kalio ayam (padang chicken curry)

prep 30 mins        cook 40 mins         serves 4 - 5

spice paste

6 fresh red chillies (seeded)

6 shallots, peeled

5 cloves garlic

3 cm (slightly over 1 in) length fresh ginger, peeled and thickly sliced

2 cm length fresh turmeric (kunyit) peeled and sliced

4 candlenuts (buah keras), toasted and bashed

2 stalks lemongrass (serai), trimmed, root end bashed

3 cm length galangal (lengkuas) peeled and bashed until split

1 chicken, thoroughly cleaned, cut into 12 pieces, washed and drained

6 leprous lime leaves (makrut lime/limau perut leaves)

1 large turmeric leaf (daun kunyit), rib discarded, leaf torn into large shreds

3 large fresh Indonesian bay leaves (daun salam)

150 ml (3/4 cup) thick coconut milk

100 ml - 150 ml  (1/2 - 3/4 cup) water, depending on the desired gravy consistency

2 small slices tamarind (asam keping/asam gelugor)

1 tsp salt (or to taste)

1/3 tsp sugar (optional)

Combine spice paste ingredients and pound or process (with a small amount of water if necessary) to a smooth paste. Set aside.

Heat about 5 tablespoons vegetable oil and when hot, fry the lemongrass and galangal for about half a minute. Add the spice paste and cook stirring over moderate heat until very fragrant and oil separates from mixture.

Add well drained chicken pieces, lime, turmeric and bay leaves and turn up the heat. Cook, turning and stirring to prevent sticking and scorching, until chicken pieces are coated with spices and lightly browned.

Pour in half the coconut milk and stir until evaporated. Pour in remaining coconut milk and stir again until evaporated. Pour in water, add tamarind slices and stir. Bring to a boil then lower heat, cover partially and simmer until chicken pieces are cooked through and tender. Season to taste with salt and sugar and give curry a good final stir.

Turn off heat and dish out. Serve with white rice.