Aromatic Roast Chicken in Coconut Milk

Last few weeks since we’ve been back from Tokyo, I’ve been tinkering with several cake recipes that use matcha (Japanese green tea) but I still haven’t found one that accentuates the lovely aroma and flavour of it.  I desperately wanted to post a Japanese-inspired recipe but things did not work out. Oh well. That’s for another day then. So for now, this roast chicken recipe will have to do.

Not that this one pot roast chicken is inferior in any way. In fact, it is so exceedingly delicious that I came up with an easy version using readymade thai curry paste and another one that uses all fresh ingredients so that anyone from anywhere in the world with access to an Asian supermarket can replicate it . I did not want anyone to miss out because it is insanely aromatic and falling-off-the-bone juicy and tender chicken.

We ate three or four different batches of this recipe just to make sure both the recipes were equally delicious. For the sake of <cough> food ‘science’  <cough>, we endured the aroma of simmering turmeric, lemongrass and coconut milk which permeated the entire apartment as it was bubbling away in the oven. What a hellish nightmare.

If you do not like the smell, taste and appearance of Southeast Asian curries, then look away… the following images might prompt a revulsion. But if you’re yearning for that curry you had on your last holiday to Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia or you’re stuck at home dreaming of that Southeast Asian holiday or  maybe you’re a gourmand in search of new taste sensations… then look no further- this is your weeknight curry solution reminiscent of Indonesian/ Thai/ Malaysian flavours sans the pounding and hour long stovetop cooking.

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I kid you not when I say that this might be the most delicious southeast asian-inspired curry I’ve had that does not involve the long stovetop cooking. To my knowledge, it is impossible to have a really good Southeast Asian curry without putting in the effort of peeling, chopping, pounding and sautéing for about an hour. But my notion of what constitutes a proper Southeast Asian curry got quickly thrown out of my 9th floor window when I tried out this crazy experiment inspired by Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk.  I wanted to create a dairy-free version of this much loved recipe and then it naturally evolved into one that was inspired by Southeast Asian flavours.

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Coconut milk was my dairy-free substitute and soon after some bruised lemongrass stalks and bashed up turmeric, ginger and small red shallots found their way into the pot with some coconut oil. Then, the entire chicken is slow cooked in the oven while it is swimming in a pool of aromatics and coconut milk and this leads to a ridiculously juicy, tender and tasty chicken. The coconut milk reduces and thickens while in the oven and at the end, it takes on a slightly darker and caramelised colour and taste. The final taste reminds me of traditional Indonesian coconut-based curries which are simmered for hours over a low, charcoal flame.

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I did not want to make any spice paste as I wanted to keep it as simple and fuss-free as possible. To begin, I brown the whole chicken in coconut oil to give it some colour and then, once browned, I remove it and set it aside and shallow fry all the aromatics and spices in the same coconut oil till their release their fragrance. Browning the chicken and toasting the aromatics develops flavours and this was essential since all I did next was to add the chicken back into the pot with some coconut milk and I put it into the oven. About an hour and a two episodes on Netflix later, your one pot aromatic chicken roast is done. It makes me deliriously happy at  how little effort was required to create such an aromatic and quite complex tasting curry. The reduced coconut milk is thick and syrupy with all the punchy, bold flavours of the aromatics and spice added to it.

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If you cannot get fresh or frozen aromatics like lemongrass, turmeric, kefir lime leaf or pandan leaf, just substitute with a good quality Thai yellow or green curry paste. The flavour does vary a little but both recipes yield great tasting results. Throw in some vegetable chunks like potato, roughly chopped broccoli or carrots towards the end of the roasting time to get your complete meal together with some plain or brown rice, as I had done. Do not add too much salt to the gravy before cooking it in the oven as the gravy thickens considerably and so a little salt goes a long way. Also, if your coconut milk splits and you hate how it looks (it’s completely normal, by the way), using large tongs, gently remove the chicken, scoop out the vegetables and bits and using a handheld blender whizz the sauce up. The gravy will emulsify and become a homogenous sauce. Pour curry over rice, rice noodles or simply mop up all that tastiness with any plain bread.

Are you salivating yet?

