The BBC Curry Experiment – Failed!

Motivational story of the week.

I am a failure when it comes to making traditional Malaysian dishes. The thing about local dishes is that there are few tried and tested recipe books. Most of the best cooking comes from mother to daughter, passed on for generations, that sort of thing.

And obviously, since I actually learnt to cook via the internet (Google! I love you!), I’ve been too proud to ask my mum or my grandmum on how to cook. That and the fact that it took my grandmother ages to accept that I can cook. She used to look at me and go, “You?! Cook?!” and laugh as though it’s the most hilarious thing she’d ever heard. Once she accused me of peeling an onion like a Westerner. I’m like, “There’s a Western way of peeling onions?”

But I digress. I’m a real failure when it comes to Asian cooking. My family has long lists of my failed attempts, the most famous one was referred to as the BBC curry incident. It happened when I um, decided to cook curry following a BBC website recipe (hey, the BBC website had yet to fail me!). It came out more like…a spicy soup rather than a curry. No, a mildly spicy soup. Needless to say, it went down very badly in the house.

So each time when I offer to cook Malaysian, everyone in my family would say not the BBC curry! Loudly, as though they’re in pain. So I tend to decline and I rarely cook Eastern stuff.


Two days ago, we ran out of food completely in the house and the only that was left was curry powder. Mum was sick and so I offered to cook instead. My mum had this slit eyed look on her, she was thoroughly unconvinced that I could cook it. Finally I said, “Fine, just stand behind me and tell me what to do.”

Okay, so with my mum standing behind me, I’ve figured out exactly why I’ve failed Eastern cooking. They have probably the vaguest description on earth. Like my mum’s “Traditionally, Lin, Malaysian cooking requires you to fry the curry paste until the oil breaks.”

“The oil what?! Breaks into what? How can I tell I broke the oil?”

And then she looks at me wisely. “Except since we don’t use that much oil, so that old adage doesn’t work.”

Gee…that helps. Will write a recipe book that way. “Oil will break sooner or later, please stand and watch out.”

So okay, when I do put in the chicken then?

“Oh, we add it in when the curry paste does not smell so powdery.”

Alright. Define smelling powdery. Curry powder generally smells of curry to me.How does one separate curry smell and powder smell.

“Oh you know! You will learn.”

And then of course, my favourite piece of advice:

“Now, Lin, we add the chicken into the curry paste. Stir them in and leave them for a few minutes, until you know the curry paste is one with the chicken.”

Oooohhhmmmmm. Curry paste is one with the chicken. OOoooohhm.

Surprisingly, I cooked a kicked-ass curry that afternoon. So, there is a possibility for success. There really is. And thankfully, the curry I made has finally stripped me off the “BBC curry reputation”.

So here’s to success and perserverance.

Oh, to anyone who is curious about my kick ass curry, here is a recipe, with the vague Asian directions included:

Chicken curry

  • 4 pieces of chicken. Whatever size. Not a whole chicken. Preferably small-ish.
  • 1 big onion.
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 6 tablespoons of curry powder – this shocked me. I thought two tablespoons would suffice. Apparently not. Preferably Baba’s Curry powder because Adabi’s one suck.
  • Enough water to make the curry powder into a paste.
  • 1.5 cups of water (if you’re cooking for four). More if you have more chicken (like duh! Obviously!) You can replace this with coconut milk if you prefer.
  • One potato – cubed. Yes, we mix starches here in Asia, so get over it.


  1. Chop the onion and garlic. Fry them in some oil. How much oil is up to you. If you like oily food, add more in. Fry till the edges of your onion browns a little.
  2. Add the curry paste in. Fry them till…well, either your oil breaks or it doesn’t smell as powdery. Hey man, I can’t help you there either. I don’t know how it looks like.
  3. Add your chicken pieces. Cover your saucepot to allow the chicken pieces to become one with the chicken. Apparently, you’ll just KNOW when that happens.
  4. Add water. The 1.5 cups.
  5. Oh yes, add salt. 10gms for four people. 15gms for a little bit more than 4 people. That’s probably the most accurate part of the recipe. I think it’s best to throw the potato in at this point too.
  6. Leave it to simmer till the sauce thickens. The thicker the better.
  7. Once it’s done (oh you know when it’s done), serve with rice. Yes, we mix starches and proteins. It’s the Asian way of doing things. Eat.


And I’m still nanowrimo-ing. So much so that I haven’t had time to write the script I’m supposed to hand-in for NIDA. Nanowrimo is so much fun, I’m encouraging people to join in as I write. And now, for an excerpt . I’m going to try put in one every day.

If Edward’s brain had not been addled with as much alcohol as he had consumed that evening, Edward would have seen the young man’s fist coming and perhaps stepped out of the way. But he had, ultimately, spent the entire evening nursing his sorrows over champagne and when the fist came flying towards him, he was powerless to avoid it.


2 comments on “The BBC Curry Experiment – Failed!

  1. Roisin says:

    Hi Adlina – just discovered your blog! We like to mix our starches in Ireland too, and I am ALL about rice and potato together, excellent stuff! x

  2. Adlina says:

    Hi Roisin!

    Glad to see you here =D I’ve been writing for ages, although not as frequently as I should.

    And you are so right, mixing starches is so the way to go! Potato has a different taste to rice, they can so go together!

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