Sri Lankan Chicken Curry Recipe

I’ve typed this up many times for friends, and thought it would save me plenty more typing to just record it here, with gratefulness to my dear MIL for putting up with my kitchen messiness and teaching me how to make food my husband loves.  (Feel free to imagine my extra explanations in italics in my MIL’s voice).


2-3 lbs boned chicken

2-3 T. olive oil

1 small onion

3 t. minced garlic

2 t. minced ginger

2-3 t. curry powder

2-3 t. chile powder

1/2 t. turmeric

Salt to taste

1 t. tamarind concentrate

2-3 t. soy sauce

2-3 t. ketchup

3-4 cardamum pods

3-4 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

3-4 potatoes, skinned and cubed (optional)

1 c. milk

1.  Saute onions, garlic, and ginger on medium high heat in olive oil (my healthier version of ghee for us high-cholesterol folks) until they are slightly tender.  Be careful – minced garlic burns quickly!

2.  Skin chicken (I leave the skin on legs – they fall apart to easily if you take the skin off) and add to onion mixture.  Cook on high until chicken starts to turn white.

3.  Add spices*, tamarind concentrate, soy sauce, ketchup, and potatoes.  The amount you add is fairly relative, depending on taste.  The basic idea is to add a few teaspoons of curry powder, chile powder to taste, and a little turmeric.  Too much turmeric will make the curry bitter.  If you don’t have some of these spices, curry powder, chile powder, and turmeric are the most important.  The rest just add depth to the flavor.

4. Stir everything together.  Let cook on medium low for about 2 hours or until meat is falling off the bone.  Add milk 10-15 minutes before removing from heat.  Coconut milk makes it taste unbelievably delicious (and more authentic).  We use it only on special occasions to save our poor little arteries.

5.  Watch DH do all sorts of house tasks in appreciation for the good food.  (Here, he is cleaning the grates on the furnace filter cover – impressive, eh?)

*Regarding where to purchase spices:  under NO circumstances should one ever purchase these spices in teeny tiny little jars made by American spice companies at the grocery store.  Find a friend and beg them to bring you spices from anywhere in South Asia, order them online or locate an Indian grocery store and buy them there.  You could use a whole bottle of chile powder from the grocery store, and it would still not be equivalent in strength to real spices.


7 thoughts on “Sri Lankan Chicken Curry Recipe”

  1. Wow! Yummy! I do collect exotic recipes such as this given that I’m soon gonna be a doting wife. 😉

    Spices from Asia are really the best. My mom-in-law in Germany, after more than 20 years of living there, still find the ingredients that are available there unsatisfying whenever she needs to cook Asian food. Good for her, there’s a Filipina who imports from Asia spices and ingredients and distribute her goods houses to houses.


  2. What brand do you recommend? A South Indian one? I have Shan brand Curry Powder, but I can only imagine that it won’t impart the right flavor. Soy sauce and ketchup? Very interesting touches. Upping the sweetness and umami effect, I guess. I will try this out and report back. Thanks for posting it!


      1. I’m not too picky – we usually get it from Sri Lanka and buy a variety of brands. Larich and MD are some popular brands there. If I run out, I buy anything from the Indian store – just NOT from those little jars in the grocery store…


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