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 zingy salads and a relish or two.
If you could only make one Burmese curry and asked me choose for you from this classic Burmese chicken curry and the Burmese Indian style chicken curry recipe that we recently shared, it would be impossible. I’d have to tell you to make both as they are equally delicious, especially if you’re a lover of Burmese curries.
This classic Burmese chicken curry recipe is another Burmese recipe that I’ve adapted 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 It’s a delightful little booklet that is as much an historical document as it is a practical cookbook.
Mi Mi Khaing’s Burmese curry recipe is next in our series of recipes from Myanmar intended to draw attention to the tragic situation in the country, because, infuriatingly, events in Myanmar have largely disappeared from the pages of most mainstream news publications.
So far we’ve published recipes for Mi Mi Khaing’s homemade curry powder, the Indian-style Burmese curry I linked to above, Burmese street food-style fried chicken, Burmese coconut rice, Burmese raw cabbage salad, a Shan vermicelli noodle salad and a Shan tomato salad recipe. Older recipes on the site include a Burmese egg curry and ohn no khao swe, one of our favourite soups from Myanmar.
If you’re not aware of the situation in Myanmar, in February a coup d’état ousted the democratically elected government, which inspired a nationwide civil disobedience movement, to which the military responded with extraordinary brutality, violence against peaceful protestors, raids on homes and abduction of activists, massacres in the streets, and airstrikes on villages, resulting in thousands of deaths of innocent civilians, including frontline workers.
We’ll soon be publishing a dedicated guide to how to help the people of Myanmar and after we do, we’ll continue to share recipes for our favourite dishes from Myanmar with links to the guide. Until then, we’ll highlight organisations that need your support, such as Myanmar Now. The military regime is targeting journalists and the independent news site desperately needs donations to continue its essential reporting work.
Classic Burmese Chicken Curry Recipe for an Aromatic Tomato Based Curry
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 find ingredients and if I can’t find them here in Southeast Asia, I’m guessing our readers in North America, Australasia and Europe probably can’t find them either.
I’ve also tweaked this classic Burmese chicken curry recipe a tad for flavour. Mi Mi Khaing’s recipes often result in very gentle versions of dishes we’ve eaten in Myanmar, which we recall being richer and punchier in flavour. Perhaps that’s a result of changing tastes.
The profile of Cambodian cuisine, for instance, is often described by older cooks as being bitter, pungent and sour, and that they were the preferred flavours of their generation. Yet these days, dishes are generally sweeter.
Cambodian cooks tell me that change came about during the late 1970s and 1980s in the refugee camps on the Thai border where Cambodian refugees’ rations included a great deal of sugar.
As far as Mi Mi Khaing’s Burmese chicken curry recipe and other recipes go, I’ve tried to strike a balance between the intended flavour of her recipes and the dishes we’ve eaten on our travels in Myanmar. If you buy the book and make the recipes exactly as Mi Mi Khaing writes, I’d love to hear from you. I’d love to do the same one day.
Tips to Making this Burmese Chicken Curry Recipe
Serve this Burmese chicken curry with the scrummy Burmese coconut rice we recently shared, a relish or two (recipes coming), and refreshing salads that provide that much-needed contrasting texture and flavour that the Burmese love so much, such as the juicy Shan tomato salad and crunchy Burmese raw cabbage salad we recently shared. Links earlier in the post.
Burmese Chicken Curry Recipe
- 1 kg chicken pieces mix of thighs and drumsticks with skin on
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1½ cups onion finely chopped
- ½ cup oil vegetable oil or peanut oil
- 2 tsp chilli powder
- 3 medium tomatoes chopped or half tin of peeled tomatoes
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tsp lemongrass powder
- Rub the chicken pieces with salt, ground turmeric and ground ginger and set aside.
- In a large frying pan or skillet, heat the cooking oil and fry the onion and garlic well over low heat until fragrant.
- Add the chilli powder, stir for a minute, then add the chicken, increase the heat, and stir occasionally.
- When the chicken starts to brown and begins to splutter, lower the heat, then continue to stir to prevent the chicken from sticking to the pan.
- When the chicken starts to stick to the pan, add half a cup of water, stir, cover with a lid, and let the chicken simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, fish sauce, ground lemongrass, stir, then cover the lid and cook for another 10-15 minutes or so.
- The chicken curry is ready when the clear oil has separated out and sits on top of the thick fragrant gravy beneath it.
- Serve with Burmese coconut rice, a relish and salads.
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make this classic Burmese chicken curry recipe as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.