Monday, November 5, 2012

Nonya Chicken Curry with Roti Canai

Hi everyone, I'm back to Melbourne and blogging...

We all had a wonderful time in Shanghai and Singapore and hate the feeling of departing our family and friends in Singapore. Although we will be going to Singapore in half a year later, cooking and eating nice Singaporean/Asian food at this moment is always a good option to make us feel better.

To be honest, I have never cook a curry in my life. Although I was born and raised in Singapore, I'm never a big fan of curry in my life. Ironically, moving to Australia has made me realised that curry can be a delicacy and a fantastic Asian dish to showcase to my Aussie friends.

With no Asian cooking experience at all, all I can remember is watching how my grandma cooks. There is no recipes at all written in a book and everything is cooked based on her taste and experience. I remember clearly that my grandma used to buy her curry spice paste from typical Indian spice stores at the wet market. There was heaps and heaps of different curry pastes for us to mix and match and the spice paste that my grandma used is mixed accordingly to her taste and preference. Now that my grandma doesn't cook anymore, I can't seek her advise at all on how to cook a good curry. Thankfully, there are so many recipes available in books and online these days and I'm glad that I found this fantastic recipe at Poh's Kitchen.

Although I'm a Singaporean, I can be easily confused too with so many different versions of curry. I can't really comment if this curry is traditional or not but I really think that this is very delicious. This curry is the richer kind of curry with thick gravy and it is very delicious to eat with freshly made roti. Although it seems like that there is a lot preparation steps involved cooking this dish but I must say it is definitely worth it. And of course, I wouldn't expect my three year old boy to eat this spicy curry but good to know that he was enjoying the roti canai with another non-spicy chicken dish.

Nonya Chicken Curry served with homemade Roti Canai
Toasting the dry spices
Chopping the eschallots, turmeric and garlic
Not forgetting the chillies...
Making the curry paste
Fine-tuning the paste for a better texture...
More curry ingredients...
Cooking the curry paste
We are getting there...
Finally, here is my delicious Nonya chicken curry.
Making the roti
My boy loves eating these roti...
... and we love eating our roti too dipping with curry gravy.

Update Aug 2016: Please see this post for better roti canai recipes.

Here's the recipe from Poh's Kitchen
(with my modification in blue)

Rempah/Spice Paste

3 tbsp coriander seeds
(I used ground coriander seeds)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
15 dried chillies, deseeded, soaked in hot water, drained and chopped
270g red eschallots, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic
20g belachan, toasted (See Poh's note*)
25g fresh turmeric root

The rest of the curry ingredients

3 tbsp coconut cream
6 - 7 sprigs of curry leaves
4 tbsp veg oil
(reduced to 2 tbsp)
1 star anise
2 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 kg chicken thigh fillets
(I used a mixture skinless chicken breast and thigh fillets)
300g baby chat potatoes peeled and halved
(I used regular sized potatoes, peeled and quartered)
2 birds eye chillies, de-seeded and halved lengthways
(I didn't add this because I didn't want the curry to be too hot)
400ml coconut milk
1 tbs salt
1 tsp sugar
100ml coconut cream
(I didn't add this as I reckon the texture is rich enough for us)
2 pandan leaves, shredded lengthways and knotted

*Poh's note: Traditionally, belachan is toasted in a wok. The shrimp paste is slowly stir-fried until it turns into a dry crumble, but if you‘re doing this inside your home, you will need to change all the soft furnishings in your home afterwards! So, Poh suggested doing the toasting use a toaster. Simply chop belachan as finely as possible, scatter thinly onto a double layer foil, fold into a tidy flat parcel and press down slightly all over. Toast a few times until the belachan is fragrant , dry and crumbly. For safety reasons, please remember to turn electricity off before retrieving the foil wrapped belachan out of the toaster.

For me, I had my belachan double wrapped in foil and toasted it using our outdoor BBQ... so no worries for any unnecessary electrocution at all!

