When many of my American friends think of Pakistani food, the first dish they mention is curry.
Though we do eat curry, coconut milk is not an ingredient traditionally used in our dishes.
It was through the discovery of Thai food that coconut milk was also discovered; now people like me stay up at night wondering how it would taste if fused with authentic Pakistani flavors.
I’ve noticed there are countless recipes for coconut chicken curry, and I’ve tried several of them, but they didn’t turn out as flavorful as I’d hoped. I did my best to infuse this dish with the depth of flavors that is inherent in Pakistani cuisine.
As an added bonus, this dish is nutritious.
- It uses coconut oil, which is a natural saturated fat.
- Coconut milk and yogurt give creaminess without leaving you feeling bloated. To avoid the thickeners and additives in canned coconut milk, it’s even better if you can find the carton, refrigerated version of thick coconut milk.
- Garlic is known for it’s antibiotic and immune enhancing properties while ginger has warming and detoxifying benefits.
- Cinnamon, turmeric and other beneficial spices are used to give flavor; each has their own medicinal and healing properties.
- It’s a vegetable-based meal. Plus, you can leave out the chicken and substitute with other vegetables such as carrots and snow peas for a vegetarian version of the dish.
Spicy Coconut Chicken and Vegetable Curry
- 2 boneless chicken breasts or thighs cut into cubes
- 3 tbsp refined coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 small cinnamon sticks
- 2 cardamom pods
- 1 medium onion sliced
- 5-6 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 inch piece of ginger crushed
- 1 green chili pepper slit or chopped (for more heat)
- 2 small tomatoes chopped
- 2 tsp tomato paste optional
- 1 small potato peeled and cubed, then placed in a bowl of water to prevent oxidation/browning
- 1 small green bell pepper cubed
- 1 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 - 1 tsp red chilli flakes depending on how spicy you'd like it
- 1/4 cup yogurt
- 1 14- oz can good quality full fat coconut milk
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves chopped
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice optional
Heat refined coconut oil in a large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the whole cumin seeds, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks. Let these spices splutter and immediately add the onions. Sauté until lightly browned.
Add the garlic and ginger and cook until the raw smell disappears. Add the slit green chili, tomatoes and tomato paste and sauté until the tomatoes become soft. Then add a bit of water (to ensure the spices don't get burned), followed by the spice powders (turmeric, coriander, red chili flakes, cumin and black pepper) and salt. Add the potato and green bell pepper (if using) and continue to sauté until soft.
Increase the heat to high, add the chicken and stir-fry for about 5 minutes or until the chicken changes color. Add the coconut milk and yogurt, stir and let this mixture simmer on low-medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and vegetables are cooked through. Be sure not to overcook the chicken.
Turn off the heat and remove the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods, if desired.
Add chopped cilantro and lemon juice, if using. Taste and adjust seasoning as required.
Serve with rice, roti or naan. Enjoy!