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South African Chicken Curry

July 30, 2011

Tonight for South African themed, family style dinner, I decided to make chicken curry as an entree. I love getting together with a few of my closest friends for a home-cooked meal. We sit down at the dining table, serve each other, and just enjoy each others’ company. To spice things up and keep it fun, we like to pick themes. For our South African theme, chicken curry is a must-have, staple, and I was happy to make it.

Before tonight, I had actually never made curry before. Not even from a pre-made, bottled curry sauce. I guess I feel like if I’m going to make curry, it better be from scratch. So tonight was my opportunity. Fortunately, everyone loved it and it was a huge success! We ate it with yellow rice and roti from Pam’s Kitchen in Seattle.

I used the South African chicken curry recipe from as a guide to get me started, but ended up modifying it a bit to meet my tastes. I have realized that I’m not one of those people who follows recipes to the T (at least with cooking; baking is a different story) and I like to season my dishes to taste. Thus, I never measure out my spices. I kind of just eyeball everything, using my nose and sense of smell to guide me initially, then my taste buds to guide me as things cook. Sure, I probably won’t ever get the same dish twice, but that’s okay by me. At least I know it will always taste good.

To make this curry dish, I encourage you to follow your nose as well as your tongue to determine the ultimate blend of spices that works for you.


-2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken, cut into cubes

-3 large red potatoes, cut into cubes

-2 cups chicken stock

-1/2 cup milk

-3 cloves garlic, minced

-1 large onion, chopped

-2 tbsp canola oil

-tomato paste (1/2 small can)

-2 bay leaves

-spices, in order of quantity (most to least; I don’t like giving measurements b/c it’s to taste):

approx. 1 tbsp each of curry powder, turmeric, chili powder, 1 tsp each of cumin, red pepper flakes, paprika, ginger, and 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, garlic salt, black pepper, and salt


-cutting board(s) + chef’s knife

-large stock pot

-ladle or spatula


1. Dump your chicken pieces into a large bowl. Dump all the spices (yes, all!) into the bowl of chicken, leaning over it and smelling it as you go. This sounds kind of hokey, I admit, but let your nose guide you! If you’ve had curry before, you should know what “good” smells like. You can adjust the spices later when it cooks. Using your hands or a big spoon, evenly distribute/rub all the spices into the chicken pieces until they are evenly coated. Set aside.

2. Heat your large pot to medium heat. Add a splash of canola oil and heat. Add in your garlic and onions and saute until somewhat translucent and fragrant.

3. Dump your bowl of seasoned chicken into the pot and let brown a little. Use your spatula to scrape the chicken from the bottom of the pot so it doesn’t stick or burn. Add a little water to prevent burning and sticking. Once the chicken browns a little, add two cups of chicken broth, 1/2 cup milk, two bay leaves, and the potatoes.

4. Bring the pot to a boil on high, then immediately turn it down to medium low to simmer. Cover with lid and cook for at least one hour. The longer you cook it on low, the longer the flavors will come together and the stronger it will taste. Also, the more tender the meat will be. This will also allow the sauce to thicken and reduce down by 60 or 70%. If you need to, add a little bit of corn starch (just a tbsp in a bit of cold water, then added to the dish) to thicken the broth. It should be thicker than a stew, about thick enough to spoon over rice. I cooked mine for 3.5 hours! It turned out amazing.

5. Taste test regularly and add more spices as you see fit.

Serve with rice, roti, bread, or whatever you want :).


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