Roti Canai
Update Aug 2016: Please see this post for better roti canai recipes.

makes about 8 - 10 roti
500g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup water
2 tbsp condensed milk
2 tbsp margarine, at room temperature
(replaced with very soft butter)
1/2 egg, lightly whisked
extra margarine
(I used rice bran oil for oiling the dough instead) 
extra vegetable oil 
(I used rice bran oil for its extra "buttery" taste to cook the roti)

To make the curry:

Dry toast the coriander, cumin and fennel seeds in a frypan until fragrant and beginning to smoke. Tip into mortar and pestle or electric spice grinder and grind to a powder. Set aside.

To make the spice paste or rempah you may do it the old fashioned and very effective way or blitz the ingredients in a mini food processor. If you are using the mortar and pestle, start by pounding a small amount of the prepared, dried chillies and adding small handfuls at a time, all the while pounding thoroughly to a fine paste. Continue to add and pound the eschallots, garlic, belachan and turmeric in the same manner until all are a homogenous, fine paste. If using a mini food processor still exercise the same patience and pulverize only small amounts of the ingredients at a time, to achieve a fine paste. (I did mine by using both methods. I processed the ingredients first, then pound the paste into a fine texture.)

Heat vegetable oil in a heavy based saucepan or wok, to a medium heat. Toast star anise, cloves and cinnamon stick for about 20 seconds. Add spice paste and sauté for about 6-10 mins, or until the sauce is very fragrant and the oil is separating from the rempah. Add coconut cream, pandan leaves and curry leaves and keep cooking until very fragrant. You will know when the paste is ready when the oil begins to separate from the mixture and rising to the surface. (As I was using lesser oil for this step, I didn't see any oil separation but I can tell that the paste was ready with lots of its fragrance.)

Add chicken pieces and stir for one minute. Add potatoes, coconut milk, salt and sugar. Cover and simmer until chicken and potatoes are tender. Add coconut cream and birds eye chillies and simmer for a further 5 mins (I didn't add these ingredients). Serve with roti and or steamed jasmine rice.

To make Roti Canai:

Combine flour, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Make a well at the centre of the dry ingredients and into it, pour the water, condensed milk, margarine and egg. Work in a circular motion with your hand, gradually gathering more and more of the flour into the wet ingredients until you more or less have a single mass. 

Tip all the ingredients onto the bench and knead until smooth and elastic. Roll into a cylinder and divide the dough into ten pieces. Knead each piece a few times to achieve a smooth texture, then shape into a ball. Gently cover each ball with margarine and rest in a bowl alongside but not on top of another. Plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature, overnight.

After the ov
ernight resting you will find the dough soft and stretchy. Start by oiling a substantial area of the bench liberally. (I tried not to use too much oil for this step) Place one of the balls of dough onto the table and press down with the palm of your hand while moving it in a circular motion. This is just to flatten and smooth out the surface of the dough as much as possible before you stretch it. It takes a bit of practice to throw the roti the professional way and while it’s definitely quicker, an equally effective method is to work around the edges of the circle of dough, gently stretching the edges outwards as far and as thinly as you can (so it is like tracing paper and about 60-70 cm in diameter), and before holes start to appear.
Fold one-third of the way in on either side of the circle, so you have three layers of roti on top of each other, then fold this elongated shape into thirds again, so you end up with a squarish shaped roti.

Please note that my dough is not as stretchy as how Poh described. I was able to stretch each dough to 25-30 cm in diameter until holes start to appear and so I didn't proceed to make the roti with the above folding steps.  

I was afraid that the dough will go off while leaving it in room temperature overnight and left it in the fridge instead. Although my dough was brought to room temperature before use but I reckon this may be the reason that my doughs wasn't as stretchy as Poh's.
Heat up your frypan on high heat with a dash of vegetable oil and pan fry the roti until golden blisters appear on both sides. When cooked, immediately slide the roti onto a chopping board, wrap you palms around the edges and smash your hands together so the roti bunches up and flakes. Rotate the roti and do this several times while it is still hot. I didn't "smash" my roti at all. Although my roti were not as "flaky" as Poh's. My family and I reckon that they were still delicious enough to eat. Texture-wise, mine were more to the chewy and buttery side.

