

Fried drumettes Ingredients

3 kg drumettes, washed, pat dry
1/2 c cornflour
1 egg
oil for frying


Wash and pat dry drumettes. Then season drumettes with salt and pepper. Leave in fridge for 2 hours. While drumettes is in fridge, get the ingredients for tomato rice ready. Then fry rice and transfer it to rice cooker to cook tomato rice.

Meantime, bring drumettes to room temperature. Next coat well drumettes with cornflour and egg. Heat oil in deep frying pan. When oil is hot. To test if oil is hot, I place a chopstick in and its bubble around. Now put drumettes in. Don’t over crowd them.

Cook in 2 to 3 batches. Once awhile I turn the drumettes over. Take out one drumettes, make a slit on the thickest part; check if its cooked through. When it done, remove using a net wooden spoon on to a big basket lined with paper towel. This is to absorb oil off the drumettes. Repeat with the other drumettes until all is done. Then plate up the drumettes on a plate.

When frying the last batch of drumettes. Heat up chicken curry with potatoes again. After 10 minutes, gives it a stir. Leave for a further 10 minutes or so until it’s heated up well, bubbling away and smell of aromatic develop and spread around the kitchen. Microwave 3 sliced carrots and cut cucumber in to match stick. To add to curry, rice and fried drumettes.

Serve chicken curry hot with tomato rice, fried drumettes and vegetables.


Head over to my earlier post of Beef rendang, nasi kunyit, achar and salad recipe if you want to try:



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