Since I have been with my boyfriend, who is from Pakistan, I have been introduced to some of the best food in the world. Curries, biryani, parathas, it really doesn’t get any better. The best thing about making your own curry is that there are no rules, whatever spices you like you can add. Another good thing about homemade curry is it is better than the best American comfort food there is.
There isn’t a shortage of good Indian/South Asian restaurants in Shanghai, the only problem is they tend to be on the pricey side. Making a curry at home is relatively inexpensive, and the ingredients can be found at the sparsest of Chinese grocery stores. Today I decided to experiment with one of my favorite spices; turmeric. It gives chicken an awesome flavor, and an even more awesome deep yellow color, but will stain everything it touches so if you’re a messy eater, beware.
The one downside of making a curry at home is it requires a decent amount of chopping. Shanghai apartments are notorious for having little or no counter space (unless you live in a swanky place). To combat this problem, and make a smoother gravy, I bought a cheap blender. It is a good idea to puree the onions and tomatoes so the gravy cooks evenly and is more like a smooth sauce. Curry is great over rice, and I have even eaten it with couscous in a pinch, but my boyfriend is a bread lover, so today we went with some naan from the local Xinjiang restaurant and some parathas you can find frozen in any grocery store chain (thank the lord).
Making your own masala is also a great idea for curry. There are tons of recipes online, and you can add any spice you like, like toasted cumin seeds, cardamon, mustard seeds, cinnamon sticks, and the list goes on. However, if you are pressed for time, or a beginner with South Asian food like me, you can use a pre-made masala. I am lucky enough to have a few packets from Pakistan, and the one I used today has a yellow curry powder base. But again, add anything you like. I like to taste the gravy as it cooks and add whatever spices I feel like, so I will approximate amounts for the recipe!
- 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 large onion
- 2 medium tomatoes
- fresh ginger (per your personal taste)
- 3 or 4 cloves of garlic
- approximately 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 Tbsp yellow curry powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 Tbsp masala mix of your choice (if you don’t have any, add some garam masala)
- salt to taste
- fresh cilantro
- 1 T greek yogurt *optional*
- Cut chicken into bite size pieces, and coat with turmeric and a pinch of salt, set aside.
- Chop onion into very small pieces, or grind in a blender to a paste
- Chop (or grind) ginger and garlic
- Heat 2 T of oil over a medium-low flame, add onions and cook for a few minutes until soft
- Add ginger and garlic and continue to cook until raw smell goes away (if you notice the pan getting a little dry, add oil as needed).
- Add chicken to pan and cook with onions for approx. 5 minutes, you want the onions to basically melt (add oil as needed)
- While the chicken is cooking, puree (or chop) tomatoes
- Add the remaining spices to the chicken and stir for a few more minutes to evenly distribute the spices
- Add tomatoes to the pan, cover and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes until chicken is cooked all way through and gravy begins to thicken
- The longer you simmer, the more tender the chicken will be, so I tend to add a little water and continue to simmer for few more minutes. If you are pressed for time, you can eat whenever the chicken is cooked
- Once the gravy has reached the desired thickness, turn off the flame. Add a spoonful of the gravy to a bowl with the yogurt and mix it to temper the yogurt. You don’t want it to curdle in the hot gravy.
- Stir in yogurt for an extra creamy gravy, and add as much chopped cilantro as you like.
- Serve with bread or rice, and enjoy!