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This recipe is from internationally acclaimed cook and food writer Ghillie Basan who has very kindly allowed us to share this with you on our website. As well as the author of numerous cookery books, Ghillie runs innovative and inspiring, hands-on cookery workshops from where she lives in a remote outpost of the Scottish highlands – find out more about Ghillie, her books and workshops.
This chicken curry is a hotpot of the Chinese, Malay, Portuguese, and Indian influences in the region of Melaka from where it originates.
Using a mortar and pestle, or a food processor, pound the chillies, shallots, garlic, and ginger to a paste. Beat in the shrimp paste and stir in the dried spices.
Soak the tamarind pulp in 150ml/5fl oz warm water until soft. Squeeze the pulp to help soften it. Strain the pulp to extract the juice. Discard the pulp.
In a heavy-based pan, roast half the grated coconut until it is brown and emits a nutty aroma. Using a mortar and pestle or a food processor, grind the roasted coconut until it resembles sugar grains – this is called kerisik.
Heat the oil in a wok or earthenware pot, and stir in the rempah and cinnamon sticks, until fragrant. Add the chicken strips, tossing them in the spices. Pour in the coconut milk and tamarind water and stir in the sugar. Reduce the heat and cook gently for about 10 minutes. Stir in the ground roasted coconut to thicken the sauce and season with salt and pepper.
In a bowl, mix the remaining half of the grated coconut with the chillies, coriander and juice of 1 lime to serve as a relish. Cut the other lime into wedges. Spoon the chicken curry onto a serving dish and garnish with a few coriander leaves. Serve the curry with the coconut and chilli relish, the lime wedges to squeeze over it and a bowl of steamed rice.