If there is ever a Sri Lankan dish you have to try, it's the chicken curry. The combination of the rustic dark roasted curry powder, sharp aromatics and signature plants and spices blend and melt together in a way that makes this dish serendipity to savour.
The recipe is pretty straight forward; it's the method that will make the difference. If you make sure to source fresh ingredients and spices, allow slow cooking over low heat, and give the it a bit patience, you will not be disappointed. Trust me.
I love the earthy coffee brown, coppery reds and the hint of yellow of the spices that come together in this curry--not to mention medicinal properties of each spice in the roasted curry powder (such as fennel seeds, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves) and the additional spices turmeric, cayenne.
Bone-in chicken is a must, and slow cooking over low heat allows the meat to become soft and tender. Try to reimagine what you serve this chicken curry with, outside the usual. I love it with vermicelli noodles, but you can go as simple as a fresh buttered bread. Whatever you serve with it, let the curry be centre stage. All that effort has earned it!
Sri Lankan Chicken Curry (Sinhalese Translation: Kukul Mas Curry)
1–11/4 lb bone-in chicken thighs (3–4 thighs)
11/2 tsp paprika
1 heaping tsp roasted curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1/8 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, finely grated
11/2–2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1/2 cup chopped small red onion, divided
4 curry leaves, ripped into small pieces
1-inch-wide piece of pandanus leaf, fresh or frozen
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 small lime wedge (yielding about 1 tsp juice)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp finely chopped
1 green (Thai) chili, cut in half
1/2 cup coconut milk mixed with 1/4 cup water
Skin and wash the chicken, and trim off the fat.
Cut the chicken thighs (along the bone) into two or three pieces.
In a large bowl, place the chicken, paprika, curry powder, cayenne, turmeric, pepper, garlic, ginger, half the onion, curry leaves, pandanus leaf, and salt. Squeeze the lime wedge over top and combine the ingredients with your
Cover and let marinate for 15 minutes at room temperature or 30 minutes in the fridge. (Let the chicken return to room temperature before cooking if you marinate it in the fridge.)
In a large pot, heat the oil over high heat. Add first the remaining onion. Fry until the onion is turning golden brown and then add the chili to temper (see page 42). Add the tomato and sauté, stirring, until the tomato has softened,
about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Add the chicken mixture, stir, cover, turn the heat down to medium, and let cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken releases its natural juices, approximately 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk mixed with water to the chicken. The coconut milk will reach a rapid simmer almost as soon as it is added. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and continue cooking on a slow simmer for 1 hour.
Turn off the heat and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Remove the pandanus leaf before serving.
Recipe by Ruwanmali Samarakoon-Amunugama, from Milk, Spice and Curry Leaves, copyright © 2020 by Ruwanmali Samarakoon-Amunugama.