A Curry Journey from East to South

Eating curries, from a young age, launched me on a spicy mission.  This ongoing pursuit of a new blend of spices and of the perfect curry has made for an incredible culinary journey.

In Natal, South Africa where I was raised, I am one of a few fortunate people to have an East Indian”Aunty”, who blends the spices for masala and curry spice mixture. This “Aunty”, well actually she is my brother’s and he keeps me in steady supply, made the masala and curry spice mixture used in the recipe below.  The particular blends of spices are mostly determined by the Aunty, of course, but over the years, she has learned what we like.

This doesn’t mean I don’t explore other spice combinations I do BYH, Broaden Your Horizons,  and tackle other spice blends and curry recipes, which makes the journey unique and so much fun.

For me, curry embraces the terms soul food and comfort food. It is seductive and bold. Once you have been lured down this hot path, your palate will demand good seasoning of any meal. Even though my palate does appreciate subtle flavours, it is forever corrupted and tempted to add some hot sauce to all bland dishes.

The word curry is derived from kari, a word in Tamil simply meaning sauce.

Along the Coromandel Coast of South-East India, Fort St George is to be found, where Tamil merchants introduced the British East India Company to Kari, which they took to mean vegetables and/or meat cooked with spices with or without a gravy. Fort St George was renamed Madras and again changed, to Chennai, in 1996.

Nevertheless, the term ‘Madras Curry’ is not used in India, as it was really coined by restaurants in Britain.

The myriad variations of those curries from Madras are dictated by each home cook.  Local ingredients and their availability, add to the variations that exist all over the world.
Madras curries are distinguished by the:
  • Colour, the red of chilli paprika or a mixture of both, and the orange of turmeric
  • Spiciness of Garam masala [Garam(hot) Masala (spice mixture). The name masala coming from the Hindi word for spice], black peppercorns and chillies
  • Sleekness of coconut (or yogurt)
  • Sweet and sour fruitiness of tamarind, lemon, lime or vinegar
  • Pungency of garlic and onion or asafoetida
  • Licorice-taste of anise and ginger
  • Salt
  • Oil may be ghee (clarified butter) or coconut
  • Fresh curry leaves or cilantro (fresh coriander) can be added at the end
  • If meat is used it may be lamb, beef, or chicken. When made of beef or lamb it is called Gosht Madras.

The variations include the roasting of many of the spices including dried chillies, coriander seed, aniseed, cumin, and cinnamon.  These dried roasted ingredients are ground in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder and mixed with turmeric. Storage also lends itself to the variations, by being stored as a powder, a paste with vinegar or as an oil spice infusion.

Common accompaniments to Madras curry include raita and fresh coriander (cilantro). Southern India is more likely to have rice as the main carbohydrate than bread like naan.

The Flavours of History claims the origins of the word curry to be from old English first recorded in ‘The Forme of Cury’ although, in this case, “cury” merely means “cooking”.

That is just a short note about the East Indian origin of curry, but it has travelled far and picked up countless influences at the stops along the way. Influences that have led to East Indian friends living abroad to share that their mothers and aunties, who still live in India, constantly critique their curry dishes and not always favourably.

Right now I would like to take you on a quick East-South trip to one of those stops, to the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa where there is a strong Malaysian influence on curry dishes. Here a people originated and became known as the Cape-Malays. They created many delectable Cape-Malay dishes that are still great favourites today.

Here is my Chicken Curry recipe, with Cape-Malay influences.



AUTHOR: Wayne Stanley

CUISINE: Cape-Malay


PREP TIME: 30 mins

COOK TIME: 60 mins

TOTAL TIME: 90 mins




1 cup of onion finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic finely chopped

2 tbsp. Fresh ginger finely chopped or grated

1 green pepper cut into 2cm strips (yellow and or orange peppers can be substituted)

3 jalapeño chilli peppers – include the seeds of 2 peppers, finely chopped

1 lemon squeezed juice

796 ml can of crushed tomatoes

1 cup chicken stock

125 ml of apricot jam

16 chicken thighs with the skin intact

1 cup fresh cilantro roughly chopped

*Optional: 2 handfuls of fresh green beans halved, they add colour and crunch.

1-2 tbsp. of canola oil, if using skinless thighs, otherwise use the rendered fat that is rendered from the chicken skin when frying.


Dry ingredients:

2 tbsp. masala mixture

1 tbsp. curry powder

2 tsp. cumin spice

1 tbsp. coriander spice

3 bay leaves

salt and pepper to taste




**(Make the sides ahead of time – see below)



  • In a heated large pot, Dutch oven preferably, sauté the chicken thighs starting skin-side down until the skin is golden. Remove the chicken pieces and set them aside.
  • Fry the onions in the rendered fat at medium heat until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.
  • Add garlic, ginger, green pepper and jalapeño peppers, fry for a further 2 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to low, add the dry ingredients, simmer for 2 minutes.
  • Add lemon juice, crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, and apricot jam.
  • Return the chicken thighs to the pot and bring to the boil, then reduce to low heat, and cook uncovered for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  • Start cooking the rice.
  • Add the green beans after about 20 minutes.
  • Taste for seasoning adding salt and pepper to taste.
  • Turn off the heat, add the chopped cilantro, let the curry rest for 5 minutes and serve with the sides and condiments.



I prefer  the chicken with the skin on and bone in, but you may choose to debone them. When the curry is almost finished remove the chicken thighs, set them aside and allow them to cool down, and then pull the chicken off of the bones with your fingers and return the pieces to the curry. You may choose to do this if you think your guests would not want to use their hands.



Basmati Rice

“South African style Sambals” – see recipe below

Raita – see one of many recipes below

Sliced banana placed in cow’s milk or coconut milk

Shredded coconut to sprinkle

Fruit Chutney e.g. Mrs. Ball’s

(The addition of the sweet ingredients is the Malaysian influence).



2 cups of rice

3 cups of water

2.5 ml of salt

Rinse the rice in cold water, drain and then soak in cold water for 30 minutes.

Bring the water to boil in a medium sized pot. Add rice and salt. Stir and cover. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Let stand covered for 10 minutes. Add butter to taste and fluff with a fork.



Sambals are served with most Cape Malay dishes – cool with spicy dishes and warm with bland dishes. Sambals must be crisp and keep their color so are best made just before the meal.

2 fresh tomatoes chopped fine

1 onion chopped fine

1 jalapeño chili pepper chopped fine

125 ml white wine vinegar

75 ml water

1 tsp. sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a dish that can be covered and place in the fridge.

Serve in small individual dishes with the curry.



1 cup of greek yogurt

I cup of sour cream

1 cucumber coarsely grated

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1-2 sprigs of fresh mint

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a dish that can be covered and place in the fridge.

Serve in small individual dishes with the curry.


Wine Pairing:

Although it is difficult to pair wine with foods containing chilies consider these.

White: (fruity) Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon /Fumé Blanc

Red: (soft and fruity) Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Zinfandel
© Wayne Stanley 2016

I hope you enjoy making and eating this curry. Please feel free to experiment with it and let me know how it turned out.



WAYNE’S CHICKEN CURRY RECIPE by Wayne Stanley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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