“Instant” Chicken Curry

Instant Chicken Curry

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy/moderate
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finished chicken curry

Everyone that I know loves a good chicken curry – whether it is Sri Lankan chicken curry with coconut milk, a Thai curry, Indian butter chicken, Jamaican curry or myriad of other types! Regardless of their origin, most of these curries call for exotic spices that are likely to be found in an adventurous cook’s kitchen or requires a special visit to a well-stocked local grocery store or an ethnic grocer.

But, what if it is one of those days when you don’t want to make a sandwich, east some leftovers, or make another pot of soup? What if you want to decompress in the kitchen by creating something satisfying and different? What if you end up wondering, if only you could relish mouthfuls of some delicious curry with a piece of flat bread, steamed rice, or even a piece of bread? Only if!

You always thought your kitchen was pretty well stocked although you didn’t always have an assortment of Asian spices like cardamom, curry/garam masala powder, or special blend of chili powders! Can you still make great chicken curry with what might usually be in your pantry? YES, YOU CAN!

Today, I am going to share with you just one of those “instant” chicken curry recipes – “instant” not because you open up a frozen package of chicken curry and nuke it in the microwave, but because you can whip this baby up with mostly basic pantry items. I made it two nights ago and I have to say it was a big hit with my whole family!

Before we begin, let’s do a quick check to see if you have the following on hand – you can potentially skip couple of these ingredients without compromising on the flavor, taste and look of the dish! You will need about 1 ½ lbs of chicken (any type, although I used drumsticks in mine), onion, ginger, garlic, cinnamon stick, turmeric (can be skipped if you don’t have any), fine sea salt (or regular), cayenne powder, lime or lemon juice, fresh tomato, cilantro (can be skipped , but it does add a wonderful aroma), coconut milk or heavy cream and oil. So, assuming you have these on hand, let’s start!

First, we need to prepare the meat and veggies. Remove the skin of the chicken and make couple of slits on the drumsticks if you are using them. Otherwise, just cut the chicken into desired size. You can use thighs cut into 2-3 pieces, breasts cut into about fourths or bite sized pieces. You can even use boneless chicken breast, although in my humble opinion, a good chicken curry needs at least some red meat and/or pieces with bones. To me, curry made from boneless, skinless breast just doesn’t cut it! So, back to prep work. After you clean the chicken, rinse and drain all the water. You can even blot it dry, but I rarely do. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of fine sea salt, a tablespoon of lime juice and a heaping teaspoon (or per your taste) of cayenne on the chicken and mix well, making sure to get them into the slits. Let sit while you prepare rest of the ingredients.

All marinated and waiting for action

All marinated and waiting for action

Chop onions, tomato and cilantro. Mince ginger and garlic. Set them aside.

chicken curry veggies

Heat a wok or a heavy pot/pan over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of oil. To this, add ginger, garlic, onion and a piece of cinnamon stick broken up. Saute till onion turns translucent and starts to turn golden. Add ¼ tsp of turmeric powder and 1 teaspoon cayenne powder and stir for few seconds. Cayenne can be adjusted according to taste. I used a little more than a teaspoon because we love super spicy stuff in our house. You might want to turn your exhaust fan off to ward off any ill effects of cayenne in the air! Now, add tomato and ¼ tsp of salt.

tomato cooking for chicken currychicken added

When the mixture starts to turn pulpy and fragrant, add chicken pieces along with any juices left behind. Stir well in the spice mixture. Add about ¼ cup of water and cook covered under medium low flame for about 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the sauce is fairly thickened. Keep an eye on the curry while it is cooking as you might need to add little bit more water if the gravy looks too dry. To finish, add about 3 tablespoon of unsweetened coconut milk or heavy cream, stir and garnish with chopped cilantro.

finishe chicken

Serve with cooked rice (in the picture above, I served with brown rice and “raita”)or bread and a side salad or another vegetable dish.

When it comes to being creative in the kitchen, if you put your mind to it, you can make incredible dishes with what you have on hand!

1 1/2 lbs chicken pieces, skin removed
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon cayenne (more or less, per your taste)
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2″ piece of cinnamon broken up
1 cup chopped tomato
additional salt, if needed
3 tablespoons unsweetened milk or cream
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro