One reader was asking me whether I have Chinese Ah Ma style of curry recipe… She said she had purchase a lot of ready premix but it just doesn’t taste the same compared to her granny cooked. I told her I roughly knew what she was talking about. She was referring to the curry that my late mum used to cooked and I can’t replicate the exact traditional taste too.
I am also wondering why is this the case and I remember when I was young, there is no premix and she used very simple herbs that we planted at the backside of the house. Most families will have some chilli, lemon grass, turmeric and galangal planted in a small pot. I really cannot recall if she uses curry powder. May be she had but it should be at at much later stage when the economy progresses. This was what i encountered two days ago and I asked the lady member to go to the mamak rempah stalls and ask if they can give her a special rempah for Chinese style curry..
Today, when I was shopping in the supermarket, I saw a packet of instant Nonya Ayam Kapitan curry mix. I have always wanted to prepare this dish but never took the initiative to research for a recipe. I read the ingredients listing and I told myself that it should be quite easy to prepare it at home as there are no exotic herbs and spices. I immediately Google ayam kapitan recipes at the supermarket, bought the ingredients and rush back home to cook the dish.
When I am assembling the ingredients, I am certain that this curry should be very close to what my late mum have prepared. All the ingredients are very common household ingredients. There is not even any curry powder or other spices as in Malay or Indian curry such as cumin, coriander, fennel seeds etc.. It is as basic as the herbs I am very familiar since very young. It uses all the herbs that we planted at home .
When I started to cook, I was even more certain that this is my childhood curry. It is also the type of curry that was commonly sold in the Chinese mix vegetable rice. It is the type that many Chinese like to eat the curry with baguette. The only differences that may be different with my home version is the inclusion of kafir lime leaves. This leave is not common in Sarawak cuisines. In addition, we usually cook with more gravy and is not as thick as the typical ayam kapitan. Potatoes were added in my home version.
Per Wikipedia, Kapitan China (also spelled Kapitan Cina, Capitan China, etc.) was a title given to leaders of overseas Chinese enclaves in Southeast Asia. We learned the word kapitan during our history lesson and Malaysian history lessons have stressed on the contribution of Kapitan Yap Ah Loy. They are Chinese who have contribution during the time of Malay sultanate. I understand that this curry was created by a chef that work with a Kapitan long time ago. He used his own concoction of spice and herbs mix to cook this special curry dish. The kapitan like it very much and the dish became famous and hence called Ayam Kapitan.
This curry is unique in that it uses local herbs and condiments. All other imported spices such as jintan manis, jintan putih, ketumbar etc. was not used. Therefore it is a much simpler recipe than other curry recipes. I was happy that it is the first time that my kids said my curry is good. Possibly the exclusion of the above spices that make it taste different. Curry powder in itself is already a concoction of many spices and every brand will have different taste if readers have ever noticed..
As for me, I am extremely happy to find this recipe and I have digested my recipes in the internet to come out with this recipe. This set of picture have restaurant style with thick gravy also ah ma style with watery gravy. Usually, granny will add cabbage and bean curd sticks besides potatoes.
WHAT IS REQUIRED
Servings: 4-6 adult servings
- 1 medium size chicken cut into big chunks
- 6-8 kafir lime leaves
- 400 ml of thick coconut milk
- 200 ml of plain water
- 5 tablespoons of cooking oil
- Salt to taste
- Sugar or seasoning to taste
- 3 red chilli * (dry chillies or chilli padi)
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 5 shallots
- 2 lemon grasses (white portion)
- 3 cm long fresh turmeric or 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder
- 3 cm long fresh galangal
- 2 slices of ginger
- 1 tablespoon of belachan or shrimp paste
- 5 buah keras or candlenuts (soaked and can be substituted with cashew nuts or macadamia nuts)
* If you want it spicier, you can add in some dry chillies and chilli padi. This recipe is not very spicy. For redder effect, use all dry chillies.
STEPS OF PREPARATION
- Put all the spice mix ingredients in a blender, add some water blend until fine. If you do not have a blender, you can always use the traditional mortar and pestle to pound until fine.
- In a pot, put the cooking oil, sauté the spice mix under medium heat until fragrant and oils start to separate out from the herbs. Add the chicken chunk , give it a quick stir until the chickens are well coated with the rempah. Add the coconut milk and water. Bring to boil and once it boils, turn the heat to medium and let it simmer until the meat are soft. Give it a quick stir occasionally. It will take 45 minutes to an hour. Before dishing out, add the kafir lime leaves, sugar and salt . Stir until well combined. Off the heat and let it rest in the pot for at least 1/2 hour before serving.
- You can always add more water or coconut milk to the dish if you want more gravy. Chinese style curry occasionally added cabbage and bean curd sticks .
Personally, I think this recipe is very easy and I hope this recipe will meet the taste bud of the reader who asked for Chinese ah ma style of curry. With this recipe, I will definitely reduce the use of store bought curry powder as this recipe taste better and familiar than what I used to prepare. Probably in my next attempt, I will add more water and omit the kafir lime leaves.
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