Recipe: Bernard Hartzenberg’s Asian-infused Cape Malay curry

Cape Malay curry is known for combining sweet and savoury flavours. Cape Town-born chef Bernard Hartzenberg infuses it with some Asian delicacies

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After working with a few Asian chefs in the Maldives, sous chef Bernard Hartzenberg fell in love with the distinctive ingredients that bring balance and harmony in this food culture.

Bernard Hartzenberg is a go-getter chef that is not afraid of hard work. He says, “Before the pandemic, it was hectic early mornings, late evenings, 16-hour shifts with little to no off days.” Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
Bernard Hartzenberg is a go-getter chef that is not afraid of hard work. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Asian cooking has its own styles, its own flavours and its own cooking techniques, says Hartzenberg.

“My former executive chef, Warren Moore, gave me an opportunity not only to overlook the world’s largest undersea-restaurant, but also our teppanyaki and Kashibo restaurants. And all our foods were Asian-inspired, from our fine-dining restaurant to our all-day dining.”

Being a Cape Town boykie, Hartzenberg started experimenting with Asian cooking secrets in traditional Mzansi dishes. The results have been simply magical. Just try his Asian-infused Cape Malay curry.

ALSO READ: Bernard found his mojo in a Rwandan rainforest



1,5kg meat of your choice 


1 tbsp. Garam masala 

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1 tbsp. curry powder or 1 tbsp. mild curry powder of your choice

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. all spice 

1 tsp. fennel seeds

1,5 tsp. turmeric

0,25  tsp. salt

black pepper

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

3 tbsp. brown sugar

2 star anis


4 onions, peeled and chopped

1 can peeled tomatoes or between 4 and 5 red tomatoes 

3 to 5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 piece fresh ginger root or galangal, peeled and crushed

2 bay leaves

4 makrut lime leaves 

2 lemongrass (ends crushed and chopped) 

3 Thai chilli (if you prefer it hot) 

2 tbsp. tomato paste

Nice bunch of fresh coriander for serving 


50ml fish sauce 

250ml chicken or vegetables stock or beef broth 

2 tbsp. olive oil 

Half a can of coconut milk 

Half a can of coconut cream

ALSO READ: Bernard found his mojo in a Rwandan rainforest


  • Over high heat, add all spices (except the sugar) to a pan and release those flavours.
  • Heat oil in a separate large pot or saucepan.
  • Fry the meat until it’s brown on all sides.
  • Remove meat from the pot or saucepan.
  • Fry the onions and garlic, stirring continuously. Add the tomato paste and let that cook for a few seconds. Add the rest of your vegetables (except fresh coriander), and all the spices and continue stirring for a minute. Season to taste with pepper and add the salt.
  • Reduce heat slightly. 
  • Add the fish sauce and stock, plus all the other remaining ingredients. Give it a nice stir and cover with a lid.
  • Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until everything is well incorporated.
  • Add your meat. If it’s lamb, let it cook for about 1,5 hours. If it’s mutton, at least 2 hours or maybe even a little longer.
  • For only the curry sauce, I’ll normally let it simmer for between 45 minutes and 1,5 hours.
  • Check up on your curry regularly for seasoning.
  • If you’re done, roughly chop your fresh coriander with a sharp knife and mix it in before serving.
  • Serve this curry with basmati rice, raita and sambal matah with some chapati or roti.


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