“Red curry chicken” is my children’s name for the chicken curry that has been my gateway to slowly Indianizing their palates for the last few years. It is one of their absolute favourites of all the things I cook for them (though Marcella Hazan’s pesto is in unassailable first place). The “it” however is not a stable referent. By which I mean that this is a recipe that has been subtly, progressively tweaked to bring them along into an appreciation of spicy/spicier food without their quite realizing it’s been happening. Please note that when I say “spicy/spicier” I am not referring to capsaicin heat but to a fuller flavour via the use of a greater body of spices: cumin, coriander seed, fennel seed, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom etc. And, yes, also increasing amounts of red chilli powder. That said, though they eat hotter food than most of their Minnesotan peers, the current iteration of this curry is not very hot either. But over the last four or five years it’s gone from being a fairly bland chicken stew with tomatoes to becoming something that the missus and I enjoy eating alongside them. Here is the current iteration for your enjoyment as well.
- 1 large chicken, skinned and cut into 8-10 pieces
- 5 green cardamom pods
- 1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
- 1 tspn grated fresh garlic
- 1 tspn grated fresh ginger
- The following ground to a fine powder: 1 tspn cumin seeds, 1 tspn coriander seeds, 1/2 tspn fennel seeds, 1/2 tspn black peppercorns, 1 dried Byadgi chilli, 1 one-inch piece cinnamon/cassia bark
- 1/2 tspn haldi
- 2 cups pureed tomatoes
- 1 tblspn jaggery or brown sugar (white will do in a pinch)
- 2 large potatoes, cut into 4 long wedges each
- 2 cups water
- Salt to taste
- 1 tblspn chopped dhania/cilantro
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, deep saucepan and add the cardamom.
- As the pods begin to plump up add the onions and saute for 5-7 minutes till beginning to brown nicely.
- Add the ginger and garlic and saute till the raw aroma disappears.
- Add all the powdered spices and stir for another minute or so.
- Add the chicken and the salt, mix in thoroughly and cook over medium-low heat till the chicken has given up all its water and the oil begins to separate.
- Add the tomatoes and the sugar and cook over medium-low heat till the tomatoes are completely cooked down and the oil separates again.
- Add the water and potatoes, raise the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat again to medium-low, cover the saucepan and cook till the chicken is done.
- Garnish with the dhania and serve with rice or chapatis/parathas.
- The previous version was more or less the same except I would puree the onions and tomatoes and ginger and garlic together with all the ground spices. I’d cook the puree till the oil separated then add the chicken, potatoes and water and proceed till done. But now the boys don’t freak out if they find recognizable onion in their food.
- The version prior to the above was the one that has had the longest career so far. It left out the black pepper (the major source of heat in this version and was cooked entirely in the pressure cooker. Heat oil, add cardamom, then the onion-ginger-garlic-tomato-spices puree, the chicken, the potatoes and the water and cook over medium heat for four whistles in the old-school Indian pressure you doubtless have in your kitchen.
- This is pretty good as it is now. When they get a little more proficient with heat I’ll add sliced green chillies to the mix (along with the water). I might also try adding some star anise along with the cardamom at the start.
- You can add chunked carrots too along with the potatoes if you like.
- And you can also add a pinch of garam masala towards the very end.
- A note: Byadgi chillies add colour but not very much heat. If you don’t have an Indian store near you, you can purchase some on Amazon (affiliate link). If you want even less heat without losing the colour, Kashmiri chillies will work as well (Amazon only seems to have pre-ground Kashmiri chilli powder).
- I splurged last year on this All-Clad pan (affiliate link) and it’s become my go-to for family-portioned large curries like this one. Stainless steel is really great for cooking tomato-based curries like this one (which would not be great for the seasoning on carbon steel or cast iron).