Tomato Chicken Curry (Kari Ayam Tomato)

March 3, 2011

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Chernyse July 16, 2012 at 22:05

I am insanely in love with your blog. Will be trying this recipe and let you know how it turns out! Its one of my favourite msian dishes. Nom.


Gunika Khurana June 29, 2011 at 16:03

Dear Citrus and Candy,
I was so glad I stumbled upon this dish a few days back and got to make this last night. It turned out to be absolutely fab, with the flavours of tomatoes blending so well with the spices and chillies. Thank you for sharing this recipe. Love and luck


Citrus and Candy July 15, 2011 at 01:09

Hi Gunika, thanks so much for letting me know and so glad you enjoyed it :D


Cate April 15, 2011 at 15:43

This looks good – my kids came home from a Japanese friends house the other night and waxed lyrical about the curry – but this looks right up their alley – will have to try!!


Citrus and Candy April 16, 2011 at 17:20

Hi Cate! I’ve never tried a Japanese curry before but I always use to see it in movies. Will definitely have to explore that further but I’m guessing it would be similar to this type of non-creamy curry right? Hope you and your kids enjoy it :D


susan August 13, 2011 at 05:49

I had curry at Jap restaurant, and my adult son who visited Japan and liked the curry there too. When anyone mentioned of curry, the first think came to my mind for best curry are the following: Thai, Malaysian, Indian and Indonesian curry. Jap curry is very starchy and mild.


citrusandcandy March 10, 2011 at 02:40

Oh wonderful! Glad you enjoyed it! I'm guessing mine was darker than because of my dark soy sauce. I might've added one blob too many oops! But don't worry, it's suppose to be lighter than what it is in the photos (which made the dish more darker than it is anyway). But feel free to adjust by adding more or less dark soy sauce :D

Thank you so much!


Denise March 9, 2011 at 21:16

I made this and loved it! Delicious! One question: the colour of my dish was much lighter than yours, any idea why?


Demos March 8, 2011 at 11:37

The colour is the first thing that catches my eyes and wow does it look good. I could just imagine how nice and spicy it would be. Going to try this. Forget that, i'll get Gianna to make this.


Simon@theheartoffood March 8, 2011 at 11:14

Champignon mushrooms out of a tin reminds me of my childhood. Haven't had them since that time either.

Not the prettiest of dishes but I wouldn't turn down a good serving or two. Looks like it'd taste utterly fantastic! :)


@foodieandchef March 7, 2011 at 14:32

That colour is totally gorgeous. I often feel like curry but not like cream, so this recipe is definitely going to get a work out this week :) Thanks !


the ninja March 7, 2011 at 06:53

That's pretty hot. Like thighs.


TheGourmetCoffeeGuy March 7, 2011 at 05:44

This is an amazing recipe, the photos are great and illustrate the foods very well. Love the idea of coconut rice or basmati rice on the side. Thank you for sharing.


No Onion Please March 5, 2011 at 16:41

Hello! I had all ingredients in my fridge (nearly – i had chicken breast) so I made it yesterday for our dinner. I was too lazy and instead of making my own paste I just used ready red curry paste (and of course no onions ;) ). It was really fast to make and the curry is really nice :) Thank you (and your mum) for this recipe, it's now in my booklet and definitely will be repeated one day :)


Citrus and Candy April 16, 2011 at 19:33

Thank you so much and glad you enjoyed it, even without onions ;P

Don’t forget you could add any extra vegetables that you like in it if you wish. It’s a super versatile curry. How about tinned champignons? LOL!


Dolly March 5, 2011 at 07:23

god that looks perfect for tonites weather :)


Emma March 4, 2011 at 22:41

This looks and sounds just so so good! The intense reduced colour of the sauce just says 'eat me'. I agree with Gastronomygal – I reckon this would be an amazing twist for spicy chicken wings.


Carrie March 4, 2011 at 16:06

Curries are one of my favorite foods to make because they're just so verstaile. I'm loving this recipe – what a great ingredient list and such a gorgeous color!


Steph March 4, 2011 at 04:30

It looks so delicious, I just want to dive right into a bowl of that! Wish I could take as beautiful pictures on dark backgrounds like you do, there aren't many people around who can do it successfully! Especially love the red colour of the curry in the last photo!


Susan March 4, 2011 at 03:23

That looks so good!! I have always been wanting to try making coconut rice too, but didn't want to pair it with a creamy curry as it would be too heavy. This is perfect.


Gastronomygal March 3, 2011 at 22:42

Lady- your photos look beautiful. I am so crap with knowing anything about Malaysian food – I need to learn. This looks like something good to start with because I am not a fan of really heavy curries. Good one. I would imagine chicken wings could also be delish!


heather March 3, 2011 at 22:41

I have never seen something like this, and I must say, it looks AMAZING. Robust flavors paired with fiery ingredients, the tang of lemongrass… over a mound of Basmati or coconut rice, like you suggest — delicious! I will most certainly cook this soon.




Mary March 3, 2011 at 21:43

This looks absolutely scrumptious! Beautiful photography – Bookmarked!

Great blog; happy I found you!

Mary xx
Delightful Bitefuls


Kaitlin March 3, 2011 at 18:50

Mmmmm… This sounds so good! Great photos!


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