Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

A mainstay of Sri Lankan cooking, the chicken ‘kukul mas’ curry is a deliciously rich and flavorful mixture of freshly roasted spices, coconut milk and chilli which can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Chicken curry recipes are closely guarded secrets and vary from household to household, and region to region. It’s not unusual for the lady of the house to never measure the ingredients, but cook intuitively from memory making it extremely hard to replicate.


  • 1.5 kg chicken on the bone
  • 250 ml thick coconut milk
  • 2 tblsp clarified butter (ghee) or vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 10 curry leaves on the stem
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 4–5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tblsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground fennel
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tblsp vinegar
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 6 cardamom pods, cracked
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, bruised
  • 1 pandan leaf, folded
  • lemon juice (optional)


Heat the ghee or oil and fry the mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves until the leaves start to brown and the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry gently until the onion is soft and translucent with slightly burnt edges. Add the ground spices, salt and vinegar and stir well. Add the tomato, whole spices, lemongrass and pandan leaf, then add the chicken. Stir to coat the chicken pieces in the spices, then cover and cook over a very low heat for 40–50 minutes. The curry will look dry at first but liquid will be released from the chicken. Stir in the coconut milk and taste for salt. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, if desired.