The Captain’s delight

Posted on November 19, 2012


Another popular request by the group of expatriate culinary students was the chicken curry Kapitan.

Kapitan (meaning Captain) was the title used to address leaders of various ethnic communities in the state of Malacca during the Portuguese colonial rule in the fifteenth century. Instead of addressing the mass, the rulers back in those days prefer to communicate with appointed Kapitans of each ethnic group under their rule. Chicken curry Kapitan is a popular Nyonya dish originated from Malacca. A thick spicy curry that conjures up some of the cosmopolitan atmosphere of old Malacca, this recipe bridges the gap between cuisines, just like how the Kapitan acted as the middle man between cultures.

In addition to coconut milk and lemongrass, the dish makes liberal use of belacan or fermented shrimp paste. Belacan is a hallmark of Nyonya cuisine. It has a sharp odour by itself, but when used in cooking it adds texture and boldness to enhance the flavour of other ingredients in the dish, rather than drawing attention to itself.


100g grated coconut
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1kg chicken thigh and/or breast
2 stalks lemon grass (cut into 4-inch lengths, pounded lightly)
6-8 pieces kaffir lime leaves
400ml thick coconut milk
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon sugar

Ingredients for curry paste

1 teaspoon galangal powder
5 large red chillies, seeded
5 small red chillies, seeded
5 eschalots, peeled
4 cm ginger, peeled
2 cm fresh turmeric
3 cm cube belacan (fermented shrimp paste)
1 tablespoon macadamia nuts, soaked in warm water


  1. Cut all ingredients for curry paste (apart from macadamia nuts) into small pieces. Grind to a very fine paste in a food processor.
  2. Remove macadamia nuts from water and add to paste. Continue to grind.
  3. Heat wok (or deep pan) with low heat and fry grated coconut till golden brown and fragrant (5-10 min). Remove and set aside.
  4. Add vegetable oil to wok and stir-fry paste with low heat until aromatic or a thin layer of oil rises to the top (approximately 5 min).
  5. Add chicken, lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves, and continue to stir until it’s almost cooked (5-10 min).
  6. Add grated coconut, coconut milk and lime juice, continue to simmer for another 15-20 minutes over low heat.
  7. Add salt and sugar.

Serves 4 (with steamed rice)

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