Our 30 best curry recipes from Southeast Asia, South Africa and beyond include everything from a rich Cambodian Saraman curry and its cousin Thai Massaman beef curry to the more gently-spiced Cape Malay chicken curry, Burmese Indian-Style curry, and the decadent pork belly curry, gaeng hang lay moo from Northern Thailand.
Our best curry recipes from Southeast Asia, South Africa and beyond include 30 recipes for curries, curry noodles and curry soups from across the region, as well as our meat pies and sausage rolls made with Southeast Asian curries, and our curried egg sandwich recipe.
Indian culture influenced so many aspects of Southeast Asian cultures – architecture, sculpture, art, music, dance, costume, as well as the cuisines. Here in Cambodia, from the 1st to 6th centuries, the early civilisation of Funan, is thought to be the oldest Hindu culture in Southeast Asia.
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Best Curry Recipes from Chicken Curries to Chickpea Curries from Southeast Asia, South Africa and Beyond
Archaeologists working in Southeast Asia have identified traces of some of the spices typically found in Cambodian curries and other Southeast Asian curries on clay pots dating to the early Hindu periods – clay pots no different to those still made and used in rural Cambodia today.
These remnants date to long before chillies arrived in Southeast Asia from Mexico. In fact, some Cambodia’s curry pastes, which are really herb and spice pastes, as they’re used in more than just curries, but in everything from soups to marinades for grills, do not contain chillies.
When people think of curries, the first thing that typically comes to mind is Indian food despite the fact that in India they didn’t use the word ‘curry’ as the catch-all term that the British would use to describe the countless spice-laden stew-like Indian dishes nor the combinations of spices that went into those dishes.
Indians use the word ‘masala’ instead to refer to a blend of spices or spice paste. The vast number of Indian dishes that have come to be known as curries, due to their form and texture, each have their own names, particular to the places they originated.
According to numerous researchers, the British and more specifically, British East India Company employees and members of the British Army, are credited – or blamed, depending on your views – with coining the word ‘curry’ during their time in India under British colonial rule (1858-1947).
According to the same researchers, the British used ‘curry’ to describe an array of spicy Indian dishes that local cooks would set upon their tables. They are also credited with inventing ‘curry powder’ to describe the spice mix that was pre-blended for convenience, which they took back home, and then exported around the world.
I find it hard to believe that they hadn’t thought to do this a couple of centuries earlier, since the British had already been shipping spices such as cloves, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg from the Malay Peninsula, Moluccas and Java from the 1590s – along with the Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch, who established the Dutch East India Company.
In fact, it was the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama who first sailed to India in 1498 and we know from ship records that he returned with cinnamon, pepper and ginger. They would also trade with the Khmers in Cambodia, from the early 1500s, from where they’d shipped pepper, cardamom and cloves, among other products.
Researchers agree that the British took the word ‘curry’ from the Portuguese ‘carree’, which they used to refer to spice seasoning and ‘caril’ used to describe a curry broth, sauce or relish. The Portuguese in turn had simply adopted the Malayalam word ‘karil’ and the Tamil word ‘kari’, which had the same meanings.
‘Cari’ has long been used by Cambodians to describe a curry, a spice-laden dish with the consistency of a stew or soup (Cambodians use the same word for both, ‘samlor’) made from a combination of dry or fresh spices, herbs, leaves, and roots typically pounded into a paste.
Cari is also used to describe anything from a samlor that is similar to a Malaysian laksa and Cambodia’s wonderful cari Saraman, which you can read about below. Our best curry recipes on Grantourismo are largely of Cambodian and Thai origin, however, we’ve added Burmese curries from Myanmar, a Cape Malay curry, and a Vietnamese curry to this latest update and we’ll continue to add more of our best curry recipes.
Best Curry Recipes from Southeast Asia, South Africa and Beyond to Spice up Your Life
Classic Burmese Chicken Curry Recipe
This classic Burmese chicken curry recipe makes a fragrant gently-spiced curry that is perfumed with turmeric, ginger, garlic, chilli, and lemongrass. A rich curry with a moreish tomato-based gravy and a layer of aromatic oil that’s quickly soaked up by coconut rice, it should be served with salads such as this Burmese potato salad, raw cabbage salad, and tomato salad.
If you could only make one of our best curry recipes, I’d recommend this classic Burmese chicken curry or Burmese Indian style chicken curry recipe, below. They are equally delicious, if you’re a lover of curries. I’ve adapted these curries from my favourite Burmese cookbook, Mi Mi Khaing’s Cook and Entertain the Burmese Way, dating to 1978. It’s a delightful little booklet that is as much a historical document as it is a practical cookbook.
Unlike a lot of old cookbooks – not that the 1970s is so long ago – all of the recipes in Mi Mi Khaing’s book work and taste absolutely delicious. I’ve only tweaked recipes when I’ve not been able to source ingredients and if I can’t find them here in Southeast Asia, I’m guessing our readers in Australasia, the Americas and Europe might also face challenges.
