February 25, 2014 by Dewi
Ning is the name of chef Norman Musa’s Malaysian restaurant in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. The other week, my Dad came to visit me up in Manchester and, as we both love a good curry, we booked a table at Ning for our dinner. Having been given Musa’s cook book for Christmas (which generously includes recipes from the restaurant menu) I was excited for what would be my first experience of real Malaysian food.
The meal did not disappoint. It was superb! My main was something I’d never eaten before: a Nyonya lime chicken curry. It was delicious and not really like any other curry I’d eaten. There was a distinct sweet and sour flavour to the sauce, which was laced with rich coconut milk and fresh tomato.
When I got home the first thing I did was grab the Ning recipe book and flip to the index.
N…N…N… There it was: Nyonya Lime Chicken Curry, p.114.
To make Chef Musa’s curries, he recommends blending many of the ingredients (such as lemongrass, ginger, dried chillies) with some water to form a paste. For some of the products in the book (tamarind, kaffir lime leaves, dried chillies) I took an afternoon jaunt over to Manchester’s Chinatown, where I was able to pick up everything I needed. Not just for this curry, but for others in the book, too. Even the Malaysian spice blends recommended by Musa himself. See the photo below for some of the goodies I found (cheaply, too; at far more reasonable prices than the big supermarkets offer).
So, back to the curry. I spent a bit of time blending (separately, with some water) lemongrass, dried chillies and ginger; before portioning them into zip-lock bags for freezing. Around 20 dried chillies, blended with 100 ml of water makes roughly 10 tablespoons of chilli paste. I portioned this into 5 bags of 2 tablespoons each. This way, if I decide to make a curry which needs chilli paste, I can grab a bag from the freezer
The sweet and sour notes – a distinct characteristic of this Nyonya curry – are achieved by balancing sugar for sweetness and tamarind for sourness. I picked up a jar of tamarind paste from an asian supermarket for less than a couple of quid, and it should last me a good while. The kaffir lime leaves give the curry it’s brilliantly fresh, citrus flavour. My personal addition of crunchy carrots and peppers gives the curry a little something extra in terms of texture which I think really works.
- 800g chicken breast (4 skinless, boneless fillets) thinly sliced
- 4 Tbsp blended lemongrass (2 trimmed stalks, blended with a splash of water)
- 1 large onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbsp grated/blended ginger
- 4 Tbsp dried chilli paste (8-10 dried chillies, boiled for 5 minutes and blended with a splash of water)
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 4 Tbsp tamarind paste
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 200ml water
- 6 kaffir lime leaves
- 100ml coconut milk
- 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 medium carrot, very thinly sliced
- 1 red pepper, very thinly sliced
- 1 fresh red chilli, sliced (for garnish)
In a wok or a deep pan, warm some vegetable oil over a moderate heat.
In a food processor, blend the garlic and onion with a splash of water to form a puree.
Add the onion and garlic purée to the pan with the blended lemongrass and ginger.
Cook for around 7 minutes.
Add the chilli paste, turmeric, tamarind paste, salt, sugar and the kaffir lime leaves.
Cook until the oil separates from the ingredients, which should take around 5 minutes.
Add the chicken to the pan along with the water and leave to simmer for around 7 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.
Pour in the coconut milk and add the carrot, peppers and tomatoes.
Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for around 3-4 minutes. You want the vegetables to stay fresh and crunchy.
Garnish with fresh chilli and serve with fragrant jasmine rice.