Spicy Curried Chicken

Curry is not an indigenous Chinese spice. The term ‘curry’ stands for no single spice or flavour. Different curries have different taste characteristics. The idea of crushing and combining various whole spices entered China by way of Chinese merchants who had travelled to India. Curry became popular in Southern China because of the commercial connections that area enjoyed with South-east Asia.

In the process of assimilation, curry was modified and adapted to the Cantonese taste, resulting in a milder version than in India. This is the ‘curry’ taste found in Westernized Chinese homes and restaurants.

I remember the distinct aroma of mild curry wafting through our house when my mother spiced up a chicken dish in this manner. It was an easy way to add an exotic touch to our dinner. Even as a child, I knew somehow that curry was not really Chinese.


  • 450 g (1 lb) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or 675 g ( lb) with skin and bones
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons plus tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 1 tablespoon groundnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced garlic
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 450 g (1 lb) red or green peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 120 ml (4 fl oz) canned coconut milk
  • 120 ml (4 fl oz) Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 2 tablespoons Madras curry powder or paste
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour blended with 1 tablespoon water


Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Mix them with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of rice wine, the sesame oil and cornflour to coat.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the groundnut oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, dump in the chicken and stir-fry for 5 minutes, until the pieces are lightly browned. Remove them from the wok with a slotted spoon and pour off most of the fat and oil, leaving about 2 tablespoons.

Reheat the wok until it is very hot. Toss in the garlic and onion and stir-fry for 3 minutes, or until the onion is soft and brown. Then toss in the peppers and continue to stir-fry for 2 minutes. Now pour in the remaining soy sauce, rice wine and rest of the ingredients, except the cornflour mixture. Continue to cook the vegetables over a high heat for 2 minutes. Return the drained chicken to the wok and stir-fry for a further 2 minutes. Pour in the cornflour mixture and cook for 30 seconds. Coat the chicken thoroughly with the sauce and serve at once.