This recipe is different from the one in my book. It was found on an old palm leaf and transcribed into a book called “Food of the Ancient Kings” and incorporates a very unusual secret ingredient for a totally unique flavour.

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Serves 6 | Prep Time: 45 mins | Cooking Time: 1 hr | Skill: Mid


• 1 large chicken (or fowl), cut into 5 pieces
• 100g Bombay onions, sliced
• 4 cloves garlic
• 2 pieces pandan leaf, roughly torn into pieces
• 2 red chillies, chopped
• 4 green chillies, chopped
• 1 sprig of curry leaves
• 1 pinch of ground mustard
• 10 black peppercorns
• 1 knob fresh turmeric
• ½ tsp mustard seeds
• 2 tbsp oil
• 1 small piece of sandalwood
• 2 tbsp white vinegar
• 6 cloves
• 4 cardamom pods, crushed
• ½ tsp dark roasted curry powder
• 500ml coconut cream
• Dried red chillis, to serve
• Pandan leaf, extra, to serve

Note: Pure sandalwood oil is available from health food stores and if using, it should be added to the dish with the water.


  1. Place the chicken, onion, garlic, pandan, chillies and curry leaves in a large pot. Toss to combine. Add the ground mustard and pepper, and season with salt. Massage the mixture into the chicken. Set aside to marinate.
  2. Meanwhile, make the turmeric paste. In a mortar and pestle, crush the turmeric with the mustard seeds to form a paste. Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a pot. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade, reserving the spices. Once the oil is hot, place the chicken in the pot, skin side down. Cook until the skin is crisp.
  4. Meanwhile, heat some more oil in a separate pot. Add the reserved spice marinade and sandalwood and fry until fragrant.
  5. Turn the chicken to cook the other side. Add the vinegar and stir to combine. Leave to cook.
  6. Add the cloves and the cardamom pods to the onion mixture and continue to fry.
  7. Add the turmeric paste, black pepper, salt and the curry powder. Then add the chicken.
  8. Cover the chicken with water and simmer over low heat for 45-60 minutes. (Check the pot regularly to ensure the water level doesn’t drop too much.)
  9. When the chicken is tender, add the coconut cream and bring to the boil. When boiling, immediately remove from heat.
  10. To serve, arrange the chicken on a serving plate. Garnish with the dried red chillis and the pandan leaf.