Burmese Indian Style Chicken Curry Recipe
This Burmese Indian style chicken curry recipe makes a rich curry fragrant with ginger, turmeric, garlic and chilli that has a homemade Burmese curry powder on its concise list of ingredients. It’s the perfect accompaniment to Burmese coconut rice and the refreshing salads of Myanmar that provide contrasting textures and flavours, such as the Burmese raw cabbage salad.
This is another recipe I’ve adapted from Mi Mi Khaing, who uses a homemade curry powder blend, as most Burmese women do, which includes cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, coriander, peppercorns, bay leaf, and poppy seeds. We’ve shared her full curry powder recipe, but you could certainly use a store-bought curry powder.
Cooking the chicken pieces with the spices covered is crucial to keep the chicken moist and tender, but for the final stage you need to remove the lid so that the sauce can really reduce. Keep an eye on it.
Traditional Burmese Egg Curry Recipe for a Myanmar Breakfast Favourite
This traditional Burmese egg curry recipe makes a Myanmar curry shop staple that’s typically eaten for breakfast. Served with a spicy tomato and onion-based curry, the boiled eggs are peeled and deep fried in turmeric until golden, which is why you’ll also see this called a Burmese golden egg curry recipe in Burmese cookbooks.
In some ways this Burmese egg curry is a cousin to Thai son-in-law eggs and the many versions of Chinese tiger skin eggs*, however, it’s the unique flavour of this Burmese egg curry that sets this dish apart. One of the first things we noticed about Burmese curries when we set out to sample the crazy array of curries on offer at street food stalls and curry restaurants in Yangon years ago was the amount of oil in which the curries swam.
In Cook and Entertain the Burmese Way, Mi Mi Khaing explains that one of the “distinguishing characteristic of Burmese curries is the good amount of oil (peanut or sesame) used. At the end of making one of these curries, is the final separation of the oil from the gravy.” Sesame and peanuts are major crops in Myanmar and both peanut oil and sesame oil (note this is raw sesame oil) are the two main cooking oils used in kitchens there.
While this may be disconcerting to the health conscious, the Burmese only eat a small amount of these curries compared to the amount of rice consumed and there’s always a salad or cooked vegetables and relishes on the table to provide balance.
Burmese Curry Powder Recipe for Homemade Spice Blends for Burmese Curries
This easy homemade Burmese curry powder recipe makes an essential ingredient in Burmese curries. It’s a particularly peppery spice blend, which is a typical Burmese curry powder mix for meat and fish curries, according to cookbook author Mi Mi Khaing in her delightful cookbook dating to 1978 called Cook and Entertain the Burmese Way.
When we first made Mi Mi Khaing’s wonderful Burmese Indian-style chicken curry, above, we mistakenly used a typical Southeast Asian curry powder. It was probably a curry powder from Vietnam or Thailand, such as Waugh’s Curry Powder, which would have resulted in a curry that was very different to that which Mi Mi Khaing might have made had she used her own homemade spice blend, and that which she’d hoped her readers would make.
However, I hadn’t yet read Mi Mi Khaing’s book from cover to cover and appreciated that Burmese curry powders are distinct from other Southeast Asian curry powders. Although all Southeast Asian cuisines are influenced to some extent by the cuisines of India and China, Burmese cuisine is much more influenced by the cuisines of India and the Sub-continent, which explains its more widespread use of dried spices and spice blends.
“For this reason, a Burmese housewife without a reliable source of ready-made powder makes her own, roasting, pounding, and sieving the seeds and mixing them in different proportions to suit different needs,” Mi Mi Khaing writes. “Seeds include cardamom, cumin, fenugreek, clove, pepper, coriander, mustard, nutmeg, bay leaf, cinnamon bark, and a few others,” she tells us before sharing the Burmese curry powder recipe below.
Cape Malay Chicken Curry Recipe from Cape Town, South Africa
This Cape Malay chicken curry recipe makes a richly spiced curry from Cape Town, South Africa. Eaten with aromatic Cape Malay yellow rice, buttery roti, and simple tomato, onion and cucumber sambals, it’s an incredibly delicious curry that you’ll be sorry to finish.
Our advice: make double the amount, as it tastes even better as leftovers the next day. Our Cape Malay chicken curry recipe is inspired by the aromatic chicken curry we learnt to make many years ago in a Cape Malay cooking class in colourful Bo-Kaap, the heart of Cape Malay culture in Cape Town.
Gently spiced, the Cape Malay chicken curry is a cousin of the classic Cape Town lamb stew called tomato bredie. They’re dishes that locals here in Southeast Asia would describe as ‘same same but different’, sharing a lot of similar spices.
Indonesian Egg Curry Recipe for Telur Petis from Java
This Indonesian egg curry recipe with fragrant lemongrass and funky shrimp paste for telur petis comes from the Indonesian island of Java although variations can be found right across the Indonesia’s archipelago. We published this recipe in Weekend Eggs, our series on breakfast dishes from around the world, as this rendition makes a gently-spiced egg curry that’s mainly eaten for breakfast and as a snack, but you can really eat it at any time of day.
