Updated: Jul 25, 2021
Penang curry is a spicy, sweet, salty and sour curry that originates from central Thailand. The flavours consist of that classic Thai flavour profile, the saltiness coming from the shrimp paste and fish sauce, the spicy coming from dried red chillis and sour coming from lime zest and Kaffir lime. For this recipe I decided to make the curry as traditional as possible without messing around with it too much. Theres something about eating curry with your hands therefore I added a simple Malaysian Roti Prata recipe to help aid eating with your hands. Let's get it!
To serve 4
Penang curry paste:
30g dried red chillies
2 lemongrass stalks
4cm piece galangal
1 large shallot or 4 small red shallots
3 garlic cloves
4 kaffir lime leaves
zest of 1/2 lime
1 tsp shrimp paste
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp toasted peanuts
4 chicken legs
350ml coconut milk
2-3 tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
400g plain flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
120ml whole milk
oil for shaping
Let's begin by making the dough for the roti. This needs at least 3 hours to rest before using as we want to make the dough nice and elastic. If you prefer the dough can be made up the night before. Start with the dry ingredients, in a large mixing bowl add 400g plain flour, 2 tbsp white sugar and 1 tsp salt. Mix well then add 120ml water, 120ml milk and 2 tbsp of rapeseed oil. Mix all together with a fork until a dough starts to form then when more manageable begin to kneed by hand for 6-8 minutes. Continue to kneed the dough until there is no more excess flour left in the bowl and the dough has become slightly smoother. If the dough seems to be too wet when kneeding then simply add a pinch more flour.
2. Now place the dough onto a work surface, then divide and cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Then lightly brush the work surface with cooking oil and roll each piece of dough into a smooth oily ball. Repeat with each piece of dough then when ready place all the balls of dough onto a plate. Ensure all the dough is coated in oil by lightly brushing if needed then cover with clingfilm. Allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before cooking. (The oil will help our dough become more elastic).
Penang Curry Paste
3. Moving on to the curry paste, I used a food processor to make things nice and quick but feel free to use a mortar and pestle also. Start by removing the seeds from 30g of dried red chillies then when seedless allow to soak in warm water to rehydrate. When softened roughly chop the chillies and add to a food processor keeping the water we used to rehydrate to one side as we will use this also for the paste. Now along with the chopped chillies add 2 bruised and chopped lemongrass, 4cm piece sliced galangal, 1 chopped shallot, 3 peeled garlic cloves, 4 ripped kaffir lime leaves, 1/2 lime zest, 1 tsp shrimp paste, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp ground coriander and 1 tbsp of toasted peanuts.
4. Pulse the paste until all the ingredients become broken down. The paste may seem dry and unpaste like at first so now gradually add some of the water we soaked the chillis in until a smooth paste is made. When ready place the paste into a bowl and set to one side for now.
5. For the chicken I went with chicken legs and cut on the bone into bite sized pieces. If you want then you can simply keep them whole whole its up to you. When slowly cooking chicken its best to keep on the bone as it prevents them from becoming dry. When the chicken is prepped add the pieces or whole legs to a pan with a drizzle of oil. Seal the chicken on a high heat until crispy and golden brown. Season lightly with salt and black pepper.
6. Next step is to incorporate the paste with the chicken, add all of the curry paste made earlier to the chicken to ensure the chicken is nicely coated in the curry paste. Turn the heat down to medium and fry for 5 minutes so that the curry paste becomes slightly darker in colour and fragrant. Now add 350ml of coconut milk and mix well. Place a lid over the pan and allow to simmer on a medium to low heat for 45 minutes. We shall season and finish the Penang curry at the very end.
7. Whilst we wait on the curry to slowly cook we can finish off the roti, lightly brush a work surface again with oil and place one of the balls of dough onto the surface. The best way to roll this dough is by hand so first of all flatten the ball of dough with the palm of your hand. When flat begin to push the dough hard with your palm to make the dough as flat as you can. Now to stretch and make the dough paper thin, grab two of the edges of dough and gently pull to stretch until almost transparent (If the dough rips that's perfectly fine). Flip the dough over and stretch again in the same way. Im sure there 1000s of techniques on how to do this but this way I found the most easiest. Create a paper thin square piece of dough.
8. Next step is to fold the dough, you can do this either two ways either take the flat dough and fold over the dough to create a neat parcel.
The other way is to roll the flat piece of dough into a thin strip then roll the dough into a tight snail shape. Flatten the dough again until as thin as you can make it. To be honest I tried both ways and I couldn't seem to work out which one worked best therefore, I will leave this one for you to try. Repeat whichever folding method you choose for each small piece of dough.
9. To cook the roti, place a pan onto a high heat with a small drizzle of cooking oil. When hot add the roti one by one and cook for 2-3 minutes either side or until both sides are nicely charred. The dough will almost puff out when cooked this is good sign. Repeat this process for all the roti and place onto a serving plate when cooked.
10. Now to finish the curry and serve, after 45 minutes the chicken should be cooked and hopefully the coconut milk should have slightly split. Season by adding 2-3 tbsps of shaved palm sugar, 2 tbsp of fish sauce, some fresh lime juice and some shredded kaffir lime leaves. Add more or less of each seasoning if needed, you want the curry to be slightly sweet, spicy, sour and salty. When your happy, place the curry into a serving bowl and drizzle a little fresh coconut milk over the top and eat with the flakey fresh roti! Hope you like this simple recipe!
If making the roti is not your thing or seems a bit long then cook some fresh rice or serve with a mix of vegetables...Instead of chicken you could try vegetables, lamb, beef or seafood with this curry. If you find 30g of dried chillis a bit too hot then you could make things milder by adding half of the chillis and add red pepper instead. Have fun with this recipe!