Let’s face it. Most of the time when it comes to cooking, effort yields reward. A little technique, a couple extra steps, and you have the difference between pudding and Crème brûlée.
But sometimes, you’ll find these magical, victorious recipes. I call them low-effort, high-reward recipes.
These are the recipes we turn to when we’re tired and hungry (possibly even hangry). These recipes are for light days, healthy days. For regular days, and frantic days.
This curry is one of those recipes.
I make it on those nights when even chopping an onion is too much work, when 30 minutes seem too long to spend in the kitchen, or when I miss Thailand.
A Taste of Thailand
A year ago at this time, I found myself in a small village outside the misty city of Chiang Mai.
We were taking a cooking class, one that immersed us in the process of Thai cooking.
At the market, we witnessed steel machines churn out fresh coconut milk, which locals carried home in knotted plastic bags. We selected the right kind of rice and chilies and then cooked one dish after another in the open air outside our teacher’s home.
A rice field surrounded the eating area, and I could see nothing but green land and trees, smell nothing but fresh air with a hint of lemongrass and sweet tamarind.
We practically inhaled the full course meal. We couldn’t believe we’d made it all with our own hands – the relentlessly spicy yet irresistible papaya salad, Tom Kha Gai almost literally bursting with flavor, and Pad Thai that revealed how Pad Thai should have tasted all along.
As I mourned over my last bite of mango sticky rice, watching the sunset, I felt joy. Also, a liiittle stress because my then-8-month old was getting impatient. But mostly, it was pure joy.
Now that I’ve reveled in memories of Thailand, here are a couple things I learned relating to this curry:
- Many Thai dishes come together within minutes. The flavors are basically dependent on how fresh and wholesome the ingredients are.
- Speaking of wholesome ingredients, since we can’t get our hands on freshly extracted bagged coconut milk, try to use high-quality canned coconut milk. The fewer ingredients listed on the can, the better.
I learned that if the freshest of ingredients are used, we can make a curry that is incredibly quick and easy, yet flavorful and healthy.
I included an optional step to marinate the chicken in baking soda prior to cooking it, the one I used in my Cashew Chicken recipe. It gives the chicken a silky, smooth texture.
I serve it with white rice (cooked in a rice cooker to keep up with the low effort/high reward theme).
P.S. If you want another Pakistani-inspired coconut chicken curry, or want to work a little harder to make your dinner, try my Spicy Coconut Chicken Curry with Vegetables.
20 Minute Coconut Lime Chicken Curry
This 20-minute curry is incredibly quick and easy, yet flavorful and healthy.
To Marinate (Optional)
- 1 tsp baking soda
For the Curry
- 2 tbsp regular or refined coconut oil
- 1 green chili pepper slit in half and deseeded
- 2-3 cloves garlic crushed
- ½ inch piece ginger crushed
- 1 chicken breast or tenders about 400 grams, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- scant 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/8 tsp black pepper powder
- generous pinch red chili powder or cayenne
- 1 13.5-14 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
- salt to taste (be on the generous side)
- Zest of 1 medium lime
- Juice of 1 medium lime or more to taste
- 2 tbsp cilantro chopped
(Optional Step) Place the chicken in a strainer or colander and sprinkle it with baking soda. Mix well and let this mixture marinate for about 20 minutes. Rinse the chicken thoroughly, ensuring it's completely free of any baking soda. Set aside.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the slit green chili pepper and sauté for about a minute. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté until the raw smell disappears, or about 20-30 seconds.
Raise the heat to medium-high and add the chicken, spices and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until it is half cooked or begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the coconut milk and let it come to a simmer. Cover and let this cook for about 5 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Turn off the heat and add the lime zest and juice. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve over white or brown rice. Enjoy!