Not sure if we have ever specified, that I am Singaporean by birth. My curry experiences have mainly been Singaporean and Malaysian curries. I have been exposed to Indian cuisine and their delectable curries, who hasn’t, unless of course you are one of those people who shy away from a bit of spiciness (most people think Indian curries are spicy), but I don’t think I have had the pleasure of someone distinguishing for me the delightfulness of a Sri Lankan curry.
Recently I came across a video from Marion Gasby. She is an incredible cook. She has an incredible personality. May I just say that Marion and her mama Noi are both pretty incredible. If you do happen to watch their cooking demonstrations, you too will agree, they fill you with all feelings of warmth and joy. Plus, Marion likes to cook with her friends Silvia and Sarah. Marion and her friends are pretty hilarious together. For this recipe, Marion did note that this video was done a while ago and it was a time where we were more liberal, pre-isolation and pre-pregnancy.
I got pretty interested before I watched their video. When I was ready to make this dish, I did some research to see how others cooked this curry then I watched the video to see how Marion makes it. I must say, it bought tears to my eyes, many times, from laughing at the joyfulness of their mateship, whether it was from the vodka shots or two friends generally having a great time cooking together, it really was so heart warming to watch. There were times I laughed out loud so much watching them cook, it reminded me of how much I miss cooking for my friends and family, and having people in the kitchen with me. Google it and watch them, it is so beautiful, if you are not already inspired, you definitely will be.
So, cook, I did. My husband is not a real fan of seafood curry, whilst I am, so I started with a chicken version, then used the sauce to make a lobster and scallop version (this is only because I did not have any white fish or prawns in the freezer. I am sure fish, prawns and any seafood would have been incredible in this dish too.).
We both enjoyed this curry thoroughly (especially since my husband has travelled to Sri Lanka and enjoyed their food whilst he was there). The house just smelt so good whilst it was cooking.
I did tone down on the chilli as I am not as good as some with the heat, you can add more chilli powder and cayenne pepper if you enjoy a bit more bite. My husband, who can and does love high heat did say that it was so flavoursome, it did not need it to be any hotter.
1.5kg chicken thighs bone in (whole pieces) or 1kg boneless chicken thighs or 600gms chicken thighs (whole pieces) + 2 large lobster tails (cut into large chunks) + 8 large scallops (or firm white fish, whole prawns or any seafood equivalent quantities)
2 brown onions chopped finely
5 cloves garlic chopped finely (or a tablespoon of minced garlic)
¼ teaspoon fengugreek seeds
1 tablespoon minced or grated ginger
1 teaspoon chilli powder (I actually only used ¼ teaspoon)
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground fennel seeds (I grounded fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon sweet paprika (do not use smoked paprika)
2 tablespoon white vinegar
2 bay leaves
2 stalks of lemongrass, bashed
1 cinnamon stick
6-8 cardamon pods, bashed
1 tin canned whole peeled or cherry tomatoes (I had a few spare cherry tomatoes in the fridge so I threw them in too)
250-300ml chicken stock
1 cup coconut milk (or small 270ml can)
A splash of oil for cooking
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves (optional)
Steamed vegetables: broccoli, green beans, peas, carrots, cabbage, pumpkin, sweet potato
Using a large pot, heat the oil in medium heat and fry off the fengugreek seeks for about 5 or so minutes until they release their flavour. Then add the onions, garlic and ginger. In the video, they say to take the time to sweat the onions so they are cooked well otherwise they will taste raw in the curry. So I made sure I fried it off really well when I added the spices to it.
It is also good to give the spices and good fry too as this releases their flavours too. One at a time, I added the spices (don’t be shy with the measurements, I always add just a little more than what the recipes says, same with the onion, garlic and ginger….you can never have too much onion, garlic and ginger in any dish I always say).
Add the vinegar, stir well, after a few minutes, add the chicken. Coat the chicken really well then add the tomatoes. I found that there wasn’t a lot of liquid at this point, so added some chicken stock (although it wasn’t in the recipe). I need a bit of liquid as I do love loads of sauce/gravy plus in this instance, I needed to use half of it for the seafood version.
Then add cardamom pods, lemongrass, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. Stir well and when it arrives to the boil, turn down heat a bit, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
We had to go visit our friends around the corner, so we left it for about an hour on the tiniest amount of heat….my theory is, the longer you cook the curry, the better it would be as you are allowing the flavours to gently infuse over a longer period of time. This is only possible using chicken thigh, with or without bone. If you are using chicken breast, it will dry out the meat. If you prefer to use breast, I suggest cooking the sauce first, then add the breast to poach to just cooked.
After about 20-30minutes, add coconut milk and let cook for another 10 or so minutes. Taste and add desired amount of salt. If you are making a seafood version, spoon out the chicken and half amount of sauce into a bowl or container, stir in some coriander leaves if you like. Add seafood to the pot and turn the heat up slightly so it poaches the seafood. This does not take long. Serve when the seafood is just cooked, stirring in some coriander leaves too if you like.
We do like rice with curry, however when we are not in the mood for carbs, we also enjoy green vegetables with our curry or any steamed vegetables really. The smell and flavour of this curry is really fabulous, the combination of curry spices, sweetness of tomatoes and hint of chilli is just so lipsmacking. I now want to try this recipe with no cayenne pepper and chilli at all so my non chilli liking friends can enjoy this taste sensation too!
P.S Take out cinnamon sticks, lemongrass and careful not to eat the cardamom pods too.