It’s a very moreish dish of boiled eggs in a creamy coconut milk-based curry made from a freshly pounded spice paste with lemongrass grass stalks adding fragrance and flavour to the spicy gravy. ‘Telur’ means ‘egg’ and ‘petis’ is the shrimp paste that adds a subtle funkiness to this spicy egg curry.
While Java is considered the origin, telur petis is made in myriad ways right across the island, as well as other Indonesian islands. The lightest shade you’ll see telur petis is the reddish-orange of our egg curry, however, do a bit of research and you’ll spot varying shades of brown and even dark brown that’s almost black.
This is due to the type of shrimp paste used and the amount of shrimp paste. Indonesians use hard boiled eggs for this dish, but we prefer jammy soft-boiled eggs. Cook your boiled eggs as you like them. Terence has excellent tips in his guide to cooking boiled eggs perfectly.
Padang Style Eggs Recipe for a Spicy Coconut Egg Curry from Sumatra
This Padang style eggs recipe will make you another fantastic Indonesian egg curry. This spicy coconut milk-based egg curry is from the Indonesian island of Sumatra and it’s called gulai telur Pedang – ‘gulai’ is curry, ‘telur’ is ‘egg’ and Padang is the capital city of West Sumatra.
Padang is home to the Minangkabau people, the cuisine is called Minang food or Padang food, or masakan Padang to Indonesians, and it’s incredibly delicious.
Consisting of boiled eggs in a spicy coconut milk based gravy that’s redolent of fragrant spices, and sprinkled with crispy fried shallots, gulai telur Pedang might be served simply with steamed rice – or it might come as one element of a full spread of breakfast dishes that typically includes fried fish in batter, potato fritters and a tomato-based sambal.
The boiled eggs are simmered in coconut milk and an aromatic spice paste pounded from fresh galangal, turmeric, ginger, garlic, shallots and chillies. This fragrant egg curry is a must for curry lovers, especially those of you who love egg curries.
Chickpea Curry Recipe for Punjabi Chole by Christine Manfield
This chickpea curry recipe makes a comforting Punjabi chole from the new cookbook Indian Cooking Class. by Australian chef Christine Manfield, whose love of spice, Indian food and India began soon after she started cooking. Chole is ‘chickpeas’ and this richly spiced chickpea stew is a beloved dish of Punjabi cuisine of Punjab, a region straddling Northern India and Pakistan.
“Chole bhatura is a Punjabi staple that makes use of humble pantry ingredients. Chole is a chickpea curry served with puffed bhatura bread, a dish that has been widely embraced in other regions of India,” Christine Manfield says in the introduction to her chole recipe. “The dal preparation can vary across districts, depending on its blend of spices. And this version was my favourite breakfast during my travels through Sikkim, staying in village houses.”
The recipe is called Chole Bhatura in Manfield’s new Indian cookbook. ‘Bhatura’ is a puffy deep-fried bread typically served with the spicy chickpea stew or chickpea curry. Having said that, it’s perfectly acceptable to eat chole with papadams and long grain basmati rice. While the origin of this chickpea curry lies in Punjabi cuisine of Northern India, this hearty dish is much-loved all over India.
Cambodian Kroeung Curry Paste Recipe
The Cambodian curry paste called kroeung, along with prahok (fermented fish paste), is one of the distinctive signature ingredients in the Khmer kitchen, and is another of our best curry recipes. Flavouring more than just curries, everything from soups to stir-fries and used as marinades for beef skewers, good kroeungs are a source of pride for a good Cambodian cook.
With a base of lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime zest, turmeric, garlic, and shallots, kroeung is a herb and spice paste rather than a curry paste as such, as it’s used in more than just curries. Made fresh daily, both in the home and commercially, it has fresh flavour notes even when used in curries as heavy as the Saraman curry, below.
But are the characteristics of the kroeung curry paste unique to Cambodia? Yes and no. The base ingredients for the Cambodian curry paste called kroeung are common in Thai cooking, not surprisingly considering the shared history of the countries — but it’s the use of turmeric in the standard base curry paste of Khmer cooking that sets it apart.
However, of the Thai curry repertoire, some “foreign” Thai curries, as Chef David Thompson calls them, often contain fresh turmeric, such as the gaeng hang lay moo recipe below. One thing that sets the Cambodian kroeungs apart from Thai curry pastes is that there is no chilli in the base paste mix of lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime zest, and turmeric, which is often sold freshly pounded in markets.
This goes some way in justifying the myth that Cambodian curries are lighter than their Thai counterparts. Although a Cambodian Saraman curry can be very spicy, it still doesn’t have a chilli kick. It’s spicy in the way that an Indian curry is — also no surprise given the early history of Cambodia.
