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King’s chicken curry

"This dish was invented for Kasyapa, the King of Sigiriya rock fortress in Sri Lanka," writes Kuruvita. "According to legend, Kasyapa was very demanding and his chefs had to invent new curries daily." The secret to this recipe is the sandalwood. In Sri Lanka it's possible to buy fresh sandalwood, which leaches its oil when boiled in a curry. A few drops of pure sandalwood oil, available from some health-food shops, will give the same heady flavour. If using the oil, add it with the water.

You'll need

1 chicken or large wild fowl (about 1.6kg), cut into 6 pieces 1 small brown onion, thinly sliced 2 tbsp white vinegar 4 garlic cloves 2 pieces of pandan leaf, roughly torn 1 sprig curry leaves, leaves picked 2 long red chillies, chopped 4 small green chillies, chopped 2 tsp ground brown mustard seeds 10 black peppercorns 15 gm (3cm piece) turmeric ½ tsp whole brown mustard seeds 90 ml vegetable oil 10 cm piece of sandalwood or a few drops of pure sandalwood oil (see note above) 6 whole cloves 4 cardamom pods, cracked ½ tsp dark roasted curry powder 1 tbsp chilli powder 80 ml malt vinegar 1 stalk lemongrass 1 cinnamon quill ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds, dry-roasted 500 ml (2 cups) coconut cream Juice of 2 limes 10 dried red chillies, dry-roasted


  • 01
  • Place chicken in a large bowl with the onion, white vinegar, garlic, pandan leaf, curry leaves, and red and green chilli, and toss to coat the chicken. Add the ground mustard seeds and peppercorns and season to taste with salt. Massage the mixture into the chicken and marinate for at least 20 minutes.
  • 02
  • Meanwhile, using a mortar and pestle, crush the turmeric with the whole mustard seeds to form a paste. Set aside.
  • 03
  • Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Remove the chicken from the spice marinade, reserving the marinade. Once the oil is hot, place the chicken, skin-side down, in the pan and cook until the skin is crisp (4-6 minutes). Turn the chicken over and cook the other side until browned (2-3 minutes). Remove from the heat and set aside.
  • 04
  • Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the reserved spice marinade and the sandalwood (if using) and fry until fragrant (2-3 minutes). Add the cloves and cardamom and fry for 3 minutes. Add the turmeric paste, curry powder and chilli powder and season to taste. Add the malt vinegar and scrape the base of the pan with a wooden spatula to remove any stuck-on spices. Add the chicken, lemongrass, cinnamon, fenugreek, sandalwood oil (if using) and 500ml water and gently simmer until the chicken is cooked through (45 minutes-1 hour), stirring occasionally and topping up the water as necessary to ensure the water level doesn’t drop too much.
  • 05
  • Add the coconut cream and bring to the boil, then immediately remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice.
  • 06
  • To serve, remove the chicken from the pan and pile high on a plate. Garnish with the dried red chillies.

Note My Feast with Peter Kuruvita is published by Hardie Grant ($49.95, hbk). The recipes here have been reproduced with minor GT style changes.

At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people

Featured in

Nov 2012

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