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Home is a special word, isn't it? California is my adopted home. I moved to CA from Fiji when I was 18. Fiji will always be "back home" but I now have been living in the US for more than twenty years so I suppose this is home now. Even then I had to live all over the place before it really began to feel like home. I grew up in a relatively nice, suburban neighborhood in Fiji. Attended private schools and the top high school in the country at the time. We lived a pretty nice and safe nuclear family life. Had lots of friends, neighbors and an amazing community. We even had maids. I wasn’t wanting for anything. At the time, I didn't realize how special most of my childhood was. That’s how I grew up and I thought that was normal. When I moved to CA after high school, I was in for a rude awakening and the biggest shock of my life; maybe I can speak on behalf of the rest of my family and say 'our lives'. Our lives changed so drastically. From living in a community where everyone knew us and respected us to a place where everyone treated us as second class citizens. From the moment we landed, it began. The negative assumptions people made about us just by how we looked were astounding. At that young age, it felt scary and invalidating. Now that I am much older, I am angry with how we were treated and with how we are still being treated as people of color. Even the term people of color is a term we were assigned once we landed here. Because over here, everyone has to be labelled and fit into some box. In Fiji, everyone is just various shades of brown. No one is labelled according to their skin color. From being treated like we were committing some crime by entering the US legally at the airports to being herded and shuttled like cattle through security to being treated like ignorant and uncivilized people to assuming that we didn't know English. That was just the first couple of hours on US soil. I remember as we finally found our way to our connecting flight, the fear and uncertainty of whether it was the right decision to relocate to the US grew stronger and stronger. Unfortunately, my family has suffered the same type of treatment in the twenty years we have lived and worked in this country as law-abiding US citizens. I have a Ph.D. yet I still get asked whether I can speak English or not. People still talk rudely to me and will turn around and be nice to the white person next to me. Even at work, surrounded by other highly educated people like me, I am an outsider. The level of growth and success people with less experience than me have achieved just because I am not white, is actually just sad. When I am out and about with my parents, I see how demeaningly people speak to them sometimes. It infuriates me. When I am out and about with my white husband, people will interact with my white husband only and completely dismiss me like I don't exist. These are but a few examples of how we get treated just going about our daily lives. It is exhausting. Many times, it seems like we are aliens; to be looked at and pointed at. On second thought, maybe aliens would get better treatment than us. Who knows. You know, in my language, Hindi, we have a word called "junglee". It means "of/from the jungle". It is commonly used in a derogatory fashion to refer to people who are uncouth or uncivilized or village folk. I always hated that word. Because the village folk I know are some of the kindest, big-hearted and civilized people I know. I have always been treated with equality, respect, politeness and kindness by these so-called junglee people. Now that I am older, it is extremely apparent to me who the junglee people really are. They are the people who treat you like you are lower, dumber, uncivilized, poorer or anything less than them. Those people who see and create divisions between people, who sow seeds of hatred and discrimination, who think they are better than another group of people, who have normalized mistreating someone based on the color of their skin, those are the true junglee people of today. Do not let them win. Love, equality, respect and non-judgement is the way.
Todays' recipe is for Mum's junglee chicken curry. Junglee chicken is farm fresh chicken that you can purchase from a local farmer so it used to be a special treat for us while living in suburban Fiji. In the US, the local Asian shops will occasionally carry it and I am sure your local American farmer could also be selling this. This chicken curry does not have a thick gravy like the previous recipe but is thinner and more broth like. We call this a "soorwa" so this dish would be called junglee murghi ke soorwa (murghi is chicken).
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Serves 4 Prep time: ~30 minutes Cook time: ~30 minutes
Ingredients: 1/2 whole chicken cubed 1/4 cup olive oil 1 tsp mustard seeds 1 