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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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ellie m.
March 9, 2024
Shrimp and pineapple
This recipe was delicious with chicken and potatoes. How do I modify the recipe to try it with shrimp and pineapple?
Liane R.
February 26, 2024
Don't blend the lemongrass
Great flavor, but unless you have a truly great blender or don't mind unchewable fibers (maybe not a deal breaker for adults, but not something you can feed a toddler), keep the lemongrass whole. Or smashed, chopped into larger chunks, or anything else you can fish out. Otherwise, great recipe!
Patricia E.
February 22, 2024
There is a lot of volume here. I regretted not using a very large vessel. It’s also more watery than expected, but in everyone’s bowl, it thickened up some. Not sure if this was from the potatoes, rice or coconut, or all of it.
Ben D.
February 20, 2024
Malaysian chicken coconut curry
So so delicious!