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Our culinary maestros share their top tips when it comes to cooking an aromatic bowl of curry

The viral Singapore chicken curry recipe by The New York Times recently sparked controversy all over the island. Although there is no definitive version of Singaporean chicken curry, it is far from the publication’s thin and pale version of it.
 
Chicken curry in Singapore comes in various forms, each done differently and influenced by multiple cuisines, including Peranakan, Indian and Malay. Regardless, it is essentially rich, earthy, and full of spices.
 
It suffices to say that everyone has their own version of cooking up a pot of aromatic chicken curry, including our own chefs. We ask some of the island’s top chefs to share their tips on creating a delectable bowl of curry.

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Manjunath Mural, head chef, Adda

“My most important tip when it comes to cooking chicken curry is to temper the spices, as it will give the curry an extra burst of flavour. It is also important to marinate the chicken in various spices, such as ginger, garlic and salt.
 
Another tip is to be patient—start the cooking process with medium heat and never on a high heat. Also remember to stir occasionally, to ensure the curry is being evenly cooked. The final step to cooking a delicious chicken curry is to add salt to taste. This will help intensify the aroma of the dish.”

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Kelly Tay, chef de cuisine, Colony

“The rempah paste is the most important component. It must be fried until slightly brown, with oil visibly coming out, while emitting a fragrant aroma. I would also recommend adding belachan to the rempah for an added spice kick.
 
As I am a Singaporean chef that has been trained in various cuisines, my chicken curry recipe has Indian, Malay and Nonya influences. My method of cooking curry involves first dipping the marinated chicken into hot oil for about 20 to 30 seconds. This will help to cook the outside of the chicken and get rid of any gamey taste and smell.
 
I also recommend frying the potatoes in oil for three to five minutes until golden brown. This will give body to the potatoes, preventing it from disintegrating when mixed into the curry.
 
If you are a beginner, I recommend getting the consistency of the curry gravy correct. It should be thick and not diluted. Cornstarch and potatoes are essential in helping ensure a thick gravy.”

Malcolm Lee, chef-owner, Candlenut

“The rempah forms the backbone of any good curry in Peranakan cooking. While the process of making this complex spice paste from scratch may be laborious, without it, the curry will taste flat.
 
Another key is to start off with fresh ingredients—including a good ratio of spices, herbs and aromatics. These will then be pounded using a pestle and mortar until a fine paste is formed. To further coax out the intense flavours, the rempah will need to be fried over appropriate heat with good control and sufficient oil until it is dry, fragrant and evenly caramelised.
 
For me, the best way to cook chicken curry is to fry the rempah slowly, and stew the chicken over a wok. It is important to control each process carefully. Then, I like to scoop out some curry gravy and cook the potatoes separately until they are soft. To ensure that the potatoes do not fall apart in the curry, add them at the end of the cooking process.
 
For beginners, I recommend using good ingredients—even the breed of the chicken, or the parts used will affect how the curry turns out. How long the chicken is cooked is also key. It’s important to watch the timing so that the meat remains nice and tender; when overcooked, it’ll end up dry and lose its texture.
 
Lastly, allowing the curry to rest allows all the flavours to settle and infuse properly, and that can do wonders for the dish.”

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