Khmer Yellow Kroeung Recipe for Kroeung Samlor Machou, Cambodia’s Essential Spice Paste
This Khmer yellow kroeung recipe makes the Cambodian herb and spice paste called kroeung, which is an irreplaceable ingredient in Khmer cooking. The yellow kroeung is the most basic and most versatile of the four main herb and spice pastes used in many classic Cambodian dishes, especially soups such as Samlor Machou Kroeung Sach Ko.
The four main freshly pounded herb and spice pastes include the green kroeung (kroeung prâhoeur), the red kroeung (kroeung samlor kari), ‘k’tis kroeung’ (kroeung samlor k’tis), and the saraman kroeung (kroeung samlor saraman), used to make the Cambodian Saraman curry.
The yellow kroeung is used for many classic Khmer and Cambodian dishes, including fish amok (amok trei) and soups such as samlor machou kroeung sach ko, a sour beef soup with morning glory, which is why the paste is commonly called kroeung samlor machou.
Authentic Nom Banh Chok Recipe for Cambodia’s Beloved Khmer Noodles
This authentic nom banh chok recipe for Cambodia’s beloved Khmer Noodles makes nom banh chok samlor proher, a popular breakfast dish of freshly-made rice noodles doused in a yellow-green coconut-based fish curry that at its best is richer and creamier than other iterations of this dish. It’s garnished with fragrant herbs, seasonal vegetables, edible flowers, and wild herbs.
Nom banh chok refers to both the fresh ever-so-lightly-fermented rice noodles that are still made daily by hand by artisanal noodle makers all over Cambodia, just as they’ve always been made, as well as the delicious breakfast noodle dish, comprised of the rice noodles doused in a curry, gravy or soup, served with seasonal vegetables, and garnished with fragrant herbs, foraged leaves, and edible flowers.
Cambodia’s most beloved dish, most quintessential dish, and national dish for so many Cambodians – indicative by the fact that locals translate the dish to foreigners as ‘Khmer noodles’ – nom banh chok has long been ‘Cambodia in a bowl’ for me and is perhaps my most favourite Cambodian food and one of my favourite Southeast Asian noodle dishes.
Cambodian Coconut Pineapple Fish Curry Recipe
This Cambodian coconut pineapple fish curry recipe makes samlor ktis Koh Kong, a sweet gently spiced curry made with coconut cream, pineapple and baby eggplants from Koh Kong, an island and coastal province in Cambodia’s southwest. A samlor is considered to be a soup or stew, but with a kroeung spice paste base this very much tastes like a curry.
Our recipe for samlor ktis Koh Kong will make you a rich aromatic curry that tastes of a tropical island. It’s the kind of curry that you imagine tucking into on a beach holiday, sitting within splashing distance of the sea – with a bowl of fragrant jasmine rice, an icy cold beer to wash it down with, and your toes in squeaky white sand.
Samlor ktis Koh Kong is sweet from the coconut cream, fresh ripe pineapple and creamy palm sugar, and gently-spiced and fragrant from the herbaceous red kroeung – a Cambodian herb and spice paste pounded from fresh lemongrass stalks, galangal, kaffir lime zest, turmeric, garlic, shallots, and red chillies.
Cambodian Chicken Curry Recipe for a Gentle Comforting Southeast Asian Curry
This Cambodian chicken curry recipe makes one of Southeast Asia’s most comforting chicken curries and is another of our best curry recipes. This chicken curry is partly responsible for us falling in love with Cambodian cuisine as it was the first dish we sampled and an exemplary rendition of the Cambodian chicken curry.
This recipe makes a chicken curry that comes very close. While it has a depth of flavour that comes from dried spices and fragrance from fresh aromatic ingredients, it has a richness thanks to a liberal use of coconut cream and milk, and a gentle heat due to the mild red chillies.
Soon after we settled into Siem Reap, before we embarked on our own epic Cambodian culinary history research and began documenting local recipes for a Cambodian cookbook, we began cooking the chicken curry from Authentic Cambodian Recipes From Mother to Daughter by Sorey Long and Kanika Linden.
Although Terence has tweaked the recipe over the years, their recipe was the foundation of this recipe. We need to give credit to Long and Linden not only for the recipe, however… their cookbook was a fantastic primer for us when we first began learning about Cambodian food, and we highly recommend it, with a couple of qualifications explained in the post.
Cambodian Saraman or Cari Saramann Curry Recipe
One of our best curry recipes on Grantourismo in my opinion is Terence’s Cambodian saraman curry or cari saramann. It is the richest and most complex of the Cambodian curries and we believe it to be a cousin of the Thai massaman curry and beef rendang of Malaysia.
Its time-consuming nature makes it a special occasion dish for most Cambodians, particularly the Cham Muslim communities of Cambodia. The similarity with Thailand’s massaman curry lies in the base curry paste with just a few ingredients setting the saraman curry apart and that’s the use of star anise, sometimes turmeric, and dry roasted grated coconut.
The latter is what the saraman curry has in common with Malaysia’s beef rendang, the dry roasted coconut helping to give the curry that beautiful rich, thick gravy that has you adding yet another spoonful of rice to your bowl just to mix it with the sauce.
