Ayam Kapitan (Captain’s Curry)

Product code: AK

I love this curry for its depths of flavor and it is really moreish. The addition of tamarind really cuts through the richness of the coconut milk resulting in a dish that is light but leaves a gentle tingle on your lips. I also love the story of how this dish is conceived. Legend has it that a Chinese cook was frusfrated not able to find ingredients he was used to in China to cook for his ‘Kapitan’ (Captain in Malay) One day he came across a Malay woman cooking next door and it was very enticing. So he went and asked the woman to teach him, however he knew  the curry would be too hot for his Kapitan’s tastebuds. So after a bit of experiments, he served up this curry one evening when the Kapitan has some guests over for a dinner party. He loved the dish and asked the Chinese cook what it is. He replied ‘ ayam, Kapitan’  which mean ‘chicken, captain’. The Kapitan misunderstood and thus named it Ayam Kapitan. Traditionally this dish contains belacan (shrimp paste) but I left it out as I cooked it for my MasterChef interview without due to the risk of seafood allergy and actually preferred it without.

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Effort: Medium

  • 4 chicken legs, separated into thighs and drumsticks
  • 1 tbs turmeric
  • 1/2 tbs salt
  • 1/2 tbs water
  • 250ml thick coconut milk
  • 1 lemongrass
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 100ml oil for deep frying

For The Spice Paste

  • 20g ginger
  • 20g galangal
  • 2 lemongrass, use tender parts only
  • 20 dried chillies, soaked in hot water and seeds removed
  • 15 shallots approx. 175g
  • 3 candlenuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbs oil


  • 1 tbs chicken stock powder
  • 1 tbs white sugar
  • 3 tbs tamarind concentrate
  • First marinade the chicken with turmeric , salt and water. Leave overnight if you have time, if not, leave in room temperature for 30 minutes
  • Put all ingredients for spice paste in a blender and blend well.
  • Heat the oil in a wok or heavy bottom casserole dish. Fry the chicken in batches and make sure they are golden, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken and put them onto some kitchen towel to soak up the oil
  • Remove half of the oil in a container safely and fry the spice paste in the same wok or casserole dish. Please don’t be alarm at the amount of oil used as you need it to fry your paste. Too little oil will burn your paste
  • Fry the paste for about 5 minutes on medium heat then add the chicken and incorporate well. Add coconut milk, bashed lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Cook for a further 5 minutes
  • Add seasoning and adjust to own preference. Simmer until chicken is cooked through, around 25 - 30 minutes on medium heat. Stir often to avoid burning. Serve with rice or Malaysian net pancakes ‘Roti Jala’