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.
This wonderful Cape Malay chicken curry recipe makes a richly spiced tomato-based curry from South Africa, inspired by the aromatic chicken curry we learnt to make 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.
Before I tell you more about this Cape Malay chicken curry recipe, we have a favour to ask. Grantourismo is reader-funded. If you’ve used and enjoyed our recipes, please consider supporting Grantourismo so we can keep creating mouthwatering food stories and recipes for our readers.
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Cape Malay Chicken Curry Recipe for a Richly Spiced Curry from Cape Town, South Africa
This Cape Malay chicken curry recipe makes a gently spiced curry that is typically eaten with an aromatic Cape Malay yellow rice, buttery roti, and simple tomato and onion and cucumber sambals. We’ll be sharing a recipe for the Cape Malay yellow rice in a few days.
When we learnt to make this Cape Malay chicken curry, among other Cape Malay dishes, on what easily goes down as one of the world’s best cooking classes for us, we were in Cape Town for two weeks, staying in a beautiful holiday house with a wonderful kitchen by breathtaking Camps Bay.
We were on the 12-month grand tour that launched Grantourismo and a key part of that trip was learning, and for Terence that meant learning to cook local food. We consulted locals we encountered in each place and selected a quintessential dish of the place to learn to cook and then shared the recipe here. The aim was to encourage our readers to do the same when you travelled.
Terence ended up cooking a tomato bredie, a classic Cape Town stew, and that recipe has long been one of the most popular on Grantourismo. Had there have been time to cook and publish a second recipe, it would have been the bredie’s close cousin, this Cape Malay chicken curry recipe.
Before you jump to our Cape Malay chicken curry recipe, I want to tell you about a new recipe series – or rather, another re-booted recipes series. For the last decade, since we shifted our base as a food and travel writer-photographer team to Southeast Asia – first to Thailand, then Vietnam, then Cambodia – we’ve mostly focused on Southeast Asian food on Grantourismo, with the occasional detour depending on where our culinary travels took us.
After the borders closed and the world shut down in March 2020, we threw ourselves into our Cambodian cookbook and Cambodian culinary history research and at one point for a few months there we were testing and publishing Cambodian recipes daily and if we weren’t sharing Cambodian dishes, we were posting recipes from Vietnam and Thailand related to our research.
People born in multicultural countries like Australia cannot survive a pandemic on one regional cuisine alone, we realised after the first year! Raised partly in the household of my Russian grandparents, I embarked on a side project to cook my way through my Russian family recipes and dig deeper into the cuisine.
We relaunched Terence’s Weekend Eggs series on quintessential breakfast eggs dishes from around the world, which we kicked off in 2010 with this website and the yearlong global grand tour that launched our Grantourismo project and our quest to promote slow, local and experiential travel.
Learning to cook local food and learn about local cuisines in each of the places we settled into for two weeks at a time was a key part of that 12-month trip, and in a series called The Dish we shared the quintessential dishes of the places we travelled.
We thought it might be fun to revisit that series and cook the local specialties that we considered alongside the dish that ended up comprising The Dish that Terence learnt, cooked and published. Along the way we’ll ‘revisit’ those places – something we intended to do at the start of 2020, but the pandemic got in the way.
This Cape Malay curry is the first recipe of our re-booted series, The Dish. Here are some tips to making this Cape Malay curry from Terence.
Tips for Making this Cape Malay Chicken Curry Recipe from Terence
Some versions of this Cape Malay chicken curry use chicken breasts as well as thighs and drumsticks. As the breasts will dry out before the dish has reduced sufficiently, we don’t use them in this recipe. As with many chicken curries, as long as the bulk of the meat is cooking in the sauce you can easily cook the curry for up to two hours.
When it comes to the potatoes, we cook these separately. Sometimes I’ll even cook them in some chicken stock and water to add more flavour. My reason for not cooking the potatoes in the curry is that starch from the potatoes can ‘muddy’ the flavour of the curry – a tip I learnt from chef David Thompson.
Another tip is not to skimp on the dried spices. Add more if you’re a lover of spicy curries, particularly when it comes to the chilli powder, ground cumin and ground coriander. If they’re not freshly ground ‘wake them up’ by placing them in a pan over low heat until you can smell the aromas.
A lot of recipes for Cape Malay curries use water instead of stock to make the sauce. I always get a richer result by using stock, in this case a quite light chicken stock. Also, if you need to top up the sauce of the curry if it is getting too dry, keep using stock instead of water. We like a good thick stock with this dish.
As always, check the seasoning before serving. If the sauce is not rich and flavourful enough, especially if the flavour has been diluted by the addition of stock, it may just need a good sprinkle of salt to enhance the flavour.
Cape Malay Chicken Curry Recipe
- 1 kg chicken pieces - mix of thighs & drumsticks, skin on
- 250 g white onion - sliced
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 60 g fresh ginger - grated
- 3 garlic cloves - crushed
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp chilli powder
- 4 cardamom pods - lightly crushed
- 4 cloves
- 2 sticks of cinnamon
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt - more to taste
- 1.5 cups chicken stock
- 200 g tinned tomatoes - crushed
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 potatoes - peeled and cut into chunks
- In a Dutch Oven over medium heat, add the vegetable oil followed by the sliced onions. Fry until they start to turn golden brown. Add the salt and sugar and stir through.
- Add the grated ginger and when it becomes fragrant, add the chicken pieces.
- When you have a little colour on the chicken pieces add the garlic and cook for a minute before adding the spices. Stir the spices through until the aromas start to come forward.
- Add the chicken stock, stir through and cook covered for 40 minutes on a slow bubble. Add extra water if the stock reduces too far (it shouldn't).
- Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir through. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile boil the potatoes in salted water until cooked through.
- If the sauce has reduced too far with the curry, add extra water. Check for seasoning. It should be rich and flavourful.
- At this stage you can serve the curry with the potatoes, but traditionally it is left overnight to deepen the flavour of the curry. Either way, add the potatoes to the curry and gently stir.
- If eating the next day, allow the curry to cool a little before transferring to the fridge.
- Reheat the next day and serve with Cape Malay yellow rice.
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make this Cape Malay chicken curry recipe as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.