Chicken in turmeric and coconut milk (masak lemak)

The name for the dish literally translated from malay is ‘chicken cooked fat-style’, but I thought ‘chicken in turmeric and coconut milk sounded better. I learnt this dish from an old friend at least 13 years ago. 

This dish tastes similar to a thai red/yellow curry, it is very rich, but the hint of chilli is milder and the turmeric is the star of the show.


  • 1 chicken breast, diced
  • 1 red chilli
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 1 tbsp tamarind juice
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 lemon grass, bruised
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1/2 tbsp turmeric powder
  • a handful of chopped runner beans
  • 1 red/yellow/green capsicum, sliced
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • salt to taste
  • sunflower oil


  1. Blend the shallots, ginger and chilli into a paste with 2 tbsp water (this should produce 2 to 3 tbsp chilli paste)
  2. Heat some oil in a pan, and fry the chilli paste for 2 minutes under low heat
  3. Add the lime leaves and lemon grass, fry for 30 seconds. Add the vegetables, diced potatoes, coconut milk, turmeric and tamarind juice
  4. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes (until potatoes are cooked)
  5. Add the diced chicken and cook for 10 minutes
  6. Season with salt
  7. Serve with piping hot rice


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