Chicken Curry

Did you know that there is no such thing as curry in India?  Nope.  Nada.  No curry.  Curry is actually an invention of the British as a means to re-create those delicious Indian sauces.  What they do have in India is masala, which just means a blend of spices (dry or paste) which form the basis for those amazing Indian flavors.  Garam masala is probably the most well known of the masalas.  Now, that doesn't mean that curry is a bad fact we love curry.  It's just good to be clear of what it is we are speaking.

And here we're speaking of curry.  A quick, weeknight meal that packs a real flavor whallop.  In addition to curry powder (I'll talk more about that later), I also use a garam masala blend in this sauce which adds depth and pungency.  And just to be even more clear, starting with whole spices, toasting and grinding them for the masala is definitely the way to go for real authentic flavor.  But, again, we're talking quick, weeknight meal here, and we love not only how easy this is, but how amazingly good it is.

This recipe comes to me via Evan Kleiman who is the owner of Angeli Café in L.A. and also does the Good Food radio show there on KCRW.  I love listening to the podcast of her show as I drive around town.  Always inspiring.

She shared this curry recipe on one of her shows a couple of years ago and we just love it.  It’s pretty quick and easy, and, wow, the flavors are so bright and lively, yet there is such depth to it.  I use chicken thighs, but you can substitute a protein of your choice here (we also love shrimp!).  You can control just how much heat you want by using more or less crushed red pepper.  The condiments are a must – unsalted, roasted peanuts, creamy yogurt and your favorite chutney. 

We cannot move on, though, without talking about curry powder.  Most curry powders are a blend of cumin, coriander, cardamom and turmeric.  Some add cayenne or other chiles, and some add saffron, fenugreek or cinnamon.  But do know that all curry powders are not created equal.   If you have a favorite blend, by all means use it.  If you’ve never made curry before, Penzey’s has some great curry powders that you can order online (I like the maharajah).  If you like your curry hot, they have just the thing for you.  Penzey's is also a good place to get your garam masala blend, or if you want to make your own, you can order the whole spices online.

If you’ve put off making curry because of the time and fuss, wait no longer.  This goes together pretty quickly.  Make some rice, gather your condiments and you will have yourself an unforgettable meal.  You really won’t believe the aromas that will emanate from your kitchen as these spices cook down. 

I hope I've convinced you to give this a try.  Oh, there will be no regrets, I promise.  No excuses now.  Get going….go on.  You really must.  It's divine.

Chicken Curry

For a printable recipe, click here

Serves 3-4

½ onion, peeled, large chop

1 garlic clove

1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and large chop

Handful of fresh cilantro

5-6 boneless chicken thighs

Peanut or canola for cooking

1 ½ Tablespoons curry powder

¼ tsp crushed red pepper

1 ½ tsps garam masala

½ cup prepared tomato sauce

1 cup chicken broth

1/3 can coconut milk (or can substitute yogurt)

For serving:  Mango Chutney, thick yogurt, roasted, unsalted peanuts and chopped cilantro

Jasmine or basmati rice


Place the onion, garlic, cilantro and ginger a food processor with the steel blade and pulse until minced.

Saute the chicken thighs in about a tablespoon of oil over medium high heat until browned.  Remove from pan.   

Add the onion, garlic, cilantro and ginger to the pan.  Cook in a little oil over medium heat. Stir the onion mixture around to deglaze the pan.  

When the onion is soft and golden brown, add the curry powder, crushed red pepper and garam masala to the pan.  Cook with the onion over low heat stirring until you smell the spices bloom. 

Add tomato sauce and bring the sauce to a lively simmer and mix well.

Return chicken to the pan with the sauce, and add about 1 cup of chicken broth (I like to just add 1/2 cup to start with so that it doesn't get too soup-y from the coconut milk).  Bring to a simmer.  Add salt to taste.  Partially cover pan and simmer for about 15 -20 minutes or until chicken is very tender.

Stir occasionally, adding additional liquid if the pan juices reduce too quickly.  Once chicken is cooked, remove the lid.  If the juices are very thin, raise heat to high and reduce the pan liquid until it has some body. Once juices are reduced, add in the coconut milk or yogurt.  Be sure the heat is off or very low so the coconut milk doesn’t curdle the sauce.  (Don't worry if it curdles. It won’t look pretty but will still taste good.)

Serve over rice and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.  Serve with chutney, yogurt and and peanuts.