Stuck in a curry rut? Think all curries have too much chilli for you to handle? Try this Sri Lankan chicken curry on for size. It’s flavoured with a combination of tamarind, curry leaves, and coconut milk creating a sweet and sour dish that is deliciously comforting and warming. Heady Sri Lankan curry powder creates a rich and aromatic fragrance to the curry. I used potatoes to stretch the curry a little further, and it could easily feed 6. You can substitute the potato for other vegetables like green beans or pumpkin to make it seasonal.
I haven’t posted a chicken recipe in a while on the blog. In part it has been a deliberate choice as I think it’s great to incorporate a mostly plant based diet, but in other ways, it’s just been laziness (isn’t it always??) as it’s just more convenient and quicker to not cook with meat or poultry.
The term chicken curry often brings to mind a certain type of dish for different individuals. You might be used to the chicken curry from your local Indian restaurant, or that one recipe you learnt from your mother or a specific cookbook that you never deviate from. However, there are so many different versions of chicken curries hailing from various parts of the world, with each specific combination of spices and ingredients lending an altogether unique taste. This Sri Lankan chicken curry for example, with it’s combination of tamarind, curry leaves and coconut milk is very different to the traditional chicken curry served in Bangladeshi homes.
I love the combination of sour tamarind contrasting with the sweet and creamy coconut milk, adding a hint of richness to the sauce. I also used freshly made Sri Lankan curry powder from Spice Kitchen, an artisinal, family-run spice company. Their beautifully aromatic blend combines a range of spices including coriander seed, fennel, fenugreek and mustard. Using such high quality and fresh spices really does add more depth to your dish.
For this recipe, I used dried tamarind which I cooked down in water to create a thick liquid to marinade the chicken. It is very cheap and available in the world food sections in many large supermarkets. You can also find online on Amazon here. If you are unable to find tamarind, then you can use just lemon juice and a dash of apple cider vinegar. Similarly, curry leaves are also available in most large grocery stores (fresh is better), however if you really can’t find it, use bay leaves instead.
- 800g chicken on the bone, skinned and cut into small pieces
- 2 medium sized potatoes, cut into chunks, and left to soak in cold water
- 1 tbs tamarind paste
- 1 tbs lemon juice
- 1 onion, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, grated
- 2 inch piece ginger, grated
- 4 tbs oil
- 4 curry leaves
- 2 sticks of cassia bark/cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 - 1 1/2 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp Sri Lankan curry powder
- 1 1/2 tbs tomato paste
- 1/2 - 1 cup coconut milk
- Coriander, chopped
- 2 whole green chillies (optional)
- In a small pot, add the tamarind paste and 2 cups of water and let it simmer to a gentle boil. When it comes to the boil, turn the heat down to low and leave until the tamarind has almost entirely dissolved into the water, making sure to stir occassionally. After doing this for about 5-10 minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Take the chicken and use a knife to make slashes in the thick parts of the drumsticks. In a bowl, add the chicken, the lemon juice, and the cooled tamarind juice. Leave to marinade for 15-30 minutes whilst you prepare the curry.
- In a saucepan, add the oil and allow to heat up. Add in garlic and stir gently. Once the gralic has turned golden brown, add in the onion and the ginger. Add 1 tsp salt to help onion soften. Add in the cassia bark and curry leaves. Leave to cook on a low heat for 3-5 minutes until the onions have broken down. Add half a cup of water if you find the onions are catching the bottom of the pan.
- After about 5 minutes, once the onions have broken down, add in the turmeric, chilli powder and curry powder. Leave the spices to cook off for 2-3 minutes, and then add in half a cup of water to allow the mix to break down into a smooth curry base.
- After 5 minutes, the onions and spices should have broken down into a smooth base. Add in the marinaded pieces of chicken into the pot, but reserve the marinading liquid for later. Stir to coat the chicken in the spices, then cover and turn the heat up to high and leave the chicken to cook for 10-15 minutes until liquid has come out of the chicken and then started to dry up.
- After about 10-15 minutes, any liquid that came out of the chicken should have mostly dried up. Drain the potatoes and add into the curry. Stir gently to coat in the spices. Cover and leave the chicken and potatoes to cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Once the potatoes have cooked for about 5 minutes, add the reserved liquid from the marinade and enough water to the pot to cover the chicken and potatoes. Cover and leave it to simmer to a boil for about 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, the potatoes and chicken should be cooked through. Add in the whole green chillies then stir in the coconut milk and cook for no more than 5 minutes, otherwise the coconut milk may curdle. Season with salt to taste and garnish with chopped coriander. Serve with rice or flatbread.