Friday, January 04, 2013

green chilli chicken

Hello! I hope the new year is strewing only sunshine and rose petals in your path because this morning, I stepped on a tack. *ouch* I haven't decided on any resolution yet, but here's my first post for 2013. Remember how I told you last year that my first born is a fiend for curry devil? Well, true to form, the big boy sheepishly asked for another pot of fire and brimstone, two days after Boxing Day. Awwww! Is there anything more endearing than a boy who loves his mama's cooking?

My heart swelled with maternal affection, but my back protested violently, after a week of Christmas cooking and baking.

So, having coyly demurred for almost a week, I finally made this very simple curry. It's an approximation of his beloved curry devil, with green chillies instead of red, the additional savoury and earthy notes of garlic and cumin seeds and the mild, creamy tang of yoghurt to replace the more strident acidity of vinegar.

The base notes of this curry are almost south east Asian, but the yoghurt, mustard and cumin seeds give it an Indian vibe. In fact, when I ate this, it brought back memories of something I had years ago at the home of the lovely Punjabi lass who helped me with my Econs homework, watched every Hindi movie ever made, with me, back when Amitabh Bachchan still had black facial hair, and most importantly, taught me how to roll chapati and "make chai properly lah!" I got the chai down pat, but my chapatis still vaguely resemble an aerial shot of the African continent.

The beauty of this dish is that you can take it in a few directions. Ditch the cumin, mustard and yoghurt, fry the spice paste with lemongrass and galangal, and add coconut milk  for a Malay style green curry or gulai hijau. Or, to the Malay style version, add coriander roots to the spice paste, then fry with kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and galangal. Squeeze in lime juice to taste and garnish the curry with lots of Asian basil and mint leaves for a Thai version.

And, right here we have an instance of the unrivalled versatility of the much maligned coriander or cilantro; it perfectly compliments all three versions of this dish and also happily rubs shoulders with Chinese, Mediterranean, Latin American, Mexican and middle Eastern food. Incidentally, "coriander" may refer to the roots, stems, leaves, whole and ground (powdered) seeds of the plant, while "cilantro" is usually used to mean the leaves, stems and roots, though both are essentially just different names for coriandrum sativum. If you don't like the herb (my grandma thought it smelled like crushed bugs) just leave it out. We'll still be friends, I promise.

So, what did big boy think of it? "Mum! This ISN'T curry devil!!!", said he, almost squeaking in anguish. I haven't heard him squeak since he was eleven. "Nice work, Sherlock", said I. But, he had seconds. And he smiled. Nothing as endearing as a boy who loves his mama's cooking.

green chilli chicken

prep 35 mins          cook 45 mins        serves 4

Spice Paste

6 hot green chillies (the lighter coloured, thinner skinned, wrinkly ones)
1 very large knob ginger (about 8 cm or 3 inches long) peeled and sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled

1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 medium red (purple) onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 green tomatoes (or red ones if you can't get green) cut into wedges
1 chicken (I skinned it) cut into 10 pieces, washed and thoroughly drained
3 tbsp yoghurt (I used full fat Greek style yoghurt)
100 ml (1/2 cup) water
1 tsp salt
1/3 tsp sugar (optional)
Coriander leaves to garnish

Combine spice paste ingredients and pound or process to a smooth paste and set aside.

Heat 4-5 tablespoons (half as much for non stick pans) vegetable oil and when hot, add the mustard seeds. When seeds start popping, add the cumin seeds and stir, until fragrant. Lower heat if seeds are browning too quickly.

Add the onions and stir until they go limp and start browning. Add tomatoes and stir until tomatoes soften.

Add spice paste and fry, stirring over moderate heat until fragrant, well browned and oil starts to separate from mixture.

Add chicken and turn up heat. Stir and turn pieces until well coated with spices. Continue for 5 minutes then stir in yoghurt until combined with spices. Pour in water, salt and sugar, stir well and bring to a simmer.

Cover pot and simmer on lowest heat for 25 - 30 minutes or until chicken pieces are cooked through. The thickest piece should no longer be pink at the bone. While simmering, stir and turn pieces every 8 minutes or so, to prevent sticking and ensure even cooking.

When done, dish out and garnish generously with coriander leaves. Serve with white jasmine or basmati rice, pilau, naan, chapati or your favourite flat bread.


  1. Replies
    1. Hi Jess - great to see you again :) If you smell this, you will salivate even more ;)

  2. this dish looks so gooood and I love how you explained the different directions it could take because after a long day, i enjoy cooking with whatever ingredients I have and this makes a great weeknight dinner :) and leftovers too. And thanks for always having interesting story about ingredients or food. Although I use cilantro in my cooking religiously, did not know the difference between cilantro and coriander :) Happy 2013

    1. Hi Dixya, thank you for the kind words :) I like versatile recipes too, I think anyone who doesn't seem to have enough hours in the day, would appreciate recipes that can go a few ways!

      I hope you have a great 2013 too.

  3. Howdy Darling! What a great start for the year 2013. I'm still trying to squeeze out some time for my blog. Hopefully, 2013 to be a better one & looking forward to more deliciousness around the blogosphere. Happy 2013 !((hugs))
    Best wishes, Kristy

    1. Hello Sayang! I think this will be a good year for us both ;) You must continue blogging no matter what, so we can continue to get your marvellously creative recipes! I'm still dreaming of stollen - and your recipe is much more manageable than the huge traditional ones!!

      Happy 2013 to you too my dear - may we meet some day soon!

  4. I can imagine how spicy but flavorful is this chicken! Yummy!

    1. Hi Medeja, this is indeed flavourful, and mildly spicy. My family and I enjoyed it very much with both jasmine rice and a basmati pilaf :)

  5. I can see why your boy had seconds. This chicken dish looks so good. And all the spicy flavors... Yum!

  6. Thanks Hyosun - always a treat to see you :) Hope the New Year will be a very good one for you!

  7. You had me laughing in the first paragraph. Wasn't sure where you were going with the sunshine and rose petal only to read that you stepped on a thumb tack...ouch and haha! I hope you were wearing shoes! As for your eldest boy, Ro-Ri San will surely say he has an iron tummy...haha! I do love the looks of your curry though and would eat it and probably ask for seconds. BTW, I love cilantro. ;)

  8. Thanks for linking this in to Food on Friday. Have a great week.

  9. Just did this recipe, but substituted the chicken with pork and potatoes. It was absolutely fantastic. My husband can't get enough.Thank you for sharing.


Please leave a name with your comment. I may not be able to respond to every comment but every recipe related question will be answered.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...