Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Grub at Home: Chicken Masala Curry

Well, I've finished writing about my trip, and Grub Club is disbanded for the summer (until I get paid again, actually).  The question of what I'm going to write about til then is one that I've given some thought to over the last week as I've been shuffling around my apartment, bored (no money and no friends is not a good combination).  Finally, I decided that I should do some cooking posts.  See, I hate cooking for myself.  It's fun to cook for others - it means there is a purpose behind all the toil - but if I don't have money to go to a restaurant, most of the time I just cook pasta, because it is pretty much the simplest thing in the world to cook for one person.  While I HAVE eaten pasta for a month straight (when I was an indigent immigrant the 6 weeks before we first got paid in RAK), I'd rather shake it up a little, and writing about it here gives some purpose to the toil.  And it just so happens I have some recipes I am dying to try.
So without further ado, I give you chicken masala curry, as taught to me by the boys in the kitchen at Monumental Paradise.  When there's an inset photo, it shows what it looked like when they cooked this dish.  Today was my first attempt, and it was not bad, but it needs some work.  Here's what you do: start with a little sunflower oil in a pan (I didn't feel like buying more oil when I hardly cook, so I used the olive oil in my cabinet, and I think that was okay).  Throw in some cumin seeds, a bit of cinnamon bark, one crushed cardamom seed, and a bay leaf, and start it heating up.  Julienne-cut a small onion and add it to the oil and spices, and let it caramelize.
While it's doing that, chop up a chicken breast and when the onion is done, add in the chicken and saut√© it.  I cut my chicken much smaller than they did, because I like smaller pieces.  While it's doing that, add 1/2 T garlic/ginger paste.  They pre-made their own.  I took one piece of garlic and an equal-sized piece of ginger and pressed them, and that seemed to work pretty well.
You'll need to julienne a medium tomato for the next step, and a little bit of spicy green chili pepper (I forgot the pepper today).  Add these when the chicken turns a nice golden brown.
While all of the above is simmering, you're going to add about (and this is a very rough approximation...I think I had a bit too much of these spices today because it was definitely a little spice-ish) 1/2t turmeric (that's the orangey one, if you bought all your spices from a guy on the street in Kathmandu and they weren't all labeled), 1/4t dried chili powder (or you can try taco seasoning, if that's the closest you've got...not that I would ever do something like that...), 1/2t cumin powder (which is the brownish colored one and also smells like the cumin seeds you added at the beginning), 1/2t chicken masala, 1/2t meat masala, and 1/4t salt.  Keep lowering the temperature as you add these.
When you get to the end of ALL the above instructions you're going to add some water.  Maybe about a half cup - I put in a whole cup and it had to simmer quite a while to get the right (ish) consistency (like I said, it was a first attempt and it wasn't quite right).  One thing I forgot to do, as you can tell from the finished picture is add cilantro (coriander), in spite of the fact that someone planted a bunch of it down in the school greenhouse while I was gone.  You need to chop up the leaves of about 4 sprigs, and add half of them at the very end of cooking, and the other half as a garnish on top.  It wasn't nearly as painful as I was afraid, although I haven't gotten around to cleaning the dishes just yet.  And speaking of which...

I want to leave you with an idea of what my mother had to deal with, as I was growing up and beginning to cook.  I am not the neatest person when it comes to the kitchen.  At the beginning, everything is nice and neat, but then I start cooking and it's like Pandora opening that damn box.  At the end, there are ingredients scattered everywhere and I've used at least half of my utensils.  Sometimes there's food on the floor - this time I managed to keep my mess on the counter.  I would like to say that now that I'm all growed up and on my own, that I clean everything up right away...but the honest truth is that living alone means there's no one to witness your bad habits.  We will not be speaking of this again...just know that I've never had bugs, so let that suffice as witness that I'm not that bad.  Really.


  1. Welcome back to Mongolia. really interesting stories. So funny. This food look delicious. Did u take a cooking lesson while travelling this summer?

  2. Just cant stop thinking about your chicken masala curry. Do u have a leftover?

  3. Haha, sorry Chinges, I try to make just enough food so I don't have leftovers! Yes, I learned how to make this dish in Nepal. Glad you enjoyed the stories!

  4. Ok. If you want to go to the supermarket to buy a CURRY for your next dinner, dont forget that I can be your taxi for free 24/7. Just want to practice my english.