Monday, March 11, 2013

Guyanese Chicken Curry



Stemming from the Indian influences on Guyanese cuisine, curry has become a fundamental dish in our food culture.  Chicken curry in particular is such a staple in a (meat-eating) Guyanese home that you would think it was the national dish of the country.  This delicious finger-licking stew is generally made by simmering some type of meat in a curry powder-garam masala mixture until some of the liquid has reduced, leaving a thick broth.  It is typically enjoyed hot, and paired with roti or rice.  You can be sure if you attend a party, shower, BBQ, Christian or Muslim religious function, or just a hangout at a West Indian person's home, you will most likely find curry on the menu.
Every Guyanese person has that one auntie or uncle in their family who makes "the best" curry and in my family, it's my mother and my cousin Shammie.  Mom's curry always had the perfect balance of spice and flavor.  It was never watery and always boiled down to the right amount of gravy.  It was the type of curry that made you lick your fingers after you were done eating, even if you used a fork. She frequently paired her chicken curry with dhal and rice or homemade dhal puri, both of which were enjoyable for me.  Mom's curry turned me into what many West Indians call a "curry mouth"- someone who loves curry for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  I have come to accept this description of my curry eating habits, because I believe it to be true! :)

So what makes a good curry for me?
  1. The gravy must be thick, not watery. 
  2. It must contain the right amount of salt. 
  3. It must have a spice balance- good ratio of masala to curry powder. 
  4. The chicken must have color (not white and washed-out looking).
  5. The curry must not be overwhelmed with too many unnecessary herbs and spices. 
  6. The masala and curry powder spices must be fresh and great quality.  It makes all the difference.
How do I like to enjoy my curry?
I enjoy curry right off the fire, while it is still hot.  If I am having it with rice, I prefer it without dhal-I really like to taste the curry.  I wait until I have eaten all of the rice to enjoy the meat on its own and my favorite piece is the neck.  Oh! And how could I forget- there always needs to be a sprinkle of pepper sauce on my plate! This is what I call my comfort food. How do you like to enjoy your curry?  


That's my mom's dhal puri, that's good stuff right there.




Make the Seasoning

In a blender combine one medium onion, one head of garlic, leaves of a few sprigs of thyme, and desired amount of wiri wiri or scotch bonnet peppers. 


Add enough water to blend into a smoothie type texture.  You should need be about 1/4 cup water.


You will have extra seasoning left over.  Store in an air-tight container and use to season meats, soups, rice etc. 


Clean chicken. See notes section for more details on how to clean meat. 


Add 2 heaping tablespoons of seasoning, massage into meat. Let it rest for 1/2 hour minimum. 


In a bowl, mix seasoning, masala, curry powder, and geera, form into a paste.  My mom makes her own masala mixture, but see below for a recommendation of brands you can buy at a West Indian grocery store. 

Add 1/3 cup of water and mix into a thick paste.


Add 6 tbsp oil to a cast iron pot, add masala mixture and fry 2-3 minutes until paste darkens and dries slightly. Be sure not to burn the paste, turn frequently while frying. 


Add chicken to pot and stir to coat with masala-curry powder mixture. Cover pot and let chicken cook for 15-20 minutes on medium heat stirring every once in a while.  Remove lid and allow water from chicken to evaporate.  

Chicken will then start to look "dry" after 15-20min.  It will look like the spice paste is seared onto the meat- this is known as bunjaling/bunjaying.  Add salt and more hot pepper if desired. Turn to incorporate.

Once chicken has bunjayed, add 3 cups boiling water, tomato paste, chopped potatoes, and two cloves (not pictured). Stir and cover pot to allow potatoes to cook. Curry is done when liquid reduces by 1/3 and gravy looks thick. 

Chicken Curry 
Serves 4-6

Ingredients 

Seasoning
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 head of garlic cloves, peeled
  • leaves of a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • desired amount of wiri wiri pepper or scotch bonnet pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
Curry
  • 4 lbs chicken, cut into 3 inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp seasoning (for chicken)
  • 4 tbsp seasoning (for masala-curry powder mixture)
  • 4 tbsp garam masala
  • 3 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground geera (cumin)
  • 1/3 cup boiilng water 
  • 6 tbsp oil, canola or vegetable
  • 2 tsp salt (or salt to taste)
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves, (not pictured)
Directions:
  1. In a blender, combine medium onion, head of garlic, thyme leaves, pepper, and 1/4 cup water. Blend until smooth and thick like a smoothie. 
  2. Wash and clean chicken (see below). Remove fat, chop into 3-inch pieces. Pat dry with paper towel, set aside.
  3. Add 2 tbsp seasoning to chicken.  Massage into meat, let it rest for 1/2 hour minimum. 
  4. In a bowl, mix 5 heaping tbsp seasoning, masala, curry powder, geera, and 1/3 cup water into a paste.  
  5. Heat a cast iron pot with  6 tbsp oil.  Add masala-curry powder paste and fry for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly until mixture looks darker and not watery . 
  6. Add chicken to pot and stir to coat with masala-curry powder mixture.  
  7. Cover pot and let chicken cook for 15-20 minutes on medium heat stirring every once in a while.  Remove lid and allow water from chicken to evaporate.  Chicken will then start to look "dry." Add salt and stir.
  8. Add boiling water, tomato paste, and chopped potatoes, cover with lid.  
  9. Let curry boil on medium-high heat until gravy has reduced by one-third and thickens to your desire. 