Indeed, one well-regarded American-based Cambodian chef and cookbook writer, Narin Seng Jameson, in her book Cooking the Cambodian Way, calls the saraman curry paste an Indian-style curry paste and the curry itself, a ‘salman curry’. She uses shrimp paste and the addition of a powder of dried caraway seeds (also known as Persian cumin) in her paste.
Cambodian Fish Amok Recipe
Cambodian cuisine must be Southeast Asia’s most under-appreciated and most misunderstood and one of its dishes, fish amok or amok trei or amok trey in Khmer, must be one of its most confounding to untrained eyes, appearing in an array of forms, shapes and colours.
A steamed fish curry – ‘amok’ refers to the process of steaming in banana leaves – it has traditionally had a texture somewhere between a mousse, custard and soufflé. Our Cambodian fish amok recipe is easily one of our best curry recipes, reliably making a very traditional steamed fish curry of the kind made from an older generation of cooks who believe this refined dish is a Royal Khmer specialty dating back to the Khmer Empire.
This classic Cambodian fish amok recipe comes courtesy of a respected family of elderly cooks whose mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers made the dish during a time when Cambodian women thought nothing of spending a full day preparing a family feast. This isn’t a recipe for the sloppy fish amok you might have eaten in a Siem Reap tourist restaurant, which can be made in minutes.
To make this authentic steamed fish curry from scratch, including pounding your own kroeung, you need to allow at least a couple of hours. It’s pretty when presented in a coconut shell – as Chef Kethana at Sugar Palm restaurant, who undoubtably makes Cambodia’s finest fish amok, does – with a drizzle of coconut cream and finely sliced kaffir lime leaves and chilli on top.
Fish amok is beloved by Cambodians, so much so that it’s often called Cambodia’s national dish – despite the fact that Cambodians probably don’t eat it as much these days as they did in the past as it’s so time-consuming to make properly.
Thai Red Curry Paste Recipe
One of our best curry recipes makes a Thai red curry paste which Thai chefs compare to a mother sauce in that it’s the basis for so many dishes. This was the first in a recipe series Terence wrote for his ‘Year of Asian Cookbooks’ project.
A Thai curry paste made in a mortar and pestle is a pure expression of what he was trying to achieve with the project: no shortcuts, no food processors, no preservatives, just authentic recipes that created delicious dishes. Curries were a key theme that year, as we explored the connections between the different types of curries and curry pastes used throughout Southeast Asia.
So why should you make a Thai red curry paste, or any curry paste really, from scratch when there are sections of supermarket shelves full of curry pastes? Well, why make ragu bolognese when it comes in a can? The only reason to buy a pre-made paste is if you just cannot get all the ingredients and just have to have a Thai curry or you really don’t have the time.
Don’t feel bad, they can taste okay, and we certainly know the feeling. But if you have the ingredients, then why not just stick them in a food processor? Because food processors rip things apart, whereas a mortar and pestle pounds a paste until it comes together. The texture is different and the taste is different.
The Thais are generally polite people. Most of them like to make people happy, which is why in most tourist restaurants they’ll make you an anodyne Thai curry light on the chili and heavy on coconut cream because they think that’s what you want. They’ll also tell you in cookbooks and cooking classes that you can use a food processor to make a curry. They’re just being polite.
Thai Massaman Beef Curry Recipe
A Thai Massaman beef curry is our favourite kind of Thai curry. It’s the earthiness of Southern Thailand’s beef Massaman curry that makes this the most moreish of all curries. While the prep list is long and the cooking time requires the patience of a saint, it’s by far the most rewarding to make.
You’ll also see lamb and chicken Massaman curries, though never pork, as this is a Thai Muslim curry, but Terence prefers making the slow-cooked beef version when he cooks at home. There are different stories as to how this ‘foreign’ curry ended up a staple curry in the Thai cooking cannon.
One story goes that it was brought to southern Thailand by Arab or Indian traders. Another story suggests it travelled from Persia to the Court of Ayutthaya in the sixteenth century. And a further theory (mine) has it travelling with the cooks from Angkor (in present day Cambodia) after its sacking by the Thais to Ayutthaya. (More on that in the future also).
The use of popular Middle Eastern spices like cardamom and cloves is an indication of that ‘foreign’ influence, although in the present day recipes the use of Thai cardamom instead of Indian is preferred by most chefs because of its more subtle flavour. Perhaps another indication of its roots in India, Persia (now Iran) or the Arab world is the version that uses lamb instead of chicken or beef.
Easily another of our best curry recipes on the site, this recipe by chef Ian Kittichai from his Issaya Siamese Club cookbook is one of Terence’s favourite lamb versions as he uses lamb shanks, but click through on the link below for the beef Massaman recipe.
Northern Thai Pork Belly Curry Recipe
Of all the curries in Thailand, this Northern Thai pork belly curry called gaeng hang lay moo must be the most decadent and moreish of all. It’s a red curry on spice steroids and the extra kick and spice, as well as the richness of the pork belly, make this one of our favourite Thai curries and one that Terence cooked obsessively for a while for his Year of Asian Cookbooks project.
