S. H. Fernando Jr.'s Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

S. H. Fernando Jr.'s Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

[Photograph: Susan Now]

Chicken Curry or Kukul Mas was the first recipe that S.H. Fernando Jr., author of Rice & Curry added to his Sri Lankan recipe repertoire. It's a wonderfully creamy curry that begins by assembling a Roasted Curry Powder that lends all the rich, deeply spiced flavors to the curry.

The curry powder is a kitchen sink mix of all sorts of South Asian spices, each toasted individually, and whizzed together at the end, making for a uniquely warm blend that complements all matter of fiery chiles. But if grinding your own curry seems too daunting of an undertaking, it's worth noting that Fernando hand-blends his own curries that can be ordered right here.

Once you've got your curry, store-bought or homemade (no judgement here), you sprinkle it on the chicken along with a healthy dose of cayenne and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Here's where you have a little wiggle room. If you're pressed for time, simply let it marinate for a least half and hour and proceed, but if you have luxury of time, let it really soak in overnight.

What Worked: Fernando's Roasted Curry powder brings a level of savory depth to this ultra creamy, lightly spicy chicken curry.

What Didn't: The longer you can allow the chicken to marinate, the better. Giving the chicken a chance to really take in that roasted curry powder and cayenne is what this recipe is all about.

Suggested Tweaks: If you're worried about chicken breasts drying out, you can always swap in juicier dark meat thighs.

Reprinted with permission from Rice & Curry by S.H. Fernando Jr.. Copyright © 2011. Published by Hippocrene Books. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.

  • Yield:makes 6 servings
  • Active time: 1 hour
  • Total time:1 hour


  • 1 whole fryer chicken, cut into parts
  • 3 tablespoons Roasted Curry Powder (recipe follows)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2-inch (5-cm) piece ginger, chopped
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 2-inch (5-cm) stalk lemongrass
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 3 cloves
  • 1-inch (2.5-cm) cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup (250 ml) coconut milk
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Roasted Curry Powder:
  • 1 tablespoon uncooked rice
  • 4 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 2-inch (5-cm) cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 5 cardamom pods, shelled
  • 5 cloves
  • 2-inch (5-cm) piece pandanus (optional)
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves


  1. 1.

    For the Roasted Curry Powder: Toast each ingredient separately in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant and browned. Remove from heat, cool, and grind together in a coffee grinder. Store in a glass jar in the fridge.

  2. 2.

    For the Chicken Curry: Wash and clean chicken, removing most fat and split the thighs, breasts and legs.

  3. 3.

    Place chicken in bowl with curry powder, cayenne powder, and vinegar. Mix well with hands and set aside for at least 30 minutes.

    Note: Marinate the chicken overnight for optimum results.

  4. 4.

    In a large pot, heat oil. Once hot, add onions, garlic, ginger, curry leaves, lemongrass, cardamom pods, cloves, and cinnamon stick. Fry until onions are golden brown.

  5. 5.

    Add chicken pieces one by one, stirring occasionally until chicken is browned.

  6. 6.

    Add a little water to the bowl that contained the chicken and slosh around to catch any remaining marinade and add to pot. Cover and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes.

  7. 7.

    Stir in coconut milk and some salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

  8. 8.

    Stir in tomato paste and simmer for additional 2 minutes.