Notes

  • Make sure chicken has bunjayed (meat has been seared with the masala and looks dry) well before adding the boiling water.  If water is added too soon, it will wash the masala off the chicken and you will end up with a watery curry.
  • Pat meat dry before adding seasoning. The meat will absorb the seasoning better.
  • Brands- these are the brands my mom has used in the past and yields a great taste:

How to clean meat
When my mom would buy chicken from the halal meat store in Queens, they would roast the skin of the chicken and chop it up in curry/stew size pieces.  Roasting the chicken skin gave it another layer of flavor when cooked.  When she brought the chicken home, she would "clean" it with a little bit of flour, sugar, vinegar or lime, and water.  She'd let it sit for 1/2 hr to 45 minutes then rinse it off piece by piece then pat it dry.  This method of "cleaning" the meat is a way to remove any slime, rank smell, or taste that the chicken might have.  This is the way we always cleaned meat, but feel free to use your own way.



25 comments:

  1. OMG!!!! I'm getting so hungry looking at it!!! Yummy.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm salivating just looking at this. Can't wait to try it out.

    ReplyDelete
  3. We cook curry the same exact way! Great tutorial for those interested in learning. Thanks for sharing :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am a non Guyanese girl, married to a Guyanese guy for 13 years. I love to cook, and I have always tried to cook dishes from Guyana for my husband as I know he enjoys them more than any other food. So I have been cooking him chicken curry from day 1 as it was one of the easiest Guyanese dishes to learn how to make. And most times (at least I thought) it tasted pretty good! So after seeing this recipe of yours I thought, let me try this method of seasoning the chicken before hand and also adding tomato paste at the end. Alica, I must tell you…the curry came out amazing! My husband couldn’t get enough of it and raved and raved about how it tasted! Now my husband isn’t usually the type of guy who talks much about his meals, but just eat it. So as you can imagine, I was thrilled!
    So thank you so much for this site! There is actually hardly or NO web sites OR cookbooks for Guyanese recipes, this site is amazing! I can tell that it must involve a lot work to do what you are doing….so hats off to you girl! Keep up the good work! I think you should publish a cook book of your own! All the very best in all your future endeavours and I look forward to enjoying many more delicious recipes on this site!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sumali,

      That is wonderful that you cook your husband's cuisine and still learning new dishes. I, myself still have much to learn on how to cook certain Trinidadian dishes for my husband (since that's where he is from) so I know how you feel when you make something of his cuisine that he loves! I'm glad he enjoyed it. It does take a lot of time to cook the food, take photos, edit the photos, write a little entry, and put it all together. This is my hobby and I love doing it. As for a cookbook, I'm not sure yet, but who knows! Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a message!

      Delete
  5. I am so excited my cousin told me about your blog! I can't wait to try out your recipes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kiesh,

      Welcome! I hope you enjoy the recipes and the site, thanks for stopping by :)

      Delete
  6. I agree with all of the comments about you writing a book, your recipe and photos are amazing. I live in the U.K and only stumbled across your site as I was trying to find a recipe for roti for my Jamaican friend. I can cook it but have never measured any of my ingredients, I was born in Guyana and travel there often as I have a charity there. I am so pleased to have found your site and just wanted to thank you and encourage you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Debra,

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I know exactly what you mean about cooking and not measuring. Our parents just never measured anything, just the way they did things. Hopefully one day we can see a book out of this, who knows what the future holds :). Thanks for stopping by, if you ever have any questions, please let me know!

      Delete
  7. Thanks so much for posting this. I'm in university now and just attempted mom's chicken curry. This was a great guide to follow :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sarah,
      That's wonderful! Hope you enjoyed it :). Thanks for stopping by the blog!

