Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Qurma, Kurma or what?


When I was writing up an essay on mothering across cultures for an anthology, I had to google the origin of a Malaysian meat/poultry dish we call Kurma. In Malaysia, Kurma can mean two things; dates (the halal one, not the haram one!) or this particular dish. It can also be spelled Korma.

I am currently reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, a story about Afghanis during the wars, and found the word Qorma, amidst other words that interestingly have the same meaning in Malay too, such as Pahlawan. When I was googling for the origin of this dish, I found that it originated from the Northern India, from the times of the Mughal Empire, which was surprising, because we had always associated the dish (or at least, I have) with the Arabs who came to the Malayan peninsula as traders. I thought that the dish was catered for them who couldn't tolerate the spiciness of some Malay dishes. You truly learn something new everyday, don't you? It almost made me consider taking up learning the history of ethnic foods (which is one subject of interest to me, but then again, I have many subjects of interest).

The Malaysian Kurma can be cooked with chicken or meat, but the spice combo is basically the same for the both. We even have a specific Kurma spice combo sold like curry powder, and was what I used for this recipe. However, you can also make your Kurma spice from scratch if you don't have the Kurma Spice.

Kurma Ayam (Chicken Kurma)


1 whole chicken, cut up into 8 pieces

Kurma Wet Paste:

1/2 cup Kurma spice * }
1 onion, minced } combine in a bowl, and add water to make a wet paste
3 cloves of garlic, minced }

Whole spices:

1 cinnamon stick, broken
3 whole cloves
3 cardamom pods
2 star anise

1 13.5 fl. oz. coconut milk (I use Chaokoh brand)
1 stalk of lemon grass, bruised
1 Tbs lemon juice

2/3 medium sized tomatoes chunks (optional)
2/3 medium potato chunks (optional)
1/2 fresh green chilli pepper slit lengthwise, for garnish (optional)

1/4 - 1/3 cup oil

1. Heat oil and toss in the Wet Kurma Paste and the whole spices.
2. Stir and cook on medium heat until oil breaks the surface (about 5-7 minutes)
3. Toss in the bruised lemon grass stalk and continue stirring occasionally
4. Add in the chicken and stir to coat
5. Add in coconut milk, and simmer till chicken pieces are done (if you wish to add potatoes, add them at this point)
6. Dump in the tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes until the tomatoes are soft, but not too soft
7. Add lemon juice.
8. Plate, and garnish with fresh chilli pepper.
9. Serve with hot white Jasmine rice or Basmati rice (cooked greasy style)

Cook's notes:

  • I cooked this in the oven, for simplicity's sake. If you want to do the same, after step 5, cover and pop in the oven until chicken is done. Add the tomatoes towards the end so they'll be soft but not too soft.
  • I also baked it uncovered towards the end to make the sauce thick. Traditionally, this dish does not have that thick a sauce, but rather watery yet rich, like curry, due to the coconut milk.
  • *If you do not have the Kurma spice (usually available in Malaysia anyway), you can make your own. Simply follow the ratio below, roughly. Double or triple if you need to. Dry roast and then pulverize 3 Tbs ground coriander, 2 tsp ground cumin, 2 tsp fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, and use in place of Kurma spice.
By the way, this is one of the non spicy (chilli spicy) Malaysian dishes, so those who steer away from the fiery spicy, you can try this.


  1. Hah! Thats want I want to do but can't dear. how do you print the writing on the fotograph? been trying but cant do it. let me know k. Kurma looks good!

  2. Replies
    1. Hi Juli, Do you happen to have the recipe because the link for the kurma spice is not working anymore :(.