Chicken curry is a must, once a week in my home. And it is not just me, in India, a dish of chicken curry and rice is ubiquitous and bound to appear on the menu regularly. More often than not, as a Sunday special, families will gather around the dining table to relish a Chicken Curry meal together.
But here is a thought: With hygienically packed chicken now readily available in most supermarkets, in a wide range of cuts like the drumstick, curry cut, leg pieces and even boneless options, I really wonder why we limit ourselves to chicken curry once a week! Why not more often?
After all, chicken is easy to prepare, cooks faster than other meat and makes the perfect option to cook with different flavours. And as a mother, I know I would prefer my children eat chicken regularly in these times of so much processed and junk food. It’s nutritious, high in protein, easy to digest and makes for a tasty dinner in less than 40 minutes. In fact, the joy of precut chicken is the convenience! If everyone in the family insists on having a chicken leg, cook up a pack of curry cut chicken with an extra pack of just additional chicken drumsticks so everyone is happy. There is something so comforting in the idea of coming home to a dinner of Chicken curry and rice or bread!
Chicken curry every day will get boring, you say? Nope. Not at all! There are so many recipes for chicken curry from all over the world you needn’t ever get bored. Over the years, I have developed a repertoire of different types of chicken curry. In India itself, we have so much to pick from!
While curries have probably developed simultaneously all over the world, India is usually considered the birthplace of the true curry. And chicken curry dishes in India are as diverse as pasta dishes in Italy. Every region of India and every regional cuisine will have at least one distinctive curry dish. From the Kokur Yakhni of Kashmir, a delicately spiced yogurt based curry to the spice and onion-rich curries of Maharashtra, the buttery chicken makhani of Punjab, to the chili-laced curries of Andhra Pradesh and the coconut milk stews of Kerala, there is so much to pick from! A single pack of curry cut chicken can easily blend into the local curry of any state in India!
When I have packs of cleaned chicken, I can quickly cook up a pot of curry using the different masalas; be it the East Indian bottle masala or the unique herbs from the North East. But don’t stop with India! Curry has traveled all over the world too, so look outside India as well, for inspiration.
Neighbouring Sri Lanka is host to a wide variety of curries, which along with rice make up the staple of Sri Lankan cuisine. Sri Lankan curries are renowned for being particularly spicy. And are usually made in coconut milk or grated coconut. After India and Sri Lanka, Thailand is most popular for its curries which are colour coded to indicate the ingredients used. From fresh fragrant Thai green curry to the robust red curry, the subtle yellow or Massaman curry with its layering of flavours, each option with its base of fragrant ingredients pounded into a spice paste and slowly simmered in coconut milk offers the potential of a delicious quick dinner. I love the fresh aroma of basil, lemongrass, galangal and bird's eye chili and ensure to freeze a large batch of Thai curry paste to make a quick chicken curry with rice.
The curries of Malaysia come next. They share a leaning towards a creamy coconut milk as a base. But also incorporate more layering of flavours. Malaysia offers a lot of culinary inspiration. The gravies are rich and fragrant with turmeric, coconut milk, shallots, ginger, shrimp paste, chili peppers, garlic and Tamarind. The subtle flavours of turmeric and chili powder in a yellow-hued chicken curry, come together in a lovely mélange of flavor in the Kari Ayam that can brighten up the gloomiest day!
In Indonesia, curry dishes, known as “kari” or “gulai”, differ from region to region. They can contain a wide variety of ingredients. A popular curry is “opor ayam” made by simmering chicken in coconut milk or cream, lime juice and lemongrass. It may seem unlikely but Japan has a fantastic classic called Katsu curry. Influenced by the Britishers, the Japanese often make a roux based curry
called the Katsu curry with chicken that is served with steamed rice and cutlets. It is a favourite in my house. Whenever I serve it to my kids, the looks of anticipation are quickly replaced with demands for more.
These are some of the most popular kinds of curries but there are much more. Ancient trade routes were not just responsible for transportation of ingredients but also cooking methods. And chicken curries developed several centuries ago in Africa, Europe and the rest of the Western Hemisphere.
You will find unique curry dishes Great Britain, Ethiopia, South Africa, Central Africa, Germany and the Caribbean! Most are rooted in Indian or Bangladeshi curries. So get inspired by the curries from around the world to make weekday dinners special and deliciously varied!
Rushina M. Ghiliyal
Curried Chicken Stew
Yield: Serves 2
Prep: 1 hour
Cook: 30 minutes
½ cup Curd
2 tsp Madras curry powder
1tsp Turmeric powder
Salt to taste
750gms Chicken with bone, cut into medium pieces
2 Bay leaves
1 Cinnamon stick, 2 inches
2 Green cardamoms
6 Black peppercorns
1tbsp Ginger, freshly grated
1tbsp Garlic, freshly grated
1 large Onion, thinly sliced
2 Carrots, cubed
2 medium Potatoes, cubed
1 ½ cups Cauliflower florets
1 large Tomato, chopped
2 cups Water
Juice of 1 Lime
4 Green chilies, minced fine
½ cup fresh Coriander, chopped
In a bowl, combine the curd with the Madras curry powder, turmeric powder and salt. Mix well.
Add chicken and rub marinade into well into it. Keep aside to marinate for at least 1 hour.
In a deep saucepan, heat oil. Add cumin and let it crackle.
Add all the whole spices and sauté for 1 minute until aromatic.
Add the grated ginger and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add the onion and sauté till it turns brown.
Add the chopped vegetables and stir to combine.
Add the marinated chicken pieces and mix well, cover the pan and leave to cook for 5 minutes.
Add the water, salt and chopped coriander, cover pan and cook for 15 minutes till the meat is tender but cooked through.
Add the green chili and mix well. Simmer for 30 seconds.
Take off the flame and add lime juice. Stir in well.
Garnish with coriander and serve hot with pao or rice.