      Delete
  8. Hi Alica:) Thank you for sharing this awesome yummy yummy for my tummy curry chicken recipe:) My mom also makes an awesome curry chicken and its just not the same when I try other's but your mom's recipe is just like my mom's and she uses the same brands that your mom recommended:). It is like 10am in Toronto right now and I came across your recipe and my mouth is just watering like no tomorrow thinking of making this today for supper(LOL). I was born in Guyana but moved to Toronto,Canada when I was 5 years old and I am 37 now but honestly I never get tired of mom's Guyanese cooking because we were so blessed to have both her Indian and Chinese culture cooking growing up as my grandpa's family was from India and my grandma's family from China so mom being mixed was taught to cook all the yummy goodness recipe's being born and raised in Guyana her self where her family out of 13 kids grew there own veggies and chicken as my grandparents had a big property with loads of mango,coconut,cherry,
    ginip and so many other fruits trees (not sure if this is how you spell it) that I can still taste and remember. I love your site and sharing your recipe's and as everyone suggested your book will be amazing when you get around to writing it:). All the best to you always and do not ever give up your passion and dream if it is writing the book cause sometimes you are closer to making that reality happen that you know:)Divine blessings always and thanks again Claire :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I must say of all the sites i visited your site is the most detailed.Thank you(using your recipes as my guide-Learner in the kitchen)and great job :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. My husband loves Guyanese chicken curry. I'm attempting to make this now, but somehow it is very watery..and I haven't even added any water yet, apart from what was in the onion mixture(not very much). Did all of this water come from the chicken? And now I'm afraid that the meat will be dry on the inside. I'm using chicken breasts. I don't know what to do and the chicken already looks about done. He's not going to trust me making this ever again. Is there anything that I can do?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there,

      To answer your questions- yes the water in the beginning comes from the chicken and the water in the seasoning. During this step you must let all this water evaporate, do not close the lid. Leave it open for the water to evaporate so the spices can dry/sear onto the meat and keep it on med-high heat. Depending on how much chicken you add, you have to adjust how much water you add later on. If you are using only chicken breasts you'd have to reduce the water you add. How many pounds of chicken breast did you use?

      Delete
  11. Hi Alica,

    Your recipes and the setup of your site has got to be the best that I have seen. Your instructions are wonderfully clear. Your pictures are awesome and so helpful, and your recipes sound so authentic. I can't wait to try your curry recipe. I can't thank you enough for sharing this knowledge. I love, love, love indian and west indian food, especially curry! I am half American and half Jamaican with relatives that are all over the Caribbean spectrum, but I did not have the privilege of learning how to cook West Indian style. Still, I was born with an island palate, though I've never been to Jamaica and was raised on Southern cuisine. Now I don't feel stuck in a mystery about
    how to cook a food that I love so much. Thank you so much.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Alica,
    Thank you so much for this wonderful post; I learned so much!. I grew up in the Caribbean, Belize to be precise and love all the food from that part of the world. I moved to the US as a teenager and lost touch with all the multicultural Caribbean foods of my youth. Fast forward several years and I a married to an Englishman. Because of the huge Indian influence in UK food and culture, I reconnected with Indian food. I always make East Indian curries but now that I work with a Guyanese lady, she challenged me to make a curry West Indian style. We usually share our curries at lunchtime so I will be keen to see what she thinks of my first attempt. I must say, the seasoning mix is fantastic! It's so much easier to whizz it all together instead of mincing and chopping. I can use it for so many other dishes as well. I'm going to put it in my dal and see how it turns out. I will make all my curries this way now! Another thing I learned about from your post is washing the chicken. All the Caribbean and Hispanic people I talk to do it this way and am mortified when I say I don't do it. Well, after doing it for this dish.....I will be doing it with all meats going forward. The stuff that came off was yucky
    So again thank you for all the hard work and knowledge that goes into this site. I learned so much. :)

    Mary

    ReplyDelete
  13. Bookmarking your site. Another Guyanese-American chick! Thanks!!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Love this recipe! LOVE IT! I've made it a handful of times already and always get the best feedback from my husband. Thank you for taking the time to share this recipe.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Tried this recipe and its amazing thank you sooo much

    ReplyDelete
  16. Alicia, I LOVE your recipes! Now, my son says our house smells yummy like Ammas house! I am so happy I found you .... stay with all of us we love that you share your talent with us!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Alicia, I have a lot of Guyanese friends and have even traveled to Guyana. I love the food!!!! I asked them to teach me how to make Guyanese curry, but I could never make it like they do and gave up a while ago. I tried your recipe tonight and it came out fantastic! Your pictures guiding us through the steps was extremely helpful. A special thanks for explaining "bunjaying": That was the trick that I had never gotten. I am looking forward to trying your dad's pepperpot recipe next. Thanks again for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lukas,

      Glad I could be of help! That's fantastic that you've even visited Guyana, how exciting! If you ever have any questions about the recipes, feel free to shoot me an email. Thanks for your comments!

      Delete
  18. I must say this is most helpful, much more so than my b/f's mother, sweet as she is, didn't get into specifics of how she makes her amazing curries. His family is also from Guyana and dinner time at his house is like a religion in and of itself. Being a very-very new cook to the kitchen, I hope to be able to not only prepare dishes for myself, but for him and friends alike. Did I mention I'm totally addicted to her curry dishes? Lol! So this definitely helps a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hey Alicia,
    Whenever I cook curries my curry ratio is always off, and my curry comes out looking too dark or too light, but it taste fine at time. Do you have any tips to how much curry, masala and geera is needed depending on the type of curry? Also, my mom uses turmeric/dai in her curry, is it necessary to use that, I've seen that you didn't I corperate it.

    ReplyDelete