Chicken Curry

Here’s a fact; every Sri Lankan I know has a chicken curry recipe that varies slightly. There’s usually a secret ingredient, a steadfast opinion on the necessity of tomato and the right way to use curry powder. I learnt how to make curry from my mother, so this is based very much on her chicken curry.

The medley of Sri Lankan spices I use

This curry goes amazingly with bread, steamed white rice, roti and even crispy fries….trust me. Even baby Callum has had some of this with some the chilli and salt omitted of course.

The list of ingredients is daunting but in this day of globalisation most of these ingredients can be found at a local supermarket. The curry powder thing is confusing, basically a roasted curry powder is a raw curry powder that has been dry roasted in a pan until it’s dark brown in colour and smokey in flavour. Again, a good Sri Lankan grocery store will have it on hand.

Now, health conscious people will tell you that you can make chicken curry with lean, mean chicken breast. Lies…all lies….don’t listen to them. Block you ears, walk away. Chicken curry must, do you hear me? MUST be made with meat on the bone. The marrow imparts amazing flavour, the meat is sweeter and there is no greater pleasure than chewing on those bones after they’ve been soaking in curry sauce for ages.


  • 2kg Chicken cut into pieces – use a good quality, high welfare bird or legs and thighs portioned up. The meat must be on a bone and whether you leave the skin on or not is up to you.
  • 1 small red onion chopped
  • 3 cloves or garlic chopped
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger  peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • handful of curry leaves
  • 1 pandan leaf
  • 3-4 cardamon pods bruised
  • 5 cloves
  • 3 tablespoons ghee
  • 1 tsp unroasted curry powder
  • 2 tsp roasted curry powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp roasted chilli powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • Salt
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Sugar (optional)


I love making curry in cast-iron ceramic pot, it’s strangely reminiscent of the clay pots of Lanka and gives an amazing evenness of heat and flavour.
I start by frying the cinnamon stick in the ghee. Once the smell of cinnamon hits my nose I add the curry leaves, pandan leaf, ginger, garlic, onion, cloves and cardamon.

Bruising the cardamon and cloves a little in mortar and pestle
helps release the flavours a little more
I sweat all the ingredients off and wait for the onions to go lovely and soft. 
At this point I start adding the spices, I add them all at once and fry the resulting paste for about 4 minutes on medium heat until the spices really smell good. I mean, they smelt pretty ok to begin with but they should be knocking your socks off by now.
 Next the chicken goes in and you the chicken to be coated in all of the spices and lovely and sealed. Basically that raw pink meat should look nice and brown and spicy.
Next we add the tomatoes, I sometimes whizz this up with my stick blender especially if the little man is going to get into it, it’s totally not necessary but makes for a smooth sauce that he can eat easily.
One last stir to meld the chicken, the spices and the tomato and then pop on the lid.
Here’s the hard part…you must leave the curry alone. I bring the pot to the boil, bring the heat to a simmer and then cook for half an hour.
At the end of the half-hour the chicken will be cooked, the sauce will be lovely and thick and best of all your house it going to smell ah-mazing!
Take the lid off and give it a good stir before seasoning with salt to taste. I’ve put sugar on the list as an option because really it depends on your  tastte, sometimes the tomatoes can make the sauce very acidic and a little bit of sugar balances it out. Sometimes I find that the sugar is totally not necessary. Use your judgement here. Oh….and a word about patience. If you can leave this for a day in the fridge, it will taste better.

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