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Aromatic Roast Chicken in Coconut Milk

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Recipe 1


  • 3-4 tbsp cold-pressed coconut oil / any neutral veg oil
  • 1.2 – 1.5 kg whole chicken, wiped dry
  • 1 inch fresh turmeric root
  • 1 inch ginger root
  • Half a head of garlic cloves
  • 2-3 medium red onions, sliced
  • 3-4 lemongrass stalks, outer layers peeled
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, washed and torn
  • 2-3 pandan leaves, washed and knotted (optional)
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • about 800 millilitres – 1 litre unsweetened coconut milk, diluted with about 500 millilitres water
  • sea salt, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/ 350°F with top and bottom heat convection oven setting and set your oven rack such that your pot rests in the middle of your oven for even cooking and  browned top.
  2. Dry whole chicken, season with a big pinch of sea salt and set aside. Wash and peel fresh turmeric, ginger and cut off the fibrous top part of lemongrass stalks . Using a pestle and mortar/ blender, give turmeric, ginger, lemongrass and the garlic cloves (with their skins) a light bashing till they become a very course paste. Set aside.
  3. In a heavy based, medium-large ovenproof pot (preferably cast iron pot) over medium-high flame, heat enough coconut oil to coat the bottom of pot. Once hot, add whole chicken and brown both sides of chicken. A large pair of tongs helps. Set aside once browned.
  4. In the same pot, stir-fry the sliced red onions till translucent and then quickly add all the bashed aromatics, kaffir lime leaves, pandan leaves (if using) and fry for about 1-2 minutes until they are aromatic.
  5. Add  ground coriander and cumin with a splash of water and fry with all aromatics for about 2 minutes. Take care not to burn the ground spices. Add a splash of water if pot is getting too dry.
  6. Return brown chicken to the pot together with diluted coconut milk. The coconut milk should come up just about halfway up the chicken sides. Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of salt over the coconut milk, tightly cover pot with lid/ foil and cook for about 50 minutes.
  7. When the chicken is about three-quarters done, remove the lid/foil, check for seasoning , add any vegetables (if adding), add more salt if required and return uncovered pot to oven. Continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes,or until chicken is crisp and brown on top and cooked. The joints will obviously pull away from body and the curry would have reduced considerably.
  8. You don’t need a knife to carve the chicken. Just pull it apart and serve with rice, plain rice noodles or bread.


Recipe 2


  • 3-4 tbsp cold-pressed coconut oil / any neutral veg oil
  • 1.2 – 1.5 kg whole chicken, wiped dry
  • 3 red onions, sliced
  • Half a head garlic cloves
  • about 1oog -150g Thai yellow curry/ green curry paste
  • 1-2 fresh/frozen lemongrass stalk + kaffir lime leaves (if available)
  • about 800 millilitres – 1 litre unsweetened coconut milk, diluted with about 500 millilitres water
  • sea salt, to taste


  1. Steps 1-3: The same as Recipe 1
  2. In the same pot, stir-fry the sliced red onions till translucent and then quickly add smashed garlic cloves with their skins on and fry till slightly browned at the edges.
  3. Add yellow/green curry paste with a cup of diluted coconut milk and fry paste until oil separates out of paste. Skip this step if your curry paste is already cooked. If you have any fresh/frozen lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves add about 1-2 after adding curry paste.
  4. Add all of diluted coconut milk and mix curry paste with coconut milk mixture until curry paste is fully incorporated.
  5. Add browned chicken to pot and continue cooking as method for Recipe 1 from Step 6 onwards.

16 Comments Add yours

  1. ranu802 says:

    Thank you for the recipe Vasun. 🙂

    1. Vasun says:

      You’re welcome. Hope you get to try it Ranu 🙂

  2. skd says:

    Delicious! !

  3. Michelle says:

    Who are these people who dislike “the smell, taste and appearance of Southeast Asian curries”? I’m glad I don’t know them. 🙂 That looks fabulous!

    1. Vasun says:

      Believe it or not Michelle, I’ve met such people. I’ve also met people who detest spices. And thank you for your kind words 🙂

  4. Yummi! I must try this recipe 🙂
    Thank you!

    1. Vasun says:

      Yummy indeed 🙂 Thanks Sid

  5. This recipe looks so warm and flavorful. I just love all of the layers of flavor. Your photos have me drooling!

    1. Vasun says:

      Thanks Julie!

  6. Fantastic recipe! I love curries but never make them. Your recipe looks pretty easy and approachable so I will give it a try.

    1. Vasun says:

      Dear Teresa, thank you. It’s the easiest curry to make because there’s hardly any stove time involved. Just get a good thai curry paste. Let me know how it goes 🙂 I’m curious… why do you not make curries?

  7. JIN says:

    This looks so delicious, my mouth is watering like crazy! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. I truly liked this Ravishing Recipe. But certain ingredients like pandan leaves, lime leaves, I don’t know where to get them. But I’m sure, this would taste great. With the yummy coconut milk.

    1. Vasun says:

      Hi there! You could use any ‘Asian’ herbs/ roots such as ginger or turmeric. Or you could buy readymade thai curry pastes and mix them with the coconut milk, if you can’t get any herbs/roots. Red curry paste would be great in this.

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