How to cook: Thai chicken curry

Thai chicken curry

Chicken curry is a dish that I grew up with. But the chicken curry of my childhood was just a coconut milk based stew made yellow with curry powder. Homey and really comforting but, well… it lacked fire somehow. Later on, when I learned to cook, I would add combine a teaspoonful of cayenne powder with the curry powder. And, much later, I would learn to add the spices during the sauteeing stage and not after.

One thing I learned during a trip around Southeast Asia is that there are many, many ways to cook curried dishes — Indian-style curry has yogurt, Thai-style curry has coconut milk or cream, and that inclusion of potatoes is a European modification. Curried dishes can be quite dry or saucy and the color of the stew varies depending on the kind of curry paste used — yellow, red or green. I’ve already gotten my hands on the recipes for all three kinds of curry paste, I do intend to make them one of these days but, for now, let me just share with you this five-step chicken curry recipe (six, if you include the step when you serve the dish) as an update and addition to my 2005 chicken curry recipe.

Recipe: Thai chicken curry



  1. Prepare the herbs and spices.
  2. Thai chicken curry
  3. Finely slice two to three stalks of lemongrass. Finely slice an onion (two to three shallots would be better). Crush and roughly chop two to three cloves of garlic. Peel and slice a thumb-sized piece of ginger. Strip the leaves of a couple of sprigs of Thai basil. Separate the kaffir lime leaves.
  4. Thai chicken curry
  5. Heat the cooking oil in a thick-bottomed pot. A pot or pan with a thin bottom will likely cause scorching since you will be simmering the stew in a thick coconut cream.
  6. Saute the onion (or shallots), garlic, lemongrass and ginger until the onions start to turn translucent.
  7. Thai chicken curry
  8. Add the curry powder. Now, not later. Spices do have essential oils and you want those oils released for maximum flavor. Stir for about 30 seconds.
  9. Thai chicken curry
  10. Add the chicken pieces. Stir to coat each chicken piece with the curry. Cook, stirring often, until the chicken changes color.
  11. Thai chicken curry
  12. Pour in the coconut cream. Throw in the finger chilis, kaffir lime leaves and basil. Season with patis (fish sauce). Stir, cover and simmer for 40 to 45 minutes. Check the liquid after 20 minutes or so. If the mixture appears too dry, add a little water, no more than a quarter of a cup. Too much water and you’ll have a soup instead of a stew.
  13. If you want to add potatoes, add them after the first 20 minutes, bring to a gentle boil then continue simmering.
  14. Before turning off the heat, taste and season with more patis (fish sauce) if necessary.
  15. Thai chicken curry
  16. You’re now ready to serve your chicken curry. Place a chicken (and potato, if using) on top of hot rice, smother with sauce and serve at once.
  17. Alternatively, serve the chicken (and potatoes) in individual bowls with some of the sauce.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

  • Grace

    hi ate connie…..i’m trying to find that sambal oelek, what kind of spice is it? malaysian, indonesian or thai?

  • Connie

    Grace it is a mixture of spices. Comes in jars. Am not sure of the country of origin.

    • Sarj

      where can i buy sambal oelek?

  • Connie

    At the supermarket, Kate. Yes, you can use siling labuyo but you’ll have to grind them to a paste.

    • housekeeper

      Hi Ms. Connie!

      I live here in the US, and being away from the regular Filipino brands, I am not sure if I bought the right ingredient for this recipe. I read one of your posts that distinguishes coconut cream from coconut milk. So I specifically bought coconut cream for this recipe. However, when I opened the can of “coconut cream”, it was so thick and the color is that of (school) paste! I tasted it a bit, and it was very very sweet, like “runny” macapuno! I used coconut milk instead. Should I have used that “cream”? The label clearly said coconut cream, but I don’t know if that is the kind you used for this dish. Please let me know cause I plan to cook this dish again. Thanks and more power to this very helpful site!

      • Connie

        The difference between cream and milk is the water content. Cream is the first extract (kakang gata) without (or with very little) water added. Coconut milk is either diluted coconut cream or the second and third extracts with much water added. I don’t know how coconut cream/milk are labeled in the US as it depends a lot on their country of origin.

        • housekeeper

          Thanks Ms. Connie! The brand I got is from Thailand, but I think it is the kind that is used for pastries. Regular coconut milk worked fine, and it was delicious! I took a pic of it, and will try to send it to you for the Reader’s Gallery. Thank you for sharing your recipe!

  • mamsi

    Hi miss connie. love chicken curry . May i suggest you try putting curry leaves next time. It will SMELL so great. Curry leaves are very easy to grow and we use them a lot in indian dishes.. Around 6 to 7 leaves in a dish will do…

    • Connie

      When I find where I can buy potted curry, I will. Thanks. :)

      • Ellie

        There are indeed many ways to cook curries. I love the recipe you used. So delicious!

    • Natz San Mateo

      Hello Mamsi,

      Where could I get curry leaves?

      I always thought that “curry” was a mixture of different spices and that it did not come from any particular tree.

      Thanks for your suggestion.

      • mamsi

        Hi natz, curry leaves (kadi patta-in india ) are herbs. Currrry powder is a mixture of spicies.. The leaves are for flavor and aroma .I got mine in greenhills(tiangge area where plants are sold ) several years ago . They dont need a lot of work . Just water everyday..

        • Connie

          Greenhills? Ok. Got that.

  • Erwina

    hi Connie, it ok to use evap milk in lieu of coconut cream?

    • Connie

      Yogurt is a better option.

  • raglin

    hmn, i worked in saudi for 15mos or so. curry dishes never had any appeal and literally scares me specially after seeing bangladeshi and indian guys prepare it, (please don’t take it negatively.). they cook thier food for hours just letting it simmer and stew. in add, they put what ever it is available on thier fridge. that’s how i remember curry… its a real messy nightmare. too much said. i tried this curry dish and it was wonderful, it erases my curry-phobia. better way to simplify things, dishes are marvelous thier each and every way but its the people who makes it special and loved-filled.

    • Pam Daniel

      I tried this recipe. Masarap talaga

      • mintlair

        hi ms. connie! If I use curry paste for this recipe (the green type, Thai Heritage brand), is the measurement the same as that of curry powder? Thanks. :)

        • Connie

          No, go by your taste. :)

        • Bom

          Will try this over the weekend :) I found Kaffir lime leaves and Sambal Oelek in Landmark. I love Landmark!

  • rogue17

    Hi Ms. Connie, I have been a fan of your cooking site and I have already tried to make or cook some of them and so far it was good, tastes good. So I just want to thank you and I`m looking forward to all of your other recipies.

  • cookingmama

    Hi Ms Connie, when do we add the lime leaves and basil?

    • Connie Veneracion

      Oops, let me edit the recipe — you throw them in at the same time as the chilies.

  • Connie

    Market! Market! Sarj

  • Mavic

    Hi Ms. Connie,

    I am an avid silent fan of your site. I tried your chicken recipe for my Father in Law’s birthday (my hubby’s request) & they love the chicken curry, my sister in law even requested me to cook it for their office party (hehehe). I am a bicolana & we love spicy foods, sambal oelek is a new ingredient to me but it makes the difference to the ordinary chicken curry… but instead of using just 1 tsp, i used half of the bottle… delicious… half of the bottle was used for my sweet & spicy shrimp… thank you so much for the inspiration…

  • kate

    Hi Connie, where in Market Market do I find the sambal oelek? Can I use siling labuyo instead? Your recipe sounds so mouth watering!

  • Archana

    lol, And I thought you were just frustrated. :P

  • Connie Veneracion

    Nah, it’s the name of a real market hahaha