Amy’s spicy Nyonya chicken

Amy's spicy Nyonya chicken

Preparation time
less than 30 mins

Cooking time
30 mins to 1 hour

Serves 4

This is a simple South-East Asian chicken curry, rich and fragrant with spices. The person who introduced me to this dish, Amy, says she often stirs in a little lime juice and coconut milk at the end to ‘wake up the curry’.

By Rick Stein

From Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey


For the spice paste

  • 6 dried red chillies, preferably Kashmiri, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, then drained
  • 75g/2¾oz shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 fat lemongrass stalks, hard outer leaves removed, soft inner core chopped
  • 40g/1½oz garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste (available from some supermarkets and Asian grocers)
  • 25g/1oz galangal or root ginger, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

For the chicken

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 x 1.5kg/3lb 5oz chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, bruised with a rolling pin then cut in half lengthways
  • 4 lime leaves
  • 200ml/7fl oz water
  • 1 tsp palm sugar (available from some supermarkets and Asian grocers; substitute golden caster sugar if unavailable)
  • 1 lime, juice only
  • salt, to taste

Recipe tips


  1. For the spice paste, blend all of the spice paste ingredients together in a food processor until smooth.

  2. For the chicken, heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the chicken pieces and fry until pale golden-brown all over.

  3. Add the spice paste to the pan and fry for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant.

  4. Add the bruised lemongrass stalks, lime leaves and water and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, turning the chicken pieces over now and again, until the chicken pieces are completely cooked through and the volume of liquid has reduced by about a half. (NB: The chicken pieces are cooked through when the juices run clear when pierced in the thickest part with a skewer.)

  5. When the chicken is cooked through, stir in the palm sugar and lime juice and season, to taste, with salt.

  6. Serve immediately in serving bowls.

Recipe Tips

This curry is very hot, if you like your curries a bit miler reduce the amount of chilli.

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