Tomato Chicken Curry (Kari Ayam Tomato)

March 3, 2011

IMG_6546 edited

Aah tomato chicken, how I love thee. Growing up eating rice day in day out was so bloody boring! But on nights when “tom-chook” was served, I was glad to be on my Asian rice diet. Even now, it’s still my go-to dish for a weeknight feed or comfort meal. I’m not too sure about the origins of it but Mother Superior have always cooked some version of it for as long as I could remember. And her supreme cooking skills is partly because of her time spent in cooking schools in Malaysia (aka housewife training for young ladies). You should see her old workbooks; in the beginning she had to write down recipes for making white coffee and sandwiches! Gloriously retro!

IMG_6532 edited

Obviously us kids couldn’t handle chilli so Mother Superior would always cook the ‘innocent and child-friendly’ version for us with just chicken, a little sambal, tomato puree and a tin of very glamorous champignons. I did love it immensely but thankfully I grew up fast so I could handle the spicier and more sophisticated adult version, which sadly is not meant to contain champignons. But as if that’d stop me from opening up a tin once in a while! She always used chicken wings and mini drumsticks but I prefer chicken thighs.

IMG_6597 edited

This is one of the few Malaysian curry dishes that doesn’t need coconut milk or cream, which means it’s a perfect alternative for days when a creamy curry would be too heavy. Absolutely essential though is a serving of rice to go with it garnished with fried shallots. Steamed jasmine or basmati would be awesome but coconut rice permeated with the fragrance of pandan? Even better.

Tomato Chicken Curry (Kari Ayam Tomato)

Serves: 4-6 (with rice)

Unless specified, I always use 15ml tablespoon, 5ml teaspoon and 250ml cup measures. Recipe adapted from Mother Superior with love.


600g boneless chicken thighs, diced into pieces


1 Tbl tumeric powder
1 Tbl light soy sauce
1 Tbl tomato paste
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp salt
few shakes of ground white pepper

[Chilli Paste]

10 dried red chillis, deseeded
10 fresh red chillis, deseeded
6 French shallots, chopped
6 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 lemongrass, white parts only, chopped
1 Tbl of oil

Note: you might not need all of it if you’re like me and can’t handle too much spice. The rest can stored in a jar in a fridge for your future cooking.


2 onions – one finely diced and the other, halved then cut into 5mm thick slices
4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 x 2cm knob of ginger, peeled and minced
125ml (1/2 cup) tomato sauce/ketchup
1 x 140g tin of tomato paste
1/2 Tbl kecap manis
2 Tbl caster sugar (or to taste)
250ml of chicken stock
4 kaffir lime leaves


Combine the chicken with the marinade ingredients, stir and set aside for an hour.

Meanwhile pound the chilli paste ingredients in a mortar pestle or food processor and set aside. This can be made in advance and stored in a glass jar in the fridge. I like to keep a good supply of it in the fridge to be ready every time I cook.

Heat up some peanut oil in a wok or pan over high heat. Brown the marinated chicken in 2 or 3 batches until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate and set aside.

IMG_6423 edited

Browned marinated chicken

Add more oil if you need to, then the finely diced onions, garlic, ginger and about 2 heaped tablespoons of chilli paste (or to taste). Fry until fragrant (or as I like to gauge, until “my nose starts running and my throat tickles” hehe).

Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, kecap manis, sugar, stock and kaffir lime leaves, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes to develop the flavours.

Add the browned chicken and simmer for a further 30 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is coated and has absorbed all the flavours. Add more stock or water if the sauce starts to dry out during cooking.

IMG_6433 edited

Add the sliced onions and simmer for a few minutes more. Serve with steamed rice or coconut rice fragranced with pandan leaves.

Print this recipe.

IMG_6504 edited