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Chicken Kapitan

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Chicken Kapitan is a delicious blend of aromatic ingredients you’ve got to try.

If you are a fan, as I am, of Thai red curry, then you will probably love the lesser known Chicken Kapitan from Malaysia. The ingredients use are pretty much the same with a couple of exceptions. Chicken Kapitan is much thicker than the famous Thai red curry but definitely just as delicious.

Chicken Kapitan

Absolutely amazing! Try this.

What is Chicken Kapitan?

This amazing curry stems from Malaysia during British Colonial times. There are a few stories about its origin and I’ll tell a couple here.

The first is that a Chinese chef on board a British ship served up this amazing curry to the captain. When the captain asked the chef what the dish was, he replied ‘Chicken, Kapitan’ as it was indeed a dish of chicken. The captain mistook the chef and thought the dish itself was called Chicken Kapitan and the name stuck.

Another explanation is that each of the towns in British Malaysia had a designated leader of the town. These leaders represented the towns in discussions with British officials. These leaders we called ‘captains’ or ‘Kapitans’ in their pronounciation of the word. The wife of one of the ‘captains’ came up with this dish influenced by Chinese, Malaysian and Indian techniques and ingredients and called it ‘Chicken Kapitan’.

Special Ingredients for Chicken Kapitan…

You might have tried chicken kapitan at some restaurants that include potatoes. The potatoes are used as a thickener for the sauce.


The traditional way of making chicken kapitan, however is to use candle nuts in the paste which are also used as a thickener and offer a nutty flavour. You could substitute macadamia nuts if they are easier to find but you can pick up the candle nuts on line

Step by step photographs…

Ingredients for chicken Kapitan

Get your ingredients together before starting cooking. It’s a lot easier in the long run.

Chicken with turmeric rubbed into the skin

Rub the turmeric into the chicken. Set aside.

Blending the spice paste

Blend the paste ingredients until you have a thick and smooth paste. You might need to add a drop of water to do this.

Frying the spice paste

Add the oil to the pan over medium high heat. Add the blended paste and fry for about 2 minutes to cook out the rawness.

Adding chicken to the pan

Stir in the chicken to brown for a couple of minutes and to coat with the paste.

Frying the chicken

Get the chicken coated with all that paste and then add about 400ml (1 1/2 cups) water. Just enough to cover.

Simmering the curry

This is a thick sauce so cook it down. If you feel you need to add more water, don’t add too much or the chicken will overcook by the time the sauce thickens.

Chicken Kapitan

Ready to serve. Top with shredded lime leaves and perhaps a few sliced spur chillies.

If you like this Chicken Kapitan recipe, you might also like to try some of these.

Indonesian Chicken Sate
Indonesian Fried Chicken
Sambal Oelek – Indonesian hot sauce
Chicken with Sambal Matah
Babi Kecap
Spicy Green Beans Indonesian Style
Indonesian Bakso
Ikan Bakar – Indonesian Fried Fish
Nasi Goreng
Mee Goreng
Sambal La La – Spicy Clams
Indonesian Blackened Fish
Seafood Laksa
Chicken Rendang
Beef Rendang
Butter Egg Floss Prawns
Malaysian Chicken Curry
Malaysian Devil Curry
Ayam Masak Merah – Malaysian Red Chicken Curry
Soto Ayam
Homemade Kecap Manis

Have you tried this Chicken Kapitan recipe?

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Yield: 4

Chicken Kapitan

Chicken Kapitan
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


  • 4 chicken thighs and 4 chicken legs, skin on
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 3 tbsp – peanut oil or rapeseed (canola) oil
  • 3 fresh lime leaves, stem removed and thinly sliced
  • 500ml (2 cups) water
  • Juice of one lime
  • 4 tbsp thick coconut milk
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • 15 – Dried red bird’s eye chillies
  • 8 – banana shallots, peeled
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 3 fresh lime leaves, stem removed and thinly sliced
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, peeled and white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 4 – fresh red bird’s eye chillies
  • 5cm (2 inches) galangal, roughly chopped
  • 1.25cm (1/2 inch) ginger, roughly chopped
  • 4 candle nuts or macadamia nuts
  • ½ tsp – Belacan (fermented shrimp paste)


  1. Start by making the paste. Soak the dried red chillies in boiling water for about 10 minutes to soften. Place the soaked chillies in a food processor or spice grinder and retain the soaking water. Add the remaining ingredients for the paste and blend to a smooth paste adding a little of the soaking water if needed to help it blend. Set aside.
  2. Now rub the chicken all over with the ground turmeric. Both this step and making the paste can be done a day ahead of cooking if more convenient.
  3. When ready to cook, heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok over medium high heat. Add the prepared paste and fry for about 2 minutes or until fragrant. Then add the chicken thighs and fry to brown for a couple of minutes ensuring that the chicken is nicely and evenly coated with the paste.
  4. Stir in the water and fresh, thinly sliced lime leaves and bring to a simmer.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer the chicken in this sauce for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened and coating the chicken.
  6. To finish, stir in the coconut milk. This is supposed to be a creamy, almost dry curry but if you prefer more sauce, go ahead and add more coconut milk.
  7. Taste the curry and add salt to taste and sugar if you would like it sweeter. Squeeze the lime juice over the top and serve garnished with a little coriander (cilantro) and finely cut lime leaves. Chicken Kapitan is delicious served simply over white rice or with bread.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 900Total Fat: 80gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 54gCholesterol: 494mgSodium: 637mgCarbohydrates: 76gFiber: 10gSugar: 34gProtein: 100g

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