Malaysian Chicken Yellow Curry




10 min


40 min

Looks like Autumn has begun in Switzerland! Finally some cold days after a very hot summer. But don’t we all just complain about the weather? Whether or not it’s cold or hot, there is always something to complain about. I personally love the cold, that’s because I’m always at home and ready to snuggle up on my sofa with lots of pillows and blankets…and when it get’s colder, I  have a great excuse to make some hot chocolate.

As with most Malaysian recipes, there’s no real precise measurement. There’s a word in Bahasa Malaysia which we use for this : agak-agak which means circa, to guess, approximately, more or less, or estimation. For unseasoned cooks, doing it the agak-agak way can turn out either really good, or really bad. I’ve had my fair share of bad dishes (but still edible) due to my bad agak-agakness. Malaysian cooking derives a lot from helping or watching the cooking parent or grandparent in the kitchen. Lucky for me, I use to love standing behind my mother while she cooked (mainly to get the first bite of it) and that has somehow worked out a little for me…I could have done more watching and paying attention.

Anyways, this recipe not an official Malaysian yellow curry. Every family has their own version of a yellow curry. It is also known as masak lemak which means (when directly translated) fattily cooked due to the use of coconut milk. The basics of a masak lemak dish consist of coconut milk, lemongrass and some chilli to spice it up. In this recipe, I also add kaffir lime leaves to give it a nice scent and flavour to the dish. This is totally optional, but you won’t regret it.

For the spice paste, this one is another Malaysian thing you have to learn. Westerners call it, fry till fragrant. But all these spices are already so fragrant before cooking, you might under cook it – resulting in less tasty dishes or just less in every aspect of it. We call it fry till the minyak pecah which means fry till the oil breaks. If that makes sense to you without any explanation then, thumbs up! It’s also quite hard to describe this minyak pecah thing. But I will try! It’s fry till the oil starts separating from the paste and the paste does not look emulsified. It has to look like a Hollandaise sauce that has split. This can take between 15-20 minutes, sometimes even more – depending on how much paste you are frying. If someone else has a better was of explaining this method, do send me an e-mail!

I wish you all the best of luck and hope you cooking this dish.



  • 400g / 14oz Chicken
  • Half White Cabbage
  • 2 cups Thick Coconut Milk

Spice Paste (grounded or blended )

  • 3 stalks (while part only ; reserve rest to fry) Lemongrass
  • 1 medium sized Yellow Onion
  • 2 medium sized Red Onion
  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • 2-inch Ginger
  • 2-inch / 2 teaspoons Turmeric Root / Powder
  • 8 pieces Candlenut

To fry

  • 1 cup Peanut or Vegetable Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Mustard Seeds
  • 3 stalks (green part) Lemongrass
  • 4 pieces Kaffir Lime Leaves


  1. Cut chicken into small pieces. You can use any part of chicken.
  2. Shred cabbage into bite sized pieces and clean.
  3. Set aside
  • Spice Paste
  1. Cut onions into quarters.
  2. Slice the white part of the lemongrass finely. Reserve the rest of the stalk for frying.
  3. Peel and slice ginger and turmeric root. You might want to use gloves if using turmeric root as the colour stains nails and fingers for a few days. Alternately, you can use 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder to substitute.
  4. Add all into food processor or blender together with chillies, and candlenuts.
  5. Blend till it forms a smooth paste or till you can’t see the fibres from lemongrass.
  6. Set aside.
  • To fry
  1. In a wok or large pan over medium high heat, add spice paste and green part of the lemongrass.
  2. Stir fry for 15 minutes or till the paste starts breaking up.  *see above text for some explanations*
  3. Once paste is ready, add mustard seeds and fry for a minute.
  4. Add chicken and fry in the paste for 2 minutes.
  5. Add kaffir lime leaves.
  6. Stir in coconut milk and 1/2 cup water (optional).
  7. Let it simmer till chicken cooks and the gravy thickens.
  8. Add in cabbage and simmer till soften.
  9. Season with salt.
  10. Serve immediately with steamed white rice or let the curry sit for a few hours before serving. This improves the flavour.



Cherry's Signature

Malaysian Chicken Yellow Curry

Malaysian Chicken Yellow Curry

Yellow Curry served with freshly steamed white rice.

Yellow Curry served with freshly steamed white rice.

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