Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hong Kong-style Curry Cuttlefish

One of my favorite dishes at Hong Kong-style cafés is their Hong Kong-style Curry. We never thought to create that at home, though. You know, it's just one of those restaurant dishes. This is probably because we couldn't quite tell how they make their curry. We assume it's simply curry powder -- or is it a curry paste? -- but with what else?

Then, browsing through Madhur Jaffrey's From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail (which happened to be right under our noses for quite a while already), we found it!

Well, I only read the introduction which gives more emphasis to the fact that HK curry has evaporated milk (instead of coconut milk or cream). Actually, upon discovering the recipe and reading the introduction, all I could do was keep asking, "Could it be? Is it really like HK-style curry?"

Yet, I did not try the recipe to find out. I don't know why.

Perhaps my doubt stems from the recipe using pork. In all my HK-style café eating experience, I have only come across beef (sliced beef or beef brisket) and chicken curries. Seafood was not uncommon, as fish balls in curry sauce are a snack food item. But pork? I don't think I've ever seen HK-style curry with pork.

Months and months afterwards, JS bought some mini cuttlefish. We don't really have them often at home, if ever, and were at a loss on what to do with them. An idea: why not recreate a favorite dimsum item, curried cuttlefish!

Finally, I read Madhur's recipe closely. (First name basis.) The secret turned out not to be the evaporated milk, but this:

Attractive, I know.

What is it? Why, it's curry powder (we have Madras at home) with sesame oil! So simple! They're a wily bunch, them Hong Kong cooks. ;)

It was easy after knowing the "secret."

I cooked my dish slightly differently from the book's recipe to account for the cuttlefish's short cooking time.

In a pan, I heated some oil then added some garlic and a touch of chili flakes. I didn't add shallots/onions because I was too lazy to peel and slice some.

Next, the "curry paste" (of Madras curry powder mixed with sesame oil) went in, followed by some water, evaporated milk, salt and sugar to taste. I added the cuttlefish until they were cooked.

As a final touch, I made a cornstarch slurry (cornstarch dissolved in cold water) and added that to the sauce until it was the desired thickness.

Their big bulbous "heads" are so cute!

It really was Hong Kong-style curry! Yehey, Madhur!

Next time, I won't add as much "curry paste" and evaporated milk as I think this version was a tad too "rich". As is, it would definitely be good for curry fish balls as it would have no trouble sticking to the fish balls at all.

My next goal, of course, is to make Curry Beef Brisket. That would warrant adding onions and bell peppers to the dish. As for the beef portion, I'm thinking I should braise the beef first in a Chinese-y liquid (soy sauce with star anise?) and only combining it with the curry sauce when it's tender. Anybody know for sure?

eatingclub Hong Kong/Cantonese
Chicken Chow Mein
Cantonese Braised Beef Brisket, Two Ways
Lobster Congee from a Lobster Feast
Chinese Roast Pork Belly
Gailan (Chinese Broccoli) with Oyster Sauce, Two Ways
Chinese Pork Bone Soup with Carrots and Water Chestnuts
Hong Kong-style Curry Cuttlefish
Dimsum Seafood Trio: Black Pearl Prawn Toast, Scallop in Nest, Jewelled Rice Cup
Hong Kong-style Singapore Noodles (星洲炒米)
Hong Kong-style Stir-fried Water Spinach with Shrimp Paste (蝦醬通菜)
Hong Kong-style Stir-fried Rice Noodle with Beef (乾炒牛河)
Sweet and Sour Pork
Hong Kong-style Curry Beef Brisket (咖喱牛腩), 1st Attempt

Hong Kong-style Curry Sauce
adapted from Maddhur's Jaffrey's
From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail

3 Tbsp corn/peanut oil
1 Tbsp chopped shallots
5 cloves garlic, chopped
chili flakes, to taste
2 Tbsp curry powder mixed w 4 tspn sesame oil (curry paste)
1/2 cup water/broth
4 Tbsp canned evaporated milk
1 tspn sugar (to taste)
1 tspn salt (to taste)
1 tspn cornstarch dissolved in 4 Tbsp water (cornstarch slurry)

In a pan, heat oil. Add shallots, garlic and chili flakes. Cook until fragrant, a few seconds. Add curry paste and cook for a few more seconds. Add water/broth and evaporated milk and stir until paste has completely dissolved. Add salt and sugar to taste.

For quick cooking items like shrimp or squid, add them at this point. When they are to the doneness of your liking, proceed.

Or, alternatively, one can first stir-fry any meats (sliced thinly) or seafood before making the sauce. Set them aside to make the sauce in the same pan. The stir-fried items can then be added at this point.

If the sauce is not to the thickness of your liking, add cornstarch slurry to the hot/boiling sauce and stir in. The sauce should thicken in a matter of seconds.


eatingclub vancouver
Chinese dishes
Seafood dishes

We're submitting this to the Seven Fishes Feast blog event hosted by Joe of Italyville and Maryann of Finding La Dolce Vita.

Please visit these pages for information on how to participate: here and here. Deadline is December 18. Round-up pages: here and here.

We're also submitting this to the Chinese edition of Joelen's Wine & Dine event. Find more details and the round-up at Joelen's blog: Joelen's Culinary Adventures.


  1. This is wonderful! Thanks for joining us at the 7 fishes feast :)

  2. While I'm not completely sold on the cuttlefish, the sauce sounds and looks wonderful! And adding the curry powder to sesame oil--that is genius!

  3. Looks great ts and js! I've never had cuttle fish before, but it looks great in a curry.

  4. I'm very intrigued by the beef brisket curry

  5. Ooh this looks wonderful! I hope you will submit this to the Wine & Dine blogging event I'm hosting in January. We're highlighting Chinese food & drink in honor of the upcoming Chinese New Year! Details are in my blog's left sidebar :)

  6. Maryann:
    Our pleasure. =)

    Cuttelfish is just a cuter, more bulbous-headed squid! ;)

    I don't have that sharp a palate, so it just tastes like squid to me. =)

    Oh, it's a very common dish at HK-style cafes.. Now if only it's easy to replicate...

    Oh, thanks! Looking at the details now.

    Darius T. Williams:
    Haha... good! =)

  7. damn! this looks so good. we love cuttlefish and can never find it around. did just finally manage to score some cuttlefish ink. really interesting w/ the sesame/curry mix!

  8. first name basis! lol! one of the things my friends used to say...

    funny, the very first thing i ate in HK was pork curry. granted, it was at a little street stall in the seedy side of the new territories but, well...

    always great going through your blog, ladies! = ) ingat.

  9. Madhur Jaffrey brings the house down every time. When I wanted to learn about Indian food the first thing I did was pick up one of her books and now years later I still swear by her. Your dish looks fabulous!

  10. We Are Never Full:
    Hmm, we need to get us some ink!

    I'm on a first name basis with a lot of people. ;)

    Oh, interesting! (re pork curry in HK). So maybe it's just the HK-style cafes here that concentrate on beef & chicken.

    We're guilty of not making anything else from that book! OK, we have to start.


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