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An amazing chicken curry? Try 'Kare ayam jawa'

Chef manager Endang is famed throughout Blue Apple and with her customers for her flavour packed, colourful Indonesian and East Asian inspired cooking. In this blog, Endang shares the secrets behind her favourite chicken curry. Try the delicious recipe below!

I grew up in East Java, Indonesia until I was 20 then moved to the UK, and this dish is all about home and celebration. Eating Kare Ayam (aka chicken curry) always reminds me of home!

Kare Ayam was my family’s all-time favourite dish and we would make it at least once a week, sometimes eating it two days in a row and no-one would ever complain. This dish is also our Eid Mubarak celebration dish; just like most have their roast turkey at Christmas it is a MUST dish for a Muslim Christmas. So, of course I had to develop my own version, right?

This is my ultimate chicken curry recipe, flavourful and savoury, with a hint of spice and a coconutty base. Tender, large, juicy pieces of chicken and a sauce thick enough to coat a spoon but not so thick that it doesn’t flow over rice easily.

This Kare Ayam recipe is the best of all worlds...

This curry is originally from Java (East Java), Indonesia which has 100 or more islands each with their own style of curry. Imagine how many different kinds of curry Indonesians have! It’s thickened with coconut milk, scented with lemongrass, kafir lime leaves, and cinnamon. It’s a flavour bomb of savoury with just a hint of sweet and spice.

It’s 100% a labour of love. Hand pounded aromatics, a custom mix of spices and a slow gentle simmer, long enough for the oils to separate out and float on top for those glorious pools of seasoned oil on top of the saucy yet thick coconut curry sauce.

The sign of a good curry

Those pools of oil on top are a sign of a very good curry. You want your coconut milk and spices to split into two, a flavourful infused oil and a rich, dense, coconut base. When your curry splits, it means that all the excess water that was in the coconut milk has evaporated and your curry is now concentrated, leaving only the flavourful good stuff behind.

Is this chicken curry spicy?

A good chicken curry is adaptable – you should be able to make it spicier if you’re a spice fiend, and slightly milder and sweeter if you’re looking for a comforting easy curry. If you don’t want it spicy, leave out the fresh and dried chillies to make this a family friendly affair.

Kare Ayam ingredients knowledge

It looks like you need a lot for this chicken curry, and I’m not going to lie, the ingredient list is on the longer side, but it’s well worth the shopping and time investment. Along with the standard chicken, garlic, ginger, coconut milk, and chicken stock, you’re going to need the following:

  • Lemongrass – These days you can find lemongrass paste at the supermarket, but the flavour difference between chopping your own and store bought is intensely different. It’s better to stick with fresh lemongrass. Just pull out your favourite knife and go to town!

  • Shallots – Shallots are going to add a bit of extra sweetness and onion flavour without onions. They’re sweet and mild and used extensively in Southeast Asian food.

  • Turmeric – A bit of turmeric goes a long way. It’s healthy, earthy, and adds a sunny orange hue to the curry. Turmeric is an absolute must for curry (fresh if you can).

  • Ginger – Once again ginger is a MUST have ingredient for an Indonesian curry, it will give you the warmth and zing you need.

  • Galangal – A spice from the ginger family. You can get it fresh or as a paste and it adds a bitterness that balances the curry.

  • Cinnamon stick – A whole cinnamon stick adds a bit of warmth and a bit of sweetness.

  • Star anise – Use whole star anise when you’re simmering the curry, the slight licoricey bitterness really compliments all the other flavours.


  • Thai chilis – These little red peppers pack a punch. I love adding fresh chillies to curry because it brings the heat, but if you’re heat adverse, you can remove the seeds.

  • Lime leaves – These are optional because I know how difficult it can be to find fresh lime leaves. If you do find them, they will add a light citrus freshness.

  • Tamarind and Palm sugar is optional. You can use lime or just caster sugar.

  • Candlenuts – Again this is optional to give a deeper creaminess in the curry, you will not be able to find them in a normal supermarket but you can definitely find them online!

What to serve with chicken Kare Ayam

Fluffy white Jasmine rice.

Sometimes I like to have some potato cake on the side, only because my mum always prepared it with this dish. A chilli sambal and prawn crackers are MUST as the side dish.


Crispy fried shallots

I hope you give this Kare Ayam a try. It’s near and dear to my heart.

Happy Cooking!

Endang Lestari Gonzalez 😊


Endang's Kare Ayam Indonesian Chicken Curry


  • 3 tbsp Oil

  • 2 Lemongrass (Indonesian: sereh), bruised and knotted

  • 3 Indonesian bay leaves (Indonesian: daun salam)

  • ½ tsp Turmeric powder (Indonesian: bubuk kunyit)

  • ¼ tsp Cumin powder (Indonesian: bubuk jinten)

  • ½ tsp Ground white pepper (Indonesian: bubuk lada)

  • 1 Whole chicken cut into 8-12 pieces, or 4-5 chicken quarters separated into thighs and drumsticks

  • 1can (400 ml) Coconut milk

  • 1100ml Chicken stock/water

  • 1 tsp Coconut palm sugar (Indonesian: gula Jawa)

  • 1 tsp Salt

  • 1 tbsp Tamarind juice (1 tsp tamarind + 1 tsp water, massaged and strained)

  • 2 Kaffir lime leaves (Indonesian: daun jeruk)

  • 2 Star anise

  • 1 Cinnamon stick

Spice paste

  • 100g Shallots (Indonesian: bawang merah)

  • 4 Cloves garlic (Indonesian: bawang putih)

  • 6 Candlenuts (Indonesian: kemiri)

  • 1 inch Ginger (Indonesian: jahe)

  • 1 inch Galangal (Indonesian: lengkuas)

  • Thai red chilli (optional)

  • Garnish

  • Fried shallots (Indonesian: bawang merah goreng)


  1. Grind spice paste: Use a food processor to grind the shallots, garlic, candlenuts, ginger, and galangal into a smooth paste.

  2. Sauté the spices, paste and herbs. Heat the oil in a wok over a medium heat. Sauté the spice paste, lemongrass, daun salam, turmeric, cumin, and pepper for 3-5 minutes, or until fragrant.

  3. Add the chicken into the wok. Stir, and cook until the chicken is no longer pink.

  4. Add coconut milk and seasonings: Pour in coconut milk, chicken stock/water, tamarind juice, and season with salt and coconut palm sugar. Once it boils, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the chicken is tender and the sauce is reduced and thick.

  5. Garnish and serve: Stir in kaffir lime leaves. Turn off the heat and transfer the curry to a serving bowl. Garnish with fried shallots and serve it immediately with steamed white rice.

Download a copy of this recipe by clicking below:

Kare Ayam Jawa [Indonesian Chicken Curry] Recipe
Download PDF • 794KB

Follow Endang on Instagram @endanggonzalez

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