If you're craving curry at home, you're probably not going to make kare-kare. Sure, it's the face of Filipino curry—it's right there in the name—but unless you have the luxury of time and oxtails, it's not something you can cook everyday. If you want curry now, you need something easy, fast, and cheap.
Enter Pinoy-style chicken curry: chicken and vegetables simmered in turmeric-yellow coconut curry sauce. With hot rice on the side, it becomes one of the most comforting homestyle dishes you can make.
What is Pinoy chicken curry?
Every home cook has Pinoy-style chicken curry in their repertoire. (And if not, that's what this recipe is for!) The dish bears the DNA of ginataang manok: a base of garlic, onion, and ginger underscoring a savory coconut milk sauce. What transforms it from ginataang manok to chicken curry is, well, curry powder.
What is curry powder?
Every grocery's spice section will have a pack of yellow stuff labeled "curry powder". Its origins go all the way back to British India, where Indian traders formulated a simple readymade spice mix for the British to cook curry with.
You can think of curry powder as the Westernized cousin of garam masala, the warm spice blend used in Indian cooking. Curry powder is heavy on the turmeric (an ingredient absent in garam masala), which imparts that unmistakable yellow color. Its flavor profile leans milder and sweeter than Indian curries.
What goes into Pinoy chicken curry?
Can't make chicken curry without chicken. Use bone-in chicken thighs, legs, or a mix of both.
The standard curry add-ins are potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers. This version comes from Ryle's mom, who adds chopped eggplant to her curry.
Home cooks love Pinoy chicken curry for its versatility. Whatever extra vegetables you have on hand will make delicious additions: sweet potato, spinach, pechay, string beans, cauliflower, or cabbage.
- 4–6 pieces chicken thighs or legs
- 2 tbsp neutral oil
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tbsp chopped ginger
- 3 tbsp curry powder
- 1 eggplant, chopped
- 2 potatoes, chopped
- 1 400ml-can coconut milk
- 1 400ml-can coconut cream
- 2 red or green bell peppers, cored and chopped
- 3 tsp fish sauce or patis
Sear chicken: Heat oil in a deep pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, turning with tongs when necessary, until nicely browned on all sides. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside.
Cook aromatics and curry powder: Reduce heat to medium. In the same pan, add onion, garlic and ginger to the remaining oil and fat. Cook aromatics, stirring constantly to prevent burning, until fragrant and golden, about 3–5 minutes. Before the last minute of cooking, add curry powder and stir to toast, about 30 seconds.
Cook chicken in curry base: Add eggplant and cook until slightly softened. Return browned chicken to the pan. Add coconut milk and cream. Bring the mixture to a low boil, then add potatoes. Stir to incorporate. Reduce heat so the curry cooks at a simmer. Cover pan and cook until chicken is tender, about 10 minutes.
At this point, adjust the curry sauce's consistency to your liking. For a thicker sauce, continue cooking uncovered to reduce. For a thinner sauce, stir in a bit of water to loosen the curry.
Add bell peppers: Remove cover and add bell peppers. Stir to incorporate and cook until bell peppers have softened a bit but are still crunchy.
Finish and serve: Taste and season curry with fish sauce, adding more to taste if necessary. Transfer to a serving bowl and enjoy hot with lots of rice.