Hybrid Chicken “Curry” (Indian Home Cooking Week 1)

Ready to Serve
Indian Home Cooking Week” rolls on.

For why I’ve put “curry” in quotes in the title of this recipe see my prefatory comments in this post. And if you’re wondering about the “hybrid” part, it’s not in reference to the ancestry of the chicken I used (though it was probably a hybrid too); it’s in reference to the origins of this recipe. Like yesterday’s salmon recipe this one is also not a regional recipe. It is, however, a very conscious mixing of two approaches, one Bengali and one Malayali. The recipe gets underway more or less as in the style of an excellent recipe from one of my aunts, and is finished in a manner very common in Malayali cooking (Malayali= (of) the Malayalam speaking peoples of Kerala). I don’t usually go about trying to create hybrid or Indo-fusion dishes like this one but this one just works because there’s a strong crossover to begin with.

Let’s get to it.

Ingredients

  1. One chicken cut into 8 pieces, about 4 lbs (I used a mix of bone-in thighs and drumsticks)
  2. 1.5 cups thinly sliced onions
  3. 1.5 tblspns crushed ginger
  4. 1-2 small pieces of cinnamon or cassia bark
  5. 3-4 cloves
  6. 3-5 small green cardamom pods
  7. 3-5 dried red chillies
  8. Salt to taste
  9. Freshly ground black pepper
  10. 1 tspn black/dark brown mustard seeds
  11. 2 sprigs curry leaves
  12. 1 cup coconut milk

Preparation (see illustrated guide below)

Another version of this recipe made with a more reduced sauce.

Another version of this recipe made with a more reduced sauce.

  1. Heat oil in a large pan and brown the chicken evenly and set aside.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and add ingredients 4-7 to the pan. Saute till fragrant, being careful not to let them burn.
  3. Add 1 cup of the sliced onions and saute till it begins to brown around the edges.
  4. Add the crushed ginger, salt and a few grindings of pepper and saute for another minute or two.
  5. Return the chicken to the pan, cover and simmer till the chicken is almost cooked through.
  6. The chicken will have given up a lot of moisture. To this add the coconut milk, stir, bring to a boil and then simmer till the chicken is done.
  7. When the chicken is almost done heat some oil in a small skillet and add the mustard seeds. They will begin to pop almost immediately. Throw in the onions and mix and add the curry leaves stripped from the sprigs. Saute for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time.
  8. Pour the contents of the skillet over the cooked chicken and stir them in gently.
  9. Serve with steamed rice or parathas.

Notes

  1. When not extracting coconut milk from fresh coconuts I use Aroy-D’s 100% coconut milk in tetra-paks. These can be found in some Asian groceries and also on Amazon. The canned versions with additives and stabilizers that are more easily found in regular groceries—from Aroy-D or others—are too cloying to my palate.
  2. If you want to up the heat you can add some slit Thai chillies to the skillet along with the curry leaves.
  3. And speaking of curry leaves, make sure you have the right kind.
  4. Please use bone-in chicken as what you’re making here is sort of a reduced, intense stock. Also, use the best chicken you can—there are no aggressive flavours here to carry the bird and most supermarket chickens will also shed way too much liquid.
  5. It’s very unusual in most Indian cuisines to cook/eat chicken with the skin on. I’m just committed to saturated fat, and also was feeling lazy that day.
  6. I’ll get around to posting my aunt’s original recipe soon enough. Stay tuned.

Illustrated Guide

15 thoughts on “Hybrid Chicken “Curry” (Indian Home Cooking Week 1)

  1. We had everything for this dish in the house except curry leaves. I threw caution to the wind and made it without. Very popular with both kids and adults. Thanks for posting.

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  2. I made chicken korma for the first time last week, loosely from the Saveur recipe (http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Classic-Chicken-Curry)…the only korma I ate growing up, though, was cooked by a family friend from Chennai, and she used coconut milk, a little tomato, and no nut paste in her recipe – delicious. I’ve wanted to try recreating that recipe for a while, and I’ve had this bookmarked for a few years: http://kaipunyam.blogspot.com/2009/05/nadan-chicken-kurma.html

    Lately, since trying the Saveur recipe, I’ve been wondering if there was a way to make a hybrid North-South “korma” thingy. Keep the cardamon/clove/cinnamon and nut paste, leave out the cumin and tomato from the Kaipunyam recipe, substitute cream for coconut milk, add tempering of mustard/curry leaves at the end. Here I was thinking that I was going to bust out this awesomely original recipe – and then I see your hybrid! :D Yours looks great, can’t wait to try it! I may try it twice – your original version, and one with the addition of cashews and almonds. Thanks for a great-looking recipe!

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    • Hemant Mathur is a great chef and I would hesitate to comment critically on his recipes but if you’re using boneless meat you really should use some stock, I think. And nut paste and yogurt and cream? That seems a little too rich for me to cook at home (and eat multiple servings of).

      As you’ve probably figured out, the term “korma” is used somewhat loosely, varying by region. Your friend’s recipe, a South Indian one, has coconut milk and no nut paste—ditto for the one in that blog link, which looks to be Kerala-style; one of my aunts, a Bengali, has a great recipe with cashew and raisin paste but no cream or coconut milk. I’ve generally come to see it as referring to a rich, thick gravy thickened with some form of cream and/or nut paste.

      By the way, if the person whose blog that is is based in India and you’re not, their “big” onion is probably not that big. Actually, it looks like that recipe is from Vanitha, a magazine published in Kerala, so yeah, it’s probably more like three medium onions in the US.

      Do let me know how my recipe works out if you do make it.

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      • Ha – I used drumsticks; I think the fact that the recipe called for boneless chicken completely whooshed past me. :D I never cook with boneless chicken… The recipe was rather rich for me, however – I’m thinking, in my future experiments, that I may marinate (bone-in) chicken with some yogurt and use coconut milk as the thickener for the gravy. Still on the fence about the further addition of nut paste. Am still going to give your recipe (in full; no shortcuts :D) a try!

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  3. thank you for this fantastic recipe. made it last night – it was a hit. not sure how i came across this blog as i don’t really drink whiskey but i really enjoy your recipes and your restaurant reviews.

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  4. i’ve made this a few times and love it. was thinking of trying to riff on it tonight by replacing the coconut milk entirely with yogurt. do you think that would be good?

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    • Oh, that would work quite well (but don’t use more than 1/2 a cup of yogurt). Just be sure to cook it at a lower heat setting so as to not split the yogurt. But if that does happen, just remove the chicken at the end and whisk the sauce back together.

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