Serve immediately with curry.

Happy Cooking
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  1. Welcome back to blogging, You are right this curry is thick and delicious use of pandan leaves must enhanced it. Roti canai recipe too good.

  2. I have been on a roti chicken curry kick recently. This recipe looks right up my alley!

  3. Whoa, where have you been Zoe? Missed you. Hope is all well on your side. This is surely comforting meal to feed the family. I can have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even supper. haha....
    However, have a great week ahead dear.

    1. Hi Kristy,

      I've been "missing in action" for the last 2 weeks for my holiday in Singapore. Can't wait to blog after returning back to Melb :D


  4. Oooohhh ... your grandma would be proud! The curry looks so perfect! I've never liked runny chicken curry esp when there's bread to dip in. These days, I just find it too troublesome to make the curry paste from scratch (mum has a family recipe even and I'm not keeping with the family tradition ... tsk me). I just get those ready blended ones from the market and add to that.
    I'd try making this roti canai tho. Gotta know how-to at least once, right? Besides, I love the stuff! And yours look so good! Now, I just hope I can produce a good version of it :)

  5. I love these I could eat two in one sitting!

  6. Hi Zoe, glad to read your posts again! So you were in Singapore.. I bet you must have missed and tried lots of oour local dishes during your stay here.

    Your curry and roti looks good! It's unbelievable that you are cooking curry for the first time.

    BTW, my family and I will be visiting Melbourne and Tasmania next month. Can you recommend any die-die-must-try resturants and food? If you do not mind, you can send to my email address:


    1. No worries if you need a list of few good restaurants to go in Melbourne. I don't really dine out a lot in Melbourne and most of the places I go are Asian. I knew a few good casual places to go and they are mostly at the Carlton area. They are mostly fusion, cakes, Italian or middle-Eastern food. Prefer Sydney for fine dining and thought Melbourne is a better place for multicultural or quirky food... I will email you and ask you more about your preference :D

  7. Zoe, I have been wondering what keep you missing all this time! So good, going overseas again! Love this curry & roti canai very much. I've marked down roti canai in my list recently, now just have to wait for the right day to make, hahaha! Welcome back, girl!

  8. Hi Zoe! It was really nice meeting you :) Your curry looks delicious... I think after trying it once, making curry isn't quite as daunting as it looks.

    1. Hi Mich,

      I'm happy to meet you. Totally agree with you... after cooking my first curry, the subsequent ones seem easier to me. However, I need more practice for my roti.


  9. i love the curry so much. Roti Canai with this type of curry sure taste heavenly, Zoe.

  10. Hi Zoe, glad to hear that you enjoy your holiday. Your curry sure look very delicious, love the thick gravy.

    Your roti look good too, I make quite often and have try various method of flipping and stretching. LOL
    I had try the following method which is much easier to do.

    Roll the dough thin then hold two sides of the dough like a rope and keep moving in a circular motion hitting it on the board. Then roll into a spiral and tuck the end making a ball. Leave it to rest in a little oil for another few hours, at least 2 hours. cover with plastic sheet to prevent drying.

    Then roll it thin the dough will keep shrinking which is fine. Cook the rotis in high heat if it burning too much lower it to medium high heat.

    Have a nice weekend.

    1. Hi Amelia,

      Thanks for your great advise on making roti canai. I wish that you will make a video with this technique :D Any chances to fulfill my wish?

      I wish to practice more on the stretching and pulling techniques and hope to get a thinner roti.


  11. Yes, I am always confused as well, there are too many types of curry in Malaysia or Singapore. Curry can be a heart warming dishes especially during winter, I used to cook a lot during winter.
    I like your introduction of all the ingredient.

  12. You have no idea how much this is my kind of meal. I'm gonna have to go to world foods and make this, seriously!

  13. Hi Zoe, Welcome back! Have missed your posts. Hope you had a great holiday and break! This curry looks delicious, similar to the one my mum makes for us. Must be great with all those spices.

