Burmese Chicken Curry with Limes and Tomatoes

This is one of the easiest curries to make. It’s also very popular with children, perhaps because, though it is an authentic Burmese curry, it is not made with coconut milk or yoghurt, but with tomatoes. Use fresh tomatoes if you have an abundance during the summer in your garden – they must be very ripe. Otherwise, your curry will be just as good with the best canned chopped plum tomatoes you can get. The real difference between this curry and those of other Southeast Asian countries is that one of the ingredients is an authentic Burmese balachaung, but the children won’t notice, as long as you reduce the amount of chillies.


  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 lemon grass stalks, cut into 2 pieces
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 4 chicken breast fillets and 8 boned chicken thighs, with or without skins
  • 450 g/1 lb ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped, or 450 g/1 lb can plum tomatoes with their liquid
  • juice of 2–3 limes
  • 3 tbsp Balachaung
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 4 tbsp hot water
  • a little salt if needed


Preheat the oven to 160°C / 325°F / Gas 3. Heat both oils in a large pan and, when hot, stir-fry the onions and garlic, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes. Add the turmeric, ground coriander, cinnamon, cloves, lemon grass, lime leaves and chicken pieces. Stir until the chicken pieces are lightly browned.

Add the rest of the ingredients except the hot water and salt. Cover and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the water and salt, cover again and cook for another 15-20 minutes on a moderate heat.

Transfer the chicken pieces to an ovenproof dish and put them in the oven, leaving the sauce to continue cooking until it has become thick and oily, about 10-15 minutes. Spoon out some of the oil and discard it. Adjust the seasoning, adding salt if needed.

Take the chicken from the oven and pour the curry sauce over it. Serve hot straight away, with plenty of plain boiled rice.