The geographic origin of gaeng hang lay moo is the northern Thailand city of Chiang Mai, beloved for its laidback atmosphere, arty vibe and spicy food. This, combined with its cooler weather and nearby mountains, has seen Chiang Mai become a popular retreat for well-off Thais and a home for Bangkok creative types seeking a tree-change.
However, it’s the much earlier arrival of Indian traders bearing spices that is of interest here. Initially arriving in Chiang Mai to trade textiles, their need for the classic Indian spices to satisfy cravings from home saw spices such as turmeric, fennel and cardamom become more commonly used in local Thai cooking.
While the spices convey the influence of India and Malaysia, the origins perhaps are closer to the northern Thai border in Myanmar, where a pork curry called wet tha hin lay includes a sour component, just as the Thai version includes tamarind. In fact many restaurant menus in Chiang Mai translate the dish as ‘Burmese curry’.
The hang lay moo recipe Terence uses here, easily one of the best curry recipes from the archive, came courtesy of Bangkok-based Thai Chef Ian Kittichai of Issaya Siamese Club.
Thai Beef Panang Curry Recipe
Curry lovers will adore this Thai beef Panang curry recipe, which makes a traditional Thai Phanaeng nua recipe that often simply appears as a ‘Penang Curry’ recipe in Thai cookbooks and on restaurant menus, and is easily another of our best curry recipes on the site.
Named after the island of Penang in northern Malaysia, just over Thailand’s southern border, this curry paste for a Thai beef Panang curry usually has different ingredients to a Thai red curry. Most notably, less, if any, shrimp paste and often the addition of nutmeg and peanuts.
The peanuts are sometimes incorporated into the paste, but are more commonly sprinkled over the dish. Regarding the use of peanuts, chef Ian Kittichai, whose recipe Terence has drawn from, said he never puts peanuts in his Phanaeng curry as it’s then like a version of a satay sauce because it is so thick. Nor does he use the nutmeg that most Panang curry pastes call for.
The characteristics of a traditional Phanaeng curry is a sweetness and lack of serious heat, which is probably what makes it one of the most appealing curries to European travellers who aren’t fans of chili. This curry is quite easy to make, so if you make a batch of curry paste over a weekend, it’s a great, fresh and lively mid-week curry to cook.
Thai Geng Gari Gai Chicken Curry Recipe
Easily another of our best curry recipes from the archive, this old Southern Thailand geng gari gai aromatic chicken curry recipe “has a rich and delicious depth that only something rooted in the past can have,” according to chef David Thompson who taught the dish to participants at a culinary workshop in Singapore Terence attended some years ago.
This historic geng gari gai recipe is another “foreign” curry, according to Thompson, meaning that it was made using ingredients that fall outside ‘indigenous’ Thai curry paste traditions. In other words, it uses lots of dry spices from Burma, India, Persia, and the Middle East that travelled to Thailand with traders.
“Foreign curries, coming from the Muslim south or over the border from Burma, still have the hallmarks of their origins,” Chef Thompson explained. “Most traditional Thai curries have very few dried spices. Of course, they have dried chillies, but they do not have various things like coriander seeds or cumin seeds or cloves or other dry spices like that.”
The chef introduced this geng gari gai as a 120-year old recipe that he found intriguing because of the methods of preparation and marination. While he says that there are versions that are both simpler and more complex, this one had “quite an unusual combination of techniques that suggest the past; a greater complexity.” Which makes it another of our best curry recipes on the site.
Ajat Dtaeng Gwa Thai Cucumber Relish Recipe
This piquant ajat dtaeng gwa Thai cucumber relish recipe does not make a curry, obviously, but it will make you the perfect accompaniment to that geng gari gai recipe, above. The first time I sampled the aromatic chicken curry, it was a revelation. It wasn’t just the flavour of the salty, spicy, creamy curry, but how it was complimented by what it was served with — this Thai cucumber relish and roti.
There is a myth that Thai food is a canonically pure, indigenous cuisine that mysteriously emerged, fully formed, in the 13th century when Thailand’s first capital was established at Sukhothai in 1279. The reality is that the influences on Thai cuisine run deep and wide across Asia, well before modern borders were marked and nation states formed, from China, India, Cambodia, Myanmar, Iran (Persia), and the Middle East. Indeed, much of what we now know as Thailand had been part of the Khmer Empire when Tai tribal chiefs turned Angkor governors overthrew their Khmer commanders.
In Southern Thailand, as we learnt during a month of culinary research on Phuket for a story some years ago that the influences on the island’s cuisine, and the region as a whole, came from all directions but mainly from maritime traders, sailors and tin miners who arrived by sea from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, and Persia.
With geng gari and its traditional accompaniments, the influence is from India and indeed ‘gari’ is the Thai word for ‘cari’ which is Tamil for curry. Another sign of its origins? The flaky pieces of roti which can be dipped into the curry sauce or used to scoop up the curry and relish.
