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Malaysian-Style Chicken and Coconut Curry (Masak Lemak)

4 Servings

50 minutes

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Originally from Malaysia’s southwest coast, masak lemak is a golden-colored curry that’s punchy with lemon grass and chilies, and silky-rich from coconut milk. The dish can be prepared with a wide variety of proteins, vegetables and fruits—we liked chicken and potatoes, as well as the lighter pairing of shrimp and pineapple. Despite being coconut-based, masak lemak is bright and fresh. At PUDGi Guest House in Sepang, Malaysia, we learned from Elly Suhaili that this is the result of minimal oil and cooking everything gently to avoid browning. Traditionally, masak lemak also has a tart, fruity element, such as tamarind, unripe mango or dried plums. To recreate this with supermarket staples, we took Suhaili’s suggestion of quick-pickling shallots in lime juice. Be sure to look for unsweetened coconut cream, not cream of coconut, which is a condensed, sweetened coconut puree. Serve over steamed jasmine rice. If you like, offer sliced cucumber on the side for cool, contrasting crunch and sambal for additional heat and acidity.




Don’t cook the curry for more than a few minutes after adding the quick-pickled shallot and lime juice. The lime juice’s acidity and the shallot’s crunch provide perfect counterpoints to the spicy and creamy broth. The goal is just to warm the shallot and tame the lime juice’s bite.

50 minutes


  • 4

    medium shallots

  • ¼

    cup lime juice, plus lime wedges to serve


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