BALINESE CHICKEN CURRY with Homegrown Lime Leaf, Lemongrass & Galangal

It has been very quiet around town. I put this down to winter and people doing what they can to escape it. I rarely get the travel itch now, but I know many people do head away at this time of year to escape the last weeks of winter.

As I see pictures of tropical islands and coconuts popping up on my social media feed, it brings back memories of my own travels.

Bali seems to be a popular destination these days, and although I don’t yearn to return to the tourist hub it has become, I do reminisce about the excellent food in the Indonesian oasis. I will never forget the sounds, smells, flavours; it’s intense, exotic and wonderful in the same breath.

A particular day of cooking with Balinese chefs at Bumi Bali in Ubud burns in my memory. I still have the little booklet of recipes typed in part English, part Balinese, and leaving a little scope for creativity and the memory of flavours to find the right balance.

This curry is relatively simple once you have the curry paste prepared, of which I make bulk and freeze into three-tablespoon portions to thaw and add to the chicken.

Some ingredients are a little hard to source, in particular fresh kaffir lime and lemongrass. Check the fresh herb section of the supermarket for small packets and freeze any extra.

These plants also grow well in pots that can be moved around to follow the sun during the year. Over the years I have nurtured pots of galangal, lemongrass, lime leaf, and red chillies, simply so I always have a flavoursome curry at my fingertips.


BALINESE CHICKEN YELLOW CURRY with Homegrown Lime Leaf, Lemongrass & Galangal

The ingredient list is long when making a curry paste from scratch, but it is worth it for the fresh flavour. Do try to source fresh turmeric root from Asian grocers or some supermarkets, as the "cleaner" flavour is quite incomparable to the dried powder.
Servings 4
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes


Yellow curry paste

  • 4 cm fresh galangal or ginger root peeled
  • 4 cm fresh turmeric root peeled, or 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1 – 2 red chillies
  • 1 tablespoon cashews
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons neutral flavoured oil

Chicken curry

  • 1.4 kg chicken cut into 10 pieces (check out YouTube for tutorials) or equivalent chicken legs/thighs
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 lime leaves
  • 2 lemongrass stalks
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • juice of 1 lime


  • Make the curry paste. Roughly chop the galangal/ginger, turmeric, garlic and chilli. Use a mortar and pestle or food processor to crush/blend into a paste, add the remaining paste ingredients and mix until smooth. *This makes enough curry paste for two chickens – freeze half in a small container.
  • Combine the chicken pieces and remaining curry paste in a bowl and marinade for two hours or overnight in the fridge.
  • Place the chicken into a heavy-based pan and add the water. Crush the lime leaves in your palm, and use the heel of a large knife to bruise the lemongrass stalks, and add to the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer and add the coconut milk. Cook gently for 30-40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Add the lime juice and check seasoning.
  • Serve with jasmine rice, steamed greens and lime wedges.
  • If you want to bulk out the curry add two potatoes and two carrots, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes, for the last 20 minutes of cooking.

Join the Conversation

  1. That looks absolutely delicious Nicola and I can’t wait to try it for dinner this week. Just what’s needed on a cold night. Thanks!

    1. Hi Monica, thank-you! It is perfect for a cold night, enjoy!

  2. Amanda Fleming says:

    Just made your Balinese Curry and it was delicious -thanks!

    1. Thanks Amanda, that is so great to hear! I love hearing that others make my recipes and love them, thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

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