So, I have a dear friend here in my little town. Sujoo. I love her guts very much and not just because she makes some of the most killer Indian food I’ve ever eaten in my life. I can’t count the number of times I picked my kids up from school last year and she’d rush over to my car with a container of food she had made that day. Fresh paneer. Spicy Khara bread. Creamy dips. Spiced potato dumpling/fritters. Gulab jamun. Palak paneer. And on and on. I’m powerless to resist Sujoo’s food and even more powerless to share with my family. Indian food hoarder. That’s me.
Well, this one day, I’m at Sujoo’s house learning her method for making ghee (clarified butter) and she asks me what my favorite kind of Indian food is and I start gushing: “oh my gosh, I just love curry, it’s my favorite Indian food everrrr.” Sujoo, too nice to tell me I was being a nincompoop, politely informs me that in India, there is no such thing as curry (the spice that we all keep in our spice cabinets). Instead, curry refers to a gravy or sauce not a flavor or spice. Thankfully this embarrassing experience was months and months ago, but did you know that? Am I late to the curry party? Do I need to get out more? I think I may have heard that important fact once upon a time but clearly forgot it (won’t happen again). I kind of lose my rational mind when it comes to curry.
My point? Well, this delicious curry in a hurry is probably not something my friend Sujoo would ever make since it doesn’t scream traditional Indian cuisine, but if you love the flavors of curry and want it quickly, this will definitely fit the bill. It’s simple. It’s lightened up. It’s really flavorful and super yummy. I’ll keep begging authentic Indian food from sweet Sujoo; but on my own, I’ll be making this dish over and over. It’s a perfect weeknight meal and a complete family pleaser (read: no complaining).
Truthfully, it’s so easy, I could pass off the dinner-making responsibilities to a few of my older kids while I lounge on the couch eating dark chocolate covered dried cranberries (modern day equivalent of bonbons) and watching Steel Magnolias, but that would make it much harder for me to snitch a piece or two of the tender chicken smothered in that fabulous curry sauce. And that just isn’t acceptable.
Fresh ginger is really fantastic in this recipe - if you've never used it or don't know this great tip: buy a knob of ginger, cut it into 1-inch pieces (no need to peel), and freeze it. When you need it in a recipe, take a chunk out of the freezer and grate it on a rasp grater or the small holes of a box grater. Super easy!
Curry powders vary greatly in flavor and spiciness so make sure you use a curry powder you like. My very favorite curry powder is the Sweet Curry Powder from Penzey's. I use it almost exclusively whenever curry powder is called for. You can also substitute curry paste for the powder but start with less (about 1 teaspoon) and add more if you need it.
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger (see note)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
- 2 teaspoons curry powder (see note)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 can (13.6 ounce) lite coconut milk
- 1/2 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional)
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- Hot, cooked rice or quinoa for serving
- In a large, 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until hot. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds, until it starts to smell fragrant.
- Sprinkle in the curry powder, coriander and cumin. Cook for another 30 seconds, stirring to prevent burning.
- Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes (it doesn't need to be cooked all the way through quite yet).
- Stir in the coconut milk, brown sugar, fish sauce, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
- If you would like the sauce a bit thicker, whisk together the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl. Once combined, stir the mixture into the simmering curry. Simmer, stirring constantly, for a minute or so until the sauce thickens a bit.
- Stir in the cilantro. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Serve the curry over hot, cooked rice, quinoa or whatever else you might like (or it can be served on its own).
Recipe Source: adapted slightly from a recipe a lovely reader, Robin. A, sent me (it was a Weight Watchers recipe she tried and passed along) – I decreased the sugar and fish sauce, added cilantro, used curry powder instead of paste, added chicken