Updated 20th Feb 2017
Some people are very keen to point out that there’s no such thing as Chinese curry sauce despite the fact that I’ve been getting them from Chinese takeaways for years, and I love them! I normally tell such people that, actually, there’s not really any such thing as an Indian curry either. In general, a lot of what gets called “curry” in the West doesn’t really exist in China or India.
It’s one of those situations where fusions occur via immigrant populations bringing their culinary ideas with them, and merging them to accommodate local tastes and ingredients. It is even alleged that one of the most famous curries in the UK – chicken tikka masala – was invented in Scotland. Crazy, huh?
So what I’m planning on doing here is to give you a great recipe which mimics the flavors of an authentic Chinese takeaway curry. I actually don’t know what the takeaways use, but the ingredients in this recipe are all readily available, and include a little bit of spice alchemy, mixing up five powders to get what amounts to a Chinese curry powder.
This will be added to a simple roux – a cooked butter and flour mixture – and then chicken stock is added to produce the final curry sauce. I think it tastes great, and it is very comparable to sauces I’ve had from takeaways.
I’ll go on to give you a quick recipe for a Chinese chicken curry, but you can experiment as much as you want once you have made the curry sauce. This sauce can just as easily be used for a mixed meat curry, or a vegetable curry, or you can even just use it as a dip for your chips (fries).
How Do You Make Chinese Curry Sauce?
Making the sauce comes in three parts: firstly, make the curry powder; secondly, make a roux; and finally, add the spice mixture to the roux and then gradually whisk in chicken stock. Easy peasy!
The Spice Mix Ingredients
- 1 tbsp hot Madras curry powder
- 1 tbsp Chinese five spice powder
- 1 tsp hot chili powder (or to taste depending on how hot you like your curries)
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the powders until nicely homogenized. At this point, the mixture starts to take on that sweet Chinese curry aroma – even though the curry powder at its heart is an Indian Madras powder. Next, it’s time to make the roux:
- 2 oz (approx 55 g) butter or margarine-style spread (as long as it is suitable for cooking)
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour (plain flour)
Over a low heat, melt the butter in a saucepan. Then take off the heat, add the flour and use a whisk to combine the ingredients to form a paste – or roux (beurre manie). Once well-combined, return to the heat and cook through just for 2 minutes before removing from the heat.
Finishing the Sauce
The final ingredient is 1 cup (250 ml, 8.5 fl oz) of chicken stock, either homemade or from a bouillon cube. So, to finish making the sauce, take the roux and add the Chinese curry powder mix to it and then add approximately one third of the stock.
Gently whisk to combine all the ingredients, and get the white roux to dissolve into the stock. Continue adding the stock a third at a time until it is all added and stir with the whisk until there is no residue of solid left on the bottom of the pan. That is your authentic Chinese style curry sauce.
Here is a quick video showing the general technique of making a white roux, followed by – in this case – how to make a white sauce with cheese. (So there’s a freebie, as you can use this for lasagnes or cauliflower and cheese!)
Remember that here, you should use stock instead of milk. And also that you’ll be incorporating the spice mix. But not cheese!
Chinese Curry Chicken Recipe
Making a curry recipe is very simple once you have prepared the sauce. You can use whatever you have to hand in the kitchen. For this one, I chose to use chicken breasts, scallions, green bell pepper and bamboo shoots. Here is the list of ingredients:
- 2 large chicken breasts (sliced into strips)
- 4 scallions – spring onions (cut into 1 inch pieces)
- 1 large green bell pepper – or use a red one if you prefer (sliced)
- 1 small tin of bamboo shoots
- 1 inch cube of fresh root ginger (finely chopped)
- 2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil (optional)
While you are making the curry powder and sauce, it is a good idea to marinate the chicken in the garlic and ginger, together with a little light sauce and sesame oil. This lets the flavors permeate the chicken, but it is not essential, and you can add these ingredients during the cooking process if you prefer.
First heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a wok or pan, and add the chicken. Stir-fry until the chicken is sealed (until is has turned white).
Then add the finely diced garlic and ginger and stir fry for 1 minute. Finally add the spring onions, green pepper and bamboo shoots, followed by the soy sauce and stir fry for 5 minutes to soften the vegetables and ensure the chicken is cooked through.
To finish off the curry, add the pre-prepared Chinese curry sauce, stir to combine and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened; make sure to stir occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the pan and burn.
Serve with steamed or boiled rice. Or try my Chinese egg fried rice recipe. This recipe will serve 4 people (with rice).