Simplistic White Chicken Curry (No curry powder!)

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White chicken curry, a comfort food for festive event

There are a lot variation of chicken curry that I know, but Javanese white chicken curry is the one that I grew with since my childhood. In my home country, Indonesia, this special cuisine won’t be frequently served in our daily menu, because it is usually reserved for special event and celebration, especially Eid al-Fitr. It is traditionally served with rice cubes wrapped in coconut leaves (known as ‘ketupat’), combined with other special dish called ‘sambal goreng’ (a stir-fry mix of selected veggies, in the photo above, it is unripe-papaya stir fry).

And you know what, this white chicken curry recipe is very simple. I think this is the simplest curry recipe that I ever have. It does not use curry powder (which is essentially a mixture of lots of spices), yet, it has a rich and aromatic flavor, thanks to the combo lemon-grass and kaffir-lime leaves. If you haven’t try cooking curry before, start with this simple one. I believe you will like it.


(those with asterisk can be easily found in Asian market)

  • one whole chicken, cut into 12-pieces (approximately 3 lbs)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 5 shallots
  • 1 tsp coriander seed (or replaced by 1/2 tsp coriander powder)
  • 2 candle nut*
  • 2 stalk of lemon grass, cut into 10-cm pieces, smashed with pestle
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves*
  • 3-oz coconut milk
  • a dash of salt and sugar
  • 1 tbs cooking oil
  • 2 cups of water


  • Combine salt, garlic, shallot, coriander seed, and candle nut, and puree into a smooth paste. My favorite is to use pestle and mortar, but you can always use food processor to do this.
  • Heat the cooking oil in a wok
  • Saute the paste until fragrant, add the lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves
  • Add the chicken, cook for 5 minutes until it is cooked and well coated with the paste
  • Then add coconut milk and water, stir until the gravy mixed well.
  • Simmer for about 30 minutes with the lid partially covered or until the meat is tender and the gravy has thickened.
  • Serve with plain steamed rice or rice cubes
  • Upon serving, sprinkle fried shallots on top

Pro Tips:

  • Pan frying the coriander seed and candle nut (without oil) prior to making paste will lead to much richer taste
  • If candle nut is not available, substitute with cashew nut
  • More kaffir lime leaves will give you a nice aromatic smell, tear the leaves before adding to the wok
  • Use free-range chicken for much more delicious result (yes,  it really makes a lot of difference!)
  • Add hard-boiled egg for more protein
White chicken curry.. yumm..

White chicken curry.. yumm..

Have you tried a white chicken curry before? Let me know your opinion in comments.

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