Chiang Mai Curry Noodle Chicken Soup Recipe
This khao soi gai recipe makes the delicious Chiang Mai curry noodle chicken soup that is as beloved by foreign visitors as much as locals in the Northern Thailand city and is another of our best curry recipes from the archive. Slurped at countless market stalls, simple eateries and fancy restaurants, khao soi gai quickly becomes addictive.
Khao soi gai is the most popular noodle soup in the old capital of the Lanna kingdom in Northern Thailand that’s as famous for its fantastic Northern Thai-style Lanna food as much as its gilded pagodas, gorgeous handicrafts and glorious mountains nearby.
Khao soi gai is a one-bowl meal of egg noodles, a rich, oily coconut cream-infused stock, and a leg or thigh of bone-in chicken (‘gai’ is Thai for chicken) topped with more crunchy noodles. The spicy curry noodle chicken soup is a lunchtime favourite across Chiang Mai. It’s one of those dishes that culinary travellers are eager to try – and then can’t stop eating.
Khao soi is thought to have arrived in Northern Thailand with Chinese Muslim traders who travelled from Southern China to what we now know as Myanmar, stopping in the Lanna kingdom on the way. However, Kao soi gai also shares some DNA with Myanmar’s ohn no khao swe, a Burmese chicken coconut noodle soup, so could have arrived in Lanna along the old established trading route between Moulmein and Chiang Mai.
The route was well-travelled during the roughly 200-year Burmese rule of Northern Thailand from 1558 to 1775. During the period, coconuts, which weren’t grown in Chiang Mai, were shipped from the Southern port of Moulmein to the Lanna kingdom. Whichever way the curry noodle soup travelled, it explains why quite often in Chiang Mai it is Muslim families who have stalls selling the dish – and typically it’s the only dish they sell.
Southern Thai Chicken and Rice Recipe for Khao Mok Gai
This Southern Thai chicken and rice recipe for khao mok gai makes braised chicken cooked in a spicy curry-like gravy and served with turmeric rice and crispy fried shallots. A Thai Muslim specialty, it’s often called a Thai biryani or Thai style biryani. Like a biryani the chicken can be cooked with the rice or separately. Either way, it’s wonderful.
‘Khao’ means rice, ‘gai’ is chicken and ‘mok’ means to bury underneath or within in modern Thai. Interestingly, ‘khmok’ is also an ancient Khmer word that means to cook within banana leaves, which is how this dish was probably once cooked, and to find out more about that you’ll have to wait for our Cambodian cookbook.
The moist chicken pieces are braised in a wonderfully aromatic and rich curry-like gravy of dried spices that are served atop a yellow turmeric-tinted rice, and sprinkled with crispy fried shallots.
Depending on where you eat this addictive Thai-Malay street food favourite in Thailand, this Thai Malay dish might come garnished with crunchy cucumber slices or spears, and fresh mint, coriander and chillies, or the dish might be served with a fragrant relish or sauce of pounded herbs and cucumber – and/or sweet chilli sauce.
While this Thai Muslim dish is typically referred to as a Thai biryani or Thai style biryani, it’s important to note that this is not the style of biryani you might be familiar with from the Indian Sub-Continent or Middle East, hence “Thai-style”.
Singapore Curry Laksa Recipe
This Singapore curry laksa recipe is the rich coconut milk-laced version of this Southeast Asian classic noodle soup dish and it’s easily another of our best curry recipes on the site. Like a great curry, a great curry laksa is not made starting from a jar of paste, a great curry laksa starts with curry paste made from scratch in a mortar and pestle.
Terence has been making curry laksa since we first started slurping the spicy coconut curry noodle soup back home in Australia in Sydney’s Chinatown in the 1980s. It served as an early after-work dinner before our evening uni classes and became a Saturday morning ritual before shopping Paddy’s markets.
There are basically two dominant types of laksa, one with coconut milk and one without. The one with coconut milk combined with a stock and curry paste broth is common in southern Malaysia and Singapore and is called curry laksa or curry mee. ‘Mee’ means noodles. The other type is called asam laksa or Penang laksa, Penang being the dish’s spiritual home, and is fishy and sour due to the presence of tamarind.
There are many variants of these two main types of laksa, mainly geographic, and all are delicious. Terence has been so obsessed with replicating that original curry laksa we fell in love with many years ago that he has ten recipes for curry laksa in his recipe manager including one by Christine Manfield with a curry paste with 17 ingredients.
Vietnamese Chicken Curry Recipe for Cà Ri Gà
This easy Vietnamese chicken curry recipe makes cà ri gà, a gently spiced Vietnamese curry that’s made with Vietnamese curry powder, a dry spice blend, rather than the ‘wet’ spice pastes made of pounded fresh herbs, roots and spices of Cambodia’s kroeungs and Thailand’s curry pastes, above.
We’ve only started making Vietnamese chicken curries in recent years – despite having accumulated countless curry recipes since we first began cooking and eating Vietnamese food in the mid-80s.