  14. Hi Zoe,
    Your nyonya curry looks delicious! Looks perfect with the roti canai! I'm impressed! Nobody would have guessed that this is your first time cooking curry! I can even smell it from over here! Mmmm....
    Welcome back, pal!

  15. Mouth watering curry! The roti ooks soooo... good after dipping into the sauce. I alway find very troublesome of prepare spices from scratch, especially those recipes call for a lot of spices. However this type of curry taste super great! Yours make me feel like having roti canai with spicy curry :D

  16. Curry looks very good, nyonya! Curry and roti pairs really well, must have been quite some effort to make them together :)

  17. Welcome back Zoe! Beautiful curry!I am sure you've enjoyed it so much!

  18. hi zoe!looks super delicious!im glad you attempted to cook this nyonya curry, not sure how authentic but doesnt really matter as long as you find it delicious. Even different families have their own curry recipes. Yeah, normally for belachan, i just grill it over the stove but if good that you use a foil to cover up otherwise the neighbours will start coming after you! LOL!

  19. Welcome back dear :) and what a flavorful dish to come back with. Thick curries with tender meat is more than satisfying, the pictures made me hungry. I can almost smell all that goodness!

  20. Wow! Good job Zoe!! You've made me miss roti canai so much!!! Can't wait to make this myself, thanks for sharing the hard work :)

  21. Mouthwatering here, flavourful nonya chicken curry inviting me..

  22. Glad to see you back. This curry and the roti look delicious :-)

  23. Welcome back! Way to cook something new for you!

  24. hi zoe
    Thanks for visiting my blog earlier and now my turn to visit yours! I believe you have a wonderful blog here with great recipes.... and I am glad to be here visiting. I just cooked chicken curry yesterday but it was not that good and probably soon I would like to try yours!

  25. Very jealous of your travels Zoe! Glad you're back in the kitchen though :)

  26. I love curry but I've never made my own curry paste! I will have to try this soon, your recipe looks delicious.

  27. I love the idea of watching someone cook by feel/taste. It's how I always remember the women in my family cooking, and I hope that's how my children remember me.

  28. wow.....I love Poh's recipes...Tempting and flavorful curry..Wish I could taste this!! Thank u so much for ur valuable comments and very happy too:) You have an awesome blog...Totally forgot myself and nearly spend an hour in browsing ur recipes..Am a big fan of Masterchef Program....Very happy n excited to see so many yummy yummy star recipes....Bookmarked few to try...I love to learn baking stuffs and ur blog gonna help me in that:) Thanks alot:)

  29. Welcome Back Zoe! Singaporean or Malaysian, we sure love curry don't we? I love the Nyonya version too.. Just so many. I can't even tell sometimes. What I am good at is eating..LOL.. xoxo

  30. you even made roti canai from scratch, amazing! since we can easily buy here, never think to make it at home. The nyonya curry sound delicious!

  31. Zoe , you make it sound so easy ! :D I , too , haven't made homemade curry :P Well , I've made curry from time to time but using only the store-brought curry sauce ! :P Looking at your photos , my mouth starts to water ! lol Your curry looks absolutely mouthwatering ! Now , I really need to buy that mortar and pestle ! ;D

    Btw , welcome back !!!!

  32. Wow! This looks really nice Zoe! Something you would get from a restaurant and you've made it from scratch! I've made curry before only because I had a ready made packet I found in an Asian market. I've been wanting to have a go at making one from scratch : )

  33. Hi Zoe,
    Welcome Back~~
    Miss you and miss your blog too..^^

    Your debt of your very own nyonya curry and roti canai is simply amazing.
    I cooked curry but never make my own curry paste before.
    Simply because we can easily get them from the supermarket or wet market. Now there is some curry pre-mix in powder form which is very nice too..
    Bookmarked your roti canai, will try that in future..:)

  34. nice nice nice :P
    i would love to have this, Zoe!

    glad u had a great time during ur holiday
    too bad i couldnt meet u
    perhaps in 6mths time? :)