Chicken in Creamy Turmeric & Coconut Sauce

Chicken in Creamy Turmeric and Coconut Sauce, also known as Ayam Masak Lemak Cili Padi, is a vibrant Malay dish with fresh turmeric roots and tamarind skin, offering a mix of savory, sweet, and spicy flavors. The aroma of turmeric leaves adds to its appeal. Simple yet rich, this versatile dish can also be made with beef, prawn, or crab, making it a staple in any culinary repertoire for its delightful complexity. My family enjoy this dish with extra chillies for heat and it tastes even better the following day.


  • 300-400g grams chicken pieces (or 5 medium size drumsticks option)
  • 2 cups of either water or chicken broth
  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 4-5 Leaves of Kaffir Lime
  • 2 slices of dried tamarind skin (optional)
  • 1 turmeric leaves (optional)
  • 2 large potatoes (cubed)

For the Paste:

  • 1 red onion
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 1-inch piece of ginger
  • 1-inch piece of fresh turmeric root (or 2 teaspoon of turmeric powder)
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass (use only the white part, thinly sliced)
  • 5-10 Thai bird’s eye chillies (according to your preference) or half red deseeded Rocotos chilli
  • 2-3 tablespoons water (for blending)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Begin by roughly chopping the paste ingredients to make them easier to blend. Put them into a blender or food processor, adding a little water as necessary, until you achieve a smooth consistency.
  2. Place a saucepan over medium heat and lightly brown the chicken, add the paste, stirring well. Pour in the water or chicken broth.
  3. Introduce the potato cubes to the pan, bringing the mixture to a gentle boil.
  4. Once it starts boiling, lower the heat so the mixture simmers. Cover with a lid and let it cook for around 15-20 minutes, ensuring the chicken is thoroughly cooked. If the sauce seems too thick or reduces too much, you can add a bit more water.
  5. Keeping the heat on low, blend in the coconut milk. Adjust the flavour with salt and sugar according to your taste.
  6. Shred the kaffir lime leaves and turmeric leaves and mix them into the dish, completing the preparation. This dish is best enjoyed served over rice.

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