As you make your way across the Caribbean you’ll encounter different methods of cooking curry dishes, influenced by one’s own preference and family traditions. A prime example is my way of cooking coconut curry chicken.. as I’m about to share. My technique and ingredients will differently differ from other recipes you’ll see… even the way I’d see my mom and grandma make their version. Coincidentally I don’t recall mom using coconut in curry chicken, unless it was a tough chicken (we say yard fowl), where the use of the coconut acted as a tenderizer.
3-4 lbs chicken (cut into small pieces)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
4 sprigs thyme
2-3 scallions (chopped)
2 tablespoon parsley (chopped)
1/3 scotch bonnet pepper
1 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoon curry powder
2 tablespoon veg oil
1/2 medium onion (diced)
4-6 cloves garlic (smashed)
3 cardamom pods
1 cup water
4-6 grape tomatoes (optional)
2 tablespoon cilantro (chopped)
Important! If doing this recipe gluten free please go through the entire list of ingredients to ensure they meet with your specific gluten free dietary needs.. especially the curry powder you use, as some may contain flour as a filler. Also, I used dark/bone pieces of chicken, but this recipe will work just as great with chicken breast.
Season the clean chicken with everything except the oil, coconut milk, curry powder, onion, garlic, cardamom, tomato, cilantro and water. Allow it to marinate for at least 2 hours.
Heat the vegetable oil (coconut oil will be perfect too) on a medium flame then reduce to low and add the diced onion and smashed garlic. Cook for 3 minutes on low. Then add the cardamom and cook another minute or so. Next up add the curry powder (still on low) and stir well. Cook on low to cook off the raw curry taste and to bloom the spices which makes up the curry powder. It will go darker, clump and your kitchen will have a lovely scent of curry.
Now add the coconut milk, turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a med/high heat and cook for 8-10 minutes. The goal is to cook off the liquid and really intensify the coconut flavor. You should end up with a thick base, with hints of the oil you started off with (plus oil from the coconut milk). Stir well as the natural sugars will want to stick/burn.
Here’s where you’ll now add the seasoned chicken and stir well. It’s ok if the marinade goes in as well. The goal here (high heat) is to coat and sear the pieces of chicken with the coconut curry base. Add the water to the same bowl you marinated the chicken in and stir to pick up any marinade left back. Cook the chicken for 7-10 minutes or until you’ve burned off any liquid it may have sprouted naturally.
In the image above you’ll notice that I added an entire scotch bonnet pepper as I like this dish very spicy.. adjust to your own liking. Also remember to wash your hands with soap and water after handling such spicy peppers. After the chicken is full seared/coated and you don’t have any liquid in the pot (this step was to infuse the chicken with the coconut curry flavors) it’s now time to add the water and stir well. This step is to fully cook the chicken and develop a thick gravy.
Bring to a rolling boil, cover the pot slightly ajar and cook for another 15 minutes. Then here’s where you personalize things. Taste for salt /adjust and cook until you get the desired thickness you like your gravy. For me this was perfect at this point as I knew it would thicken as it cools. Add the chopped cilantro and tomato (use shado benin/culantro if you have) and turn off the stove.
Please watch the video below to further assist in perfecting this coconut curry chicken. Some of you may question my use of ketchup and tomatoes.. both brings their own flavor and uniqueness, especially a bit of acidity in helping to balance things. BTW- tomato is very natural (and important) in cooking curry chicken when it originated.
Do you own a copy of my cookbook ?- The Vibrant Caribbean Pot 100 Traditional And Fusion recipes Vol 2