Now anyone can make the mysterious and intriguing Indian curry…or at least approximate Indian taste in their food! I love curry and for the many years I lived in Mombasa, Kenya my lunchtime Mecca was Singhs Restaurant where they made the awesomest curry in the whole world! Their rice, roti, parotha, naan that you used to clean your serving of curry chicken, beef, fish, ndengu and other veggies was so delisioso! You ate with your fingers and that experience is the only one that explains what finger-licking -good really means!
The thought of cooking curry is already so daunting when you think of the recipes that are a foot long with ingredients with names like garam masala, coriander, tumeric, dhania…You give up and just decide to walk into a restaurant where they slog over the hot stove and have it ready for you! Eating out at an Indian restaurant is also not the easiest and especially when you have no idea what will appear before you when you scan the menu and say..”I want number 3…and 7…and also 10…with rice”…The rice you can say because it might be the only thing that looks / sounds familiar…and the others you say the numbers because they have names like Korma, Vindaloo, Channa Bateta…! The picture beside the number doesn’t help either because it just looks like a mish mash of deliciousness that you want in your mouth instantly!
Never mind that we all have this idea that Indian food is all so hot! A friend who I once invited to come with me to an Indian restaurant recoiled at the thought and said…”Wah! You want us to go eat at that place where they cook hot jalapeno…and then add some chicken and veggies to it and call it chicken curry?”…Hahaha! I told her, and which so many people do not know, that you can now specify how hot you want your curry…from very hot to none! Yes none! That is not to say that my initial mosey into an Indian restaurant was easy. In the days I lived in Mombasa, eating at an Indian restaurant if you were not an Indian, and an upmarket restaurant at that, was considered sorta snooty! The waiters were predominantly miro and being Mombasites, they kind of frowned on fellow miros who walked in and expected them to wait in them like they did the authentic customers…or owners of the food if you like!
So me and this other friend boldly walk into a nice Indian restaurant that was owned by a friend. We ventured there at his coaxing. The establishments was new but he was a known hotelier so there was no doubt that this was going to be a super duper experience. More super hot as we would soon find out. We settled into our seats and began to read the menu…uh-oh!…whats that? Eventually we call a waiter and ask for help in deciphering what is in this… and that…and we eventually order. The food comes…piping hot and the scent is mmmmm!…enticing. We dig in and…Okay! Wait a minute…Where is the hotness? My friend who is now feeling cheated of his hotness experience (what will he tell people if not describe how hot the food is…the cliche!) calls the waiter and says…”This is…not hot enough! I mean…where’s the chili hotness?” The waiter gives us that sidelong look and asks…”You want hot eh?”…we were like “Mmmmhmm!”…nodding in unison with that James bond look that said to him…”We know curry and it is supposed to be hot…You trying to cheat us out of hotness?…This is a conspiracy…Just because we are not Indian..Nkt!” He picked up our plates with a swish and disappeared beyond those mystery swing doors that lead into curry nirvana…the kitchen…after kicking it open! The doors swung open again and before we could say “Undher Pradesh” (I am sure I massacred that!)…the waiter was back with our food…Whoooaaa!…This time we could smell the hot! Cut a long story short…It was uber-hot! And we drank more water than the food we ate! But not to be outdone, I quickly asked for a doggie bag and carried the “remains” home which I later re-engineered by adding water and sour cream to smaller portions and “interred” in front of the TV and with a big jug of water beside me!
Well, It’s curry night at the Osaaks! Chicken in tika sauce and finished with a mixed pickle of mango and lime, dhania (cilantro) and diced tomatoes and sour cream. Served with boiled rice in coconut milk, Indian Naan chapatis and cut green string beans for veggies. It is one that I actually just made up as I went along. I normally decide how I am going to make a meal while shopping. Like in this case I decided on chicken curry when I stumbled on Tika sauce and the mixed pickle in the organic food aisle at the new Kroger. I regularly keep the sour cream and coconut milk in a can at home just to give rice and sauces a different taste. It’s simple though and absolutely gives a very good imitation of Indian curry…sans the hotness if it scares you! The tika mix I found has all the necessary spices already mixed in a paste that you just add to any pre-fried or boiled beef, chicken, fish or veggies…and actually has no hotness (check label) so you can decide to add hot peppers to your taste.
I shared this with my family on FaceBook and my nieces and nephews who thinks I am the Barefoot Contessa actually tried it and loved it. I have skipped the standard version of recipes and went straight to the cooking…take time and dig out the ingredients. Again its simple, cheap and quick to make so you will not be slogging over a hot stove for long. It will be worth the effort. Let me know!
Fry Four chicken thighs (or part of chicken you like!) over medium heat in a little oil in sufuria / cooking pot for say 20 minutes…or until browned. Cover and lower heat for another 10 minutes and allow to steam. Add half cup onions and sliced carrots; stir and lower heat slightly and let onions sweat and carrots to cook another 10 mins. Add 1 large diced juicy tomato, knorr cube, salt to taste, stir. After 5 mins add tika sauce and mixed pickle and sour cream, tomato paste, stir. Turn off heat and add dhania (cilantro) and some diced red tomato Serve with rice first boiled in water and salt. Add coconut milk at the tail end of rice cooking and lower heat to let rice dry. You might get naan chapati / bread at the store or you can make the ordinary chapati which would also do very well. You know me I am quite hopeless at chapati and Jungle Jim’s, an International food store saved my day when I discovered their Indian section that has naan which you just zap for 30 secs and they are as good as new! Try it and tell me how that goes! Or just leave a comment below…or tell me how you have taken other indigenous recipes and found ways of making it easy to make!
©njeriOsaak is a trained journalist, a Public Relations professional and a College Speech Communication teacher, currently based in the United States.