Top News

Cook this: Chicken curry — kukul mas curry — from Milk, Spice and Curry Leaves


Our cookbook of the week is Milk, Spice and Curry Leaves by Ruwanmali Samarakoon-Amunugama. Over the next two days, we’ll feature another recipe from the book and an interview with the author.

To try another recipe from the book, check out: Cashew nut curry (kadju maluwa).

Honed by her mother, kukul mas curry (chicken curry) is on Ruwanmali Samarakoon-Amunugama ’s “top five list of favourite comfort foods.” The inclusion of her family’s roasted curry powder (recipe follows), she highlights, is a necessity.

“That’s really what makes the dish,” says Samarakoon-Amunugama. “Roasting spices is a skill and it’s time-consuming, and it can be difficult to do. But the flavour and aroma is just beautiful.”

Typically used for meat, poultry and some fruit dishes, roasted curry powder — badupa thuna paha kudu — means “roasted three-five” in Sinhala. Cumin, fennel and coriander are considered “the essential three spice seeds,” she explains; additional spices vary by family and generation.

“I love this recipe because it’s very fundamental. In the 1930s, this is the recipe my grandmother used. So it’s a very clean recipe of the three seeds, and then you have cardamom, clove, cinnamon bark and curry leaves. There’s nothing additional added — there’s no mustard seeds or turmeric — that’s something that happened later,” says Samarakoon-Amunugama.

“It’s a very lovely curry powder recipe and the colour of the gravy is very appetizing. It’s something my mom perfected over the years.”

CHICKEN CURRY

Kukul Mas Curry

This recipe can be easily doubled. Simply double all the ingredients, using a mix of drumsticks and thighs, and increase the marinating time to between 2 hours and overnight.

Wash your hands extra thoroughly after you’ve used them to mix in the cayenne and the other spices with the chicken.

1–1 1/4 lb (454-567 g) bone-in chicken thighs (3–4 thighs)
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) paprika
1 heaping tsp (5 mL) roasted curry powder (recipe follows)
1/4 tsp (1 mL) cayenne powder
1/8 tsp (0.5 mL) ground turmeric
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1 1/2–2-inch (4-5-cm) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped small red onion, divided
4 curry leaves, ripped into small pieces
1-inch (2.5-cm)-wide piece of pandanus leaf, fresh or frozen
1 tsp (5 mL) fine sea salt
1 small lime wedge (yielding about 1 tsp/5 mL juice)
2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped Roma tomato
1 green (Thai) chili, cut in half
1/2 cup (125 mL) coconut milk mixed with 1/4 cup (50 mL) water

Step 1

Skin and wash the chicken, and trim off the fat. Pat dry with paper towels. Cut the chicken thighs (along the bone) into two or three pieces.

Step 2

In a large bowl, place the chicken, paprika, curry powder, cayenne, turmeric, pepper, garlic, ginger, half the onion, curry leaves, pandanus leaf and salt. Squeeze the lime wedge over top and combine the ingredients with your hands.

Step 3

Cover and let marinate for 15 minutes at room temperature or 30 minutes in the fridge. (Let the chicken return to room temperature before cooking if you marinate it in the fridge.)

Step 4

In a large pot, heat the oil over high heat. Add first the remaining onion. Fry until the onion is turning golden brown and then add the chili to temper. Add the tomato and sauté, stirring, until the tomato has softened, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Step 5

Add the chicken mixture, stir, cover, turn the heat down to medium and let cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken releases its natural juices, approximately 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk mixed with water to the chicken. The coconut milk will reach a rapid simmer almost as soon as it is added. Turn the heat down to low, cover and continue cooking on a slow simmer for 1 hour. Check and stir periodically to see if more coconut milk or water are required. If so, add 2 tbsp (30 mL) of either at a time.

Step 6

Turn off the heat and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Remove the pandanus leaf before serving.

Serves: 4–6

Note: Keep a slow simmer to bring out the flavours of the spices and make the chicken soft and tender.

ROASTED CURRY POWDER

Badupa Thuna Paha Kudu

1–1 1/2 tbsp (15-22 mL) parboiled rice
1/2 cup (125 mL) cumin seeds
1/4 cup (50 mL) fennel seeds
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) coriander seeds
3/4 tsp (3 mL) green cardamoms (10 pods; use seeds only)
3/4 tsp (3 mL) whole cloves (20)
2-inch (5-cm) Ceylon cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
20 fresh curry leaves (1 1/2 sprigs)

Step 1

Set a dry (not oiled) frying pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the rice. Watching the rice closely, heat it until the grains begin to pop. Shake the pan to help the grains roast evenly and to quicken the popping.

Step 2

When the grains are evenly roasted and browned, pour them onto a plate or into a bowl and set aside to cool.

Step 3

In the same pan (no need to clean it) over medium to medium-low heat, dry-roast separately the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cardamom seeds, cloves and cinnamon pieces until a deep aroma is released and the spices are dark brown (but not burnt!). Shake the pan to roast the spices; you may also use a wooden spoon to stir continuously in the pan. As you brown each ingredient, pour them into a bowl and set aside.

Step 4

In the same pan, dry-roast the curry leaves until crisped and browned. Add them to the bowl along with the roasted white rice.

Step 5

Stir to combine all the roasted spices and spoon mixture into a spice or coffee grinder. (This may have to be done in batches.) Grind to a fine powder.

Step 6

Spoon the roasted curry powder into an airtight jar or container and store in a cool, dark space for up to 2 to 4 months.

Makes: about 2 cups (500 mL)

Recipes by Ruwanmali Samarakoon-Amunugama, from Milk, Spice and Curry Leaves , copyright © 2020 by Ruwanmali Samarakoon-Amunugama. Reprinted with permission of TouchWood Editions.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

Did this story inform or enhance your perspective on this subject?
1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

Recent Stories