Cape Malay Chicken Curry

I’ve always thought of Cape Malay food as being the ultimate manifestation of ‘cuisine by circumstance’.

Finding themselves at the tip of Africa, and a world away from their native produce, the Malaysians and Indonesians of the time must have felt they were faced with a bleak culinary future. Devoid of South East Asian staples like coconuts and pandan leaves, the bountiful (but unfamiliar) fruits of the Cape must have been an ironic bitter pill to shallow.

Thankfully, the Cape’s prominence along the spice route meant there was an abundance of spices and combined with a mingling of cultures and a reliance on local produce, resulted in the creation of something quintessentially South African – Cape Malay cuisine. With dishes like koe’sisters, pickled fish and denningvleis, Cape Malay food is as unique as the culture it feeds.

Bobotie aside, arguably one of its most famous dishes has to be Cape Malay Chicken Curry. A dish that never seems to fade in its popularity, this simple curry is a perfect example of great Asian food made without staple Asian ingredients. In the absence of coconut milk or candlenuts, this curry is enriched with tomatoes, but is still royally flavoured with exotic spices. As with almost all Cape Malay dishes, chicken curry is always served with an array of sambals or condiments.

Simply delicious, no matter where you are in the world.

For more great South African recipes from The Muddled Pantry please click here

Cape Malay Chicken Curry: Serves 6

  • 1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 large onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 4cm fresh ginger, grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. chilli powder
  • 4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, skinned and then puréed
  • 2 potatoes


  1. In a large pot add the vegetable oil and heat over a medium flame. Add the sliced onions and gently fry until golden (about 10 minutes)
  2. Add the chicken pieces, along with the crushed garlic and grated ginger. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the puréed tomatoes and potatoes. Stir to combine and then add 1/2 cup hot water. Cover the pot and reduce a simmer
  3. After the 20 minutes, pour in the puréed tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, for another 15 minutes. In the meantime, peel and quarter the potatoes
  4. Pour in 1 cup hot water, followed by the potatoes. Cover and cook until the potatoes are cooked (about 20 minutes)
  5. Allow the curry to rest for at least 2 hours before eating, but preferably overnight in the fridge

For more great South African recipes from The Muddled Pantry please click here


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