When I first asked Terence to make this Vietnamese chicken curry after I became smitten with a gently spiced chicken curry that I bought from a mobile vendor outside a market in a Khmer neighbourhood in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), we expected it to be made, as the Cambodian chicken curry is, with a kroeung, a freshly pounded herb and spice paste.
While Terence was surprised to find Vietnamese curry powder on the ingredients lists of the various Vietnamese chicken curry recipes he tested out, there’s a fascinating history of curry powder in Vietnam.
Vegan Curry Recipe With Baby Corn and Carrots
This vegan curry recipe makes a delicious Southeast Asian style vegan curry with baby corn, baby carrots and shallots that is so good that even non-vegans will love it too. It’s an easy vegan curry recipe to make – although it will give your arms a good work-out if you’re not used to using a mortar and pestle.
It’s also a very versatile recipe. Our vegan curry recipe can be made as a vegan Thai yellow curry or a vegan Cambodian curry depending on the paste you make – or buy.
This is a rich and creamy curry, however, if you’re counting calories, you can lighten it by using coconut milk instead of coconut cream. You can bump up the heat by adding more chilli to the paste or curry – or leave the chillies out if you like spice but not heat.
You could swap out the vegetables for whatever veggies are in season – or in your fridge. Vegetarians could even garnish the curry with a couple of halved soft-boiled eggs.
Curry Beef Pie Recipe Made With Cambodian Saraman Curry
Right, so this is obviously not a curry, but this curry beef pie recipe is made with Cambodian Saraman curry and it’s from our collection of Southeast Asian inspired meat pies and sausage roll recipes, one of our early pandemic cooking projects in 2020.
The Cambodian Saraman curry, above, is the richest and most complex of Cambodian curries and one of the few that uses beef as the base protein in a country that loves its pork, chicken, fish, and seafood. The reason for that is that the Saraman curry is a Cambodian Muslim dish, which was traditionally made with goat.
While many Cambodian curries have quite ‘loose’ and thin sauces, the best Saraman curries are akin to a great Thai Massaman curry or even a Beef Rendang, where the meat has been cooked for so long that it has absorbed most of the sauce and is packed with flavour.
Chicken Curry Pie Recipe Made with Cambodian Chicken Curry
This chicken curry pie recipe uses the classic Cambodian chicken curry recipe, above, to make a flavourful spicy chicken pie. Unlike the classic curried chicken pie which uses curry powder to flavour the chicken filling, this recipe uses a classic Cambodian red curry paste.
The Cambodian chicken curry typically has potatoes, long beans and Asian eggplants, which we’ve included to create a really hearty chicken pie.
For Terence’s homemade chicken curry pie recipe, he does exactly what he’d do if he was making a Cambodian chicken curry and uses coconut milk and chicken stock, which is cooked until the sauce is reduced until it’s very thick.
He makes a big batch of the chicken curry and saves some so he can make this homemade chicken curry pie recipe the next day, setting aside a couple of intact chicken thighs for the delicious filling.
Curried Beef Sausage Rolls Recipe Made With Cambodian Saraman Curry
If you’re a sausage roll fan and a spice lover, you are going to love this Saraman curry beef sausage rolls recipe. This homemade curried beef sausage roll is made with Cambodian Saraman curry, above, and the puff pastry of a normal sausage roll.
But instead of the traditional sausage roll spices, Terence has used Cambodian Saraman curry paste to flavour the beef. To get the authentic flavour of the Cambodian Saraman curry we add ingredients that are normally added to the curry while cooking the paste itself.
Remember that unlike a meat pie where the filling is cooked out for a long time before being encased in pastry, a sausage roll filling is cooked in the oven after it has been wrapped in the puff pastry.
To the curry paste we add roasted unsalted peanuts and combine it in a mortar and pestle before adding it to the raw beef mince. Then we stir in coconut cream, palm sugar, and some fish sauce for seasoning. So good.
Creamy Curried Egg Sandwich Recipe with Soft Boiled Eggs on Sourdough
Okay, so this is not a curry as such, but it’s still one of our best curry recipes. This creamy curried egg sandwich recipe made with soft boiled eggs and served as an open sandwich on lightly toasted sourdough is our take on the traditional curried egg sandwich we grew up eating as children in Australia.
Who would have thought you needed a recipe for a curried egg sandwich? We didn’t until Terence made this creamy curried egg sandwich for me, which I shared on Instagram, and a few people asked for the recipe.
In Australia, we made it with Keen’s Curry Powder which was created by Joseph Keen, who arrived with his wife in Tasmania in 1843, where they concocted a range of condiments and sauces, which they sold from their shop. But it was the curry powder that won them a gold medal at the 1866-67 Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition, an early ‘Expo’.
We use Waugh’s Curry Powder, which is apparently Thailand’s best-selling curry powder. I’ve been working on my own curry powder, which I’ll share here when I’m happy with it.
We’d love to know what you think of our compilation of best curry recipes from Grantourismo. Do let us know if you make any and how they turn out.