Broadly influenced in its spicing, Curry Kapitan conjures up some of the cosmopolitan atmosphere of old Malacca and recalls the traditional role of the Kapitan in China as the Chinese communities. The Kapitan was a man of standing among both Malays and his own Chinese people and had considerable social mobility. Curry Kapitan reflects this in culinary terms.
3 lb (1½ kg) chicken, or about 1½ lb (600 g) thigh fillets cut the Thai way
1.2 fresh coconut, grated or 1 cup (250 g) steamed dried coconut
5 tablespoons oil
3 cups (750 ml) coconut milk
½ cup (125 ml) tamarind water
1-in (2½-cm) piece of cinnamon stick
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons coriander seed or 1 ½ tablespoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons cumin seed or 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seed
2 cardamom pods or 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 whole star anise or ½ teaspoon anise
10 dried chilies, seeded and soaked in warm water until soft and squeezed dry
1-in (2½-cm) piece turmeric root, peeled and coarsely chopped, or ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1-in (2½-cm) piece fresh ginger root, peeled and coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon shrimp paste
4 cloves garlic
10 shallots, sliced
Cut the chicken into frying pieces. To prepare the Spice Paste, grind all the dry spices to a powder. Mash the wet spices to a paste, adding the dry ingredients last. Heat a heavy frying pan and dry roast the grates coconut until it is brown. Grind the roasted coconut until it is the color and consistency of brown sugar.
Heat the oil in a saucepan or a claypot. Add a little water to the Spice Paste to prevent it from burning and fry until it is fragrant. Add the chicken pieces and mix to caot them with the spices. Add the coconut milk, tamarind water and cinnamon stick and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is tender. Add the ground coconut and salt to taste and then cook until the gravy is thick. Serve in a large bowl, garnished with fried onion flakes and chili slices.