King's Chicken Curry with Sandalwood

Date Posted:14 July 2022 

If a fragrant and flavourful chicken curry is what you're after, look no further. This chicken curry by Peter Kuruvita has a surprising twist with the addition of sandalwood nuts! "The recipe was found on an old palm leaf and transcribed into a book called Food of the Ancient Kings" says Peter. While in Sri Lanka it's possible to source fresh sandalwood, a few sandalwood nuts will give a similar / unique flavour. 


Ingredients (Serves 6):

1 large chicken cut into 5 pieces

1 small brown onion, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic

2 pieces pandan leaf, roughly torn into pieces (if available to you)

2 red chillies,chopped

4 green chillies, chopped

1 sprig of curry leaves

1 pinch of ground mustard

10 black peppercorns

1 knob fresh turmeric

½ tsp mustard seeds

90 ml vegetable oil

3/4 Cup (105g) Sandalwood Nuts 

2 tbsp white vinegar

4 cardamom pods, crushed

½ tsp dark roasted curry powder

500 ml (2 cups) coconut cream

dried red chillies, to serve



  1.   Place the chicken, onion, garlic, pandan, chillies and curry leaves in a large pot. Toss to combine.

  2.   Add the ground mustard and pepper, and season with salt.

  3.   Massage the mixture into the chicken.

  4.   Set aside to marinate for at least 20 minutes. 

  5.   Meanwhile, make the turmeric paste - In a mortar and pestle, crush the turmeric with the mustard seeds to form a paste. Set aside.

  6.   Heat 2 tbsp oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade, reserving the spices. Once the oil is hot, place the chicken in the pan skin-side down and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the skin is crisp. Turn the chicken and cook the other side for 2-3 minutes or until browned.

  7.   Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a separate pan. Add the reserved spice marinade and sandalwood nuts and fry for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Add the cloves and cardamom pods and continue to fry for another 2-3 minutes, then add the turmeric paste, black pepper, salt and the curry powder and vinegar. Combine well, then add the chicken.

  8.   Cover the chicken with water (about 2 cups) and simmer over low heat for 45-60 minutes. (Check the pot regularly to ensure the water level doesn’t drop too much.)

  9.   When the chicken is tender, add the coconut cream and bring to the boil. When boiling, immediately remove from heat.

  10.     To serve, arrange the chicken on a serving plate. Garnish with the dried red chillis and the pandan leaf.


Oven temperatures are for conventional ovens, if you are using a fan-forced oven, reduce the temperature by 20˚C.



Photo by on Unsplash
Recipe reference:

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