• Payal Maharaj

Mum's Famous Chicken Curry

Updated: May 1


One of the memories I have of growing up in Fiji was my mum's eldest sister visiting us some weekends. She is a lovely and classy lady much like the rest of my mum's sisters of which there are four. All lovely ladies and all excellent cooks in their own right. I always find it amazing that five sisters learned to cook from the same mother, my Nani, but all make dishes slightly differently from each other. I love my mum's food the most of course!

Anyways, whenever my aunt visited my mum would make her classic chicken curry with Mum's classic dhal, rice, a basic uncooked tomato chutney (sort of like a pico de gallo) and roti of course. That combination of flavors is the most delicious combination on earth! Try it and you will see! I used to love it when my aunt came to visit because that meant we would have my mum's special chicken curry! In CA, if there is some sort of potluck event, this is the dish my mum makes and it is a must-have for family dinner parties at our house or for when an unexpected guest stops by. Very famous!


We typically make this dish with bone-in chicken pieces but this recipe is for boneless chicken thighs. Much more convenient. Once you have your chicken thigh pieces thawed and cubed, make sure it is thoroughly washed and left to drain in a colander over another bowl or in the sink. Wash your hands thoroughly afterwards!

In the meantime, you can start your pot. Turn on flame to medium heat, add oil and let it heat up. Once oil is hot, add your mustard seeds, cumin and curry leaves if you are using them. The seeds will sputter. Add diced onions and when edges start to brown, add garlic, ginger and chilies if using. Once aromatic, add the turmeric and garam masala. Add Mum's special masala if using. Let this cook until aromatic.

Then add your chicken pieces. Add salt to taste. Mix well so chicken is thoroughly coated in the masala paste. Chicken pieces will release juices. Let juices cook down and chicken pieces brown.

Add water. The amount of water you add depends on how much gravy you want in the end. This recipe creates enough of a gravy that this dish can be eaten over rice. You can also make this a bit more dry. Bring this mixture to boil then reduce heat and let liquid cook down until gravy is of desired consistency. At the end of cooking, add chopped cilantro both as a garnish and for freshness and you now have yourself Mum's Famous Chicken Curry!

Serve over rice or with a flatbread like Mum's Basic Roti or rice. See full recipe below complete with measurements!


RECIPE:

Serves 2

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

-2 lbs chicken thighs cubed

-1/8 cup olive oil

-1 tsp mustard seeds

-1 tsp cumin seeds

-handful of curry leaves (optional)

-1/2 cup diced onions

-1 tbsp crushed garlic

-1 tbsp crushed ginger

-1 tsp crushed Thai chilis (optional)

-1 tsp turmeric

-2 tsp garam masala

-salt to taste

-1 tsp Mum's special masala (optional)

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 6 cardamom pods

  • 7 cloves

  • 8 star anise

  • 1 tsp fennel seeds

-2 cups water

-handful of chopped coriander

Method:

  1. Thaw and cube chicken thigh pieces. 2 x 2 inch pieces should be good. Wash and drain.

  2. This step is optional. If using, grind up the spices for Mum's special masala. Spices should be dry and ground very fine.

  3. Heat up oil on medium flame. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves if using. Once sputtering occurs, add diced onions. When edges are brown add garlic, ginger and chilis if using. Once this is aromatic and has browned, add turmeric and garam masala. Add Mum's special masala if using. Mix well and cook until aromatic about 2 minutes or so.

  4. Add chicken pieces and salt to taste. Mix well. Cover.

  5. Once chicken juices start to dry up add water. Bring this to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes then reduce heat to low.

  6. Cook until water has cooked down and gravy has thickened to the consistency you want. About 15 minutes.

  7. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

  8. Serve hot with rice or Mum's Classic Rotis.

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