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Penang Curry – Roti Canai

Malaysian, Thai

Penang Curry - Roti Canai


A Penang curry is a spicy, sweet, salty and sour curry that originates from central Thailand. The flavours consist of that classic Thai flavour profile, the saltiness coming from the shrimp paste and fish sauce, the spicy coming from dried red chillis and sour coming from the Kaffir lime. For this recipe I decided to make the curry as traditional as possible without messing around with it too much as its just so good as it is. Theres something about eating curry with your hands therefore I added a simple Malaysian style Roti Canai to the recipe to help assist. Let’s get it!


Roti Canai:

1. Let’s begin by making the dough for the roti. This needs around 3 hours to rest before using as we want to make the dough nice and elastic. If you prefer the dough can be made up the night before also. Let’s begin, in a large mixing bowl add 20g white sugar, 300mls warm water, 8g salt, 60g condensed milk and 40g of salted melted butter. Whisk well until the sugar and salt dissolve then add 600g of plain flour. Mix together with a pair of chopsticks or spatula until the dough becomes more manageable.

2. Now begin to kneed by hand for a few minutes until one cohesive ball of dough is formed. Continue to kneed the dough until there is no more excess flour left in the bowl and the dough has become slightly smoother. If the dough seems to be too wet when kneeding then simply add a pinch more flour. When ready cover with clingfilm then allow to briefly rest for 15 minutes.

3. After a brief rest, place the dough onto a work surface and knead again for a minute until smooth. Shape the dough into a ball then press your thumb through the centre to form a ring of dough. Stretch out the dough to form a large ring of dough approximately 2.5 inches in diameter. Next, cut the dough in half then into half again to make two equal logs of dough. Using a knife or dough cutter cut and divide the dough into 10 equal sized pieces of dough. Each piece of dough should be approximately 100g. Now, roll each piece of dough into a smooth balls then brush each ball generously with a neutral oil. Repeat this process with each piece of dough then when ready place all the balls of dough onto a lightly oiled tray. Cover with clingfilm then we want to rest the dough at room temperature for 1-3 hrs (longer the better) or in the refrigerator overnight.

Red Curry Paste:

4. Now to move onto the curry paste, I used a food processor to make things nice and quick but feel free to use a mortar and pestle also as this will actually extract more essential oils from the spices. Start by removing the seeds from 30g of dried red chillies then when seedless allow to soak in warm water to rehydrate and soften. When softened roughly chop the chillies then add to a food processor keeping the water we used to rehydrate to one side as we will use this also for the paste. Now along with the chopped chillies add 2 bruised and chopped lemongrass, a 4cm piece sliced galangal, 4 chopped shallots, 3 peeled garlic crushed cloves, 4 ripped kaffir lime leaves, 1 tsp shrimp paste, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp ground coriander and 1 tbsp of toasted peanuts.

5. Before pulsing, add some of the water we used to soak the chillies in. Not much just a little as this will help loosen the curry paste during pulsing. Pulse the paste on high for a few minutes until smooth adding additional chilli water if too dry. When ready place into a small bowl and set the paste to one side.

Chicken Prep:

6. Before we begin to cook let’s move onto preparing the chicken, for this I used a whole chicken, however, only legs would work also. All we are looking for here is consistent bite sized pieces on the bone. There are many ways to do this but the traditional way would be to remove the wishbone first, then remove the legs and divide into pieces, take off both of the wings then remove the breasts. When chopped into bite sized pieces place the prepped chicken to one side and we can now cook the curry before finishing off the roti.

Penang Curry:

7. Place a large deep pan onto a medium heat then add a drizzle of neutral oil. Add approximately half of the paste (freeze the rest for a future curry) then fry until fragrant and darker in colour. When ready, add the chopped chicken pieces and coat in the curry paste. Next, add 400mls of coconut milk and bring the curry up to a boil. When boiling turn the heat down to medium, place a lid over the pan and simmer for 25 minutes.

Cook the Roti:

8. Whilst we wait on the curry to slowly cook we can finish off the roti, lightly brush a work top with oil and place one of the balls of dough onto the surface. The best way to roll this dough is by hand so firstly, flatten one ball of dough with the palm of your hand. When flat begin to push the dough working from the centre outwards with your palm to make the dough stretch into a flat, thin disk of dough. To stretch and make the dough paper thin, grab two of the edges of dough and gently pull to stretch until almost transparent (its ok if the dough rips). Continue to stretch out each corner of the dough to make a large, paper thin sheet. Im sure there 1000s of techniques on how to do this but this way I found the most easiest.

9. From this point the next step is to roll the dough into a tight roll. Gather one edge of dough and roll tightly. Now take one end of dough and begin to roll up the dough into a coil to form a rolled disk (refer to image below) then repeat this process for each small ball of dough. This process will allow the roti to have lots of Wonderfull thin, flakey layers when cooked.

10. To finish the roti, take a coil of dough and flatten with your palm one last time. Thin out the disk again using your palm then we are ready to cook.

11. Place pan onto a high heat and add a drizzle of oil. When hot add the flat piece of dough and fry on one side for 3-4 minutes or until nice and crispy. Flip the roti over and cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Repeat this for all the dough then the roti are nearly ready. To give the roti even more texture the best method is to place a roti into a bowl and then to scrunch up as much as possible. This will create a much flakier roti and add a lot more texture.

12. Now to finish the curry and serve, after 25 minutes or so the chicken should be cooked and hopefully the coconut milk should have slightly split. Season by adding 2-3 tbsps of shaved palm sugar, 2 tbsp of fish sauce and some shredded kaffir lime leaves. Add more or less of each seasoning if needed, you want the curry to be slightly sweet, spicy, sour and salty. When seasoned turn the heat to high and reduce until slightly thickened.

13. To serve, ladle the chicken into serving bowls and top with some finely shredded kafir lime leaves, a squeeze of lime and a few additional sliced chillies. Serve with the roti on the side and tare away the roti and dip in that delicious goodness…

Additional notes

If making the roti is not your thing or seems a bit long then cook some fresh rice or serve with a mix of vegetables…Instead of chicken you could try vegetables, lamb, beef or seafood with this curry. If you find 30g of dried chillis a bit too hot then you could make things milder by adding half of the chillis and add red pepper instead. Have fun with this recipe!


Total Cook Time 30 minutes
Total prep Time: 1 hour
Dough Rest Time: 1-3 hours
To serve 4
Penang curry paste:
30g dried red chillies
2 lemongrass stalks
20g piece galangal
4 small red shallots
3 garlic cloves
5 kaffir lime leaves
1 tsp shrimp paste
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp toasted peanuts
Other ingredients:
1 whole chicken
400ml coconut milk
2-3 tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
Roti Canai:
600g plain flour
8g salt
20g white sugar
60g condensed milk
40g salted butter
300ml warm water
rapeseed oil for coating and shaping