All South East Asian countries would have their own signature curry dishes. I love Thai’s yellow curry. And of course, the mother of all curry dishes, Indian curry. We have a couple of version of curries, kari is the most runny type of curry. Then rendang is the driest type and needed to be cooked the longest. Gulai lies somewhere in between. We have chicken curry gulai often for lunches. Gulai curry is most common cooked using chicken meat. Lamb is also popular. The gravy is slightly thickened with longer cooking time and is best served with rice, although I love it with thick crusted bread now and then.
It is easy to make curry gulai from scratch, if you have all the ingredients ready. Grind everything up, cook them in a pot, add the meat ingredient and the rest of dried spices and lastly, the coconut milk. It would be a great challenge for those who live in places where not all of these ingredients are available. But I often find that you can actually omit some if you really don’t have them. Pre-packaged spices for gulai is a great substitute, but often we grind extra shallots and garlic and mix the paste with the bought spices. Also, add some extra lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, if possible. For extra heat, add some chili paste.
If you are up for it, gather all the ingredients and make some from scratch. It is easy. It is fun.
The gulai curry gets its rich color from these chilies, fresh red chilies and dried chillies. The fresh chilies should be more than the dried ones, as beside giving the curry the dark red hue, it is slightly bitter and way more spicier. Be sure to remove the seeds of both type of chilies if you like your curry to be mild.
The other fresh spices used are galangal, candlenuts, shallots, ginger and garlic cloves.
Dried spices includes cinnamon stick, star anise, cardamom, cloves, cumin and coriander seeds.
Palm sugar (or gula merah) and tamarind pulp
Fresh herbs would be kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and salam leaves.
One whole chicken, chopped into smaller pieces. We normally cut our chicken into 8 bigger pieces or 16 smaller ones. Whichever you prefer.
Grind chilies, garlic, shallots, coriander, salt, candlenuts, cumin, galangal and ginger.
When it resembles coarse paste, transfer it to an electric blender.
I finish it off with a quick pulse for five seconds to finish it off. You can just grind the spices either in mortar and pestle or electric blender.
Process them as fine as possible.
Combine all the rest of the ingredients, except chicken and liquids, in a stockpot big enough to hold all the liquid calls for in the recipe. Stir fry over medium heat for 10 minutes.
Add chicken, palm sugar and tamarind pulp into the pot and continue cooking the spices until fragrant and becomes darker.
Add water to the pot and mix well.
Cook the curry over low heat for half an hour, till the herbs and spices soaked through the chicken.
The liquid would evaporate slightly and the chicken would be nicely cooked.
Add coconut milk into the curry. Cook over low heat for another 15 minutes.
The curry is ready to be served. Serve warm with some rice. The curry is better known as “gulai ayam“. Enjoy!
Chicken Curry, Gulai Ayam
50 g fresh red chilies
10 g dried chilies
40 g galangal
3 g fresh ginger
1 tsp salt
7 kaffir lime leaves
40 g palm sugar, gula merah
5 g tamarind pulp
7 salam leaves
3 stalks lemongrass
3 cm cinnamon stick
1/2 star anise
5 g coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
600 g coconut milk
800 g water
1 whole chicken, cut into 16 pieces
Grind chilies, garlic, shallots, coriander, salt, candlenuts, cumin, galangal and ginger to fine paste.
Stir fry paste over medium heat with the rest of the ingredients, except water, coconut milk and chicken for 5 minutes, till fragrant and paste turns darker.
Add chicken, palm sugar and tamarind pulp into the pot and cook for 5 more minutes.
Pour water into the pot and let boil for 30 minutes over medium heat. The chicken should be cooked through during this stage.
Add coconut milk into the pot and cook for another 15-20 minutes.
Remove from heat and serve warm.