February 2017
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Chicken Curry
[Food-February 2010]

The only curry Americans know is “curry” not “kadhi.” Both curry and curry “powder” have become synonymous with Indian cooking. It is a HUGE misconception that curry powder is a key ingredient in curry and that the powder itself is Indian. This is absolutely FALSE! In fact, curry powder is NOT Indian. Yes, the spices in “curry powder” are Indian and used in Indian cooking but the powder blend itself is not Indian at all. In fact, no Indian woman in her right mind would use curry powder!! Curry powder, and the contemporary English use of the word curry are Western inventions and do not reflect any specific Indian food. Technically, in Indian cooking, curry or kadhi is an actual dish and does not refer to a spice or type of sauce.

Although it may be mildly, not technically, acceptable to say chicken curry, goat curry, fish curry, etc. when speaking in the English language; it is under NO circumstances EVER acceptable to use the word curry as a spice or to say that something contains curry or is “curried.” These are all unauthentic terms developed by the Westerners!

In Britain, and now America, the term ‘curry’ has come to mean almost any Indian dish, whilst most people from the [Indian] sub-continent would say it is not a word they use, but if they did it would mean a meat, vegetable or fish dish with spicy sauce and rice or bread.

In the 1960s the tandoor was introduced to Britain and tandoori chicken and chicken tikka became popular dishes. Chicken Tikka Masala was said to have been invented in Glasgow by a Bengali chef, when a customer demanded a sauce with a “too dry” tikka (legend has it that the cook then heated up a tin of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup and added some spices). By the way, butter chicken is a dish that originates from northern India.

As for curry powder, like I said earlier, it is not Indian at all! In fact it was invented by the British during the days of the Raj (British rule of India). The British, who treated Indians with cruelty, actually enjoyed the cuisine but were too lazy and uncapable of preparing all the dishes with the various spices that they contained. So they created a spice blend and called it “curry powder” and used it in their cooking. When they added this powder to any dish they would call it Indian. However, in reality, it was not truly Indian food! From those days curry powder has continued to be used and distributed throughout the West where ignorant Westerners use it in their “so-called Indian” dishes to create what they believe is “curry!”

Many times have I been asked for a recipe for chicken curry. I do have one but I don’t measure my ingredients and spices. After a great deal of thought and effort I have developed a recipe with “measurements” though they are probably not exact! Oh and please DO use bone-in chicken. Westerners may not know of this but you can buy a chicken and ask the butcher to cut and clean it for you. (cut into small pieces and skin removed) This is the true Indian way of preparing the dish.

CHICKEN CURRY RECIPE

Ingredients: (Hindi names in parenthesis)
1 onion-chopped
1 tomato-chopped
1 tsp. garlic paste/or 1 clove grated
1 tsp. ginger paste or grated ginger (if u dont have fresh you can use ginger powder but its stronger so put less) (adrak)
1 tbsp. coriander powder (dhania)
2 tsp. cumin powder (jeera)
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or less…depending on how spicy you want it) (laal mirch or mirchi)
1/4 tsp. black pepper (kaali mirch)
1/4 tsp. cardamon powder (elaichi)
1/4 tsp. clove powder (laung..pronounced long)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon powder (dal chini)
a pinch of turmeric is optional (haldi)
1/2 cup fresh coriander-chopped with stems (also known as cilantro in this country even though that’s not its English name; its Spanish)
1 chicken-skinned and cut into pieces
1/2 cup plain yogurt (NOT nonfat) (dahi)
3 tbsp. corn or vegetable oil (not olive oil)
*I don’t measure anything so these are just approximations. You can adjust anything if it doesn’t look or taste right.

Heat the oil. Add the onions and fry till it starts turning brown. Add the tomatoes and cook till it gets mushy. Add the ginger, garlic, all the spices, and coriander stems. Cook for a minute.
Add the chicken pieces and cook for another minute or two. Add yogurt and water, if needed. Stir. When it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to low. Cover and cook on low 30-40 minutes or until done. Garnish with the remaining fresh coriander. If its too watery, let the water burn out.

ADVICE on Buying Spices!!

You can buy your spices at any Indian grocery store. When you buy the spices make sure you get the ones that come in plastic bags. Don’t buy the ones that come in boxes. For example, you will see little boxes from brands like Shan, National, etc. Just ignore those. Buy the ones in plastic bags. DON’T buy curry powder!! Don’t buy these spices from American grocery stores. Except maybe black pepper. That one is ok. The rest, get from an Indian store because you will save A LOT of money and get better quality.

P.S.: “curry paste” is NOT Indian either!!

[photo credits: ijs365.org.in, gainhub.com, lisa.cs.duke.edu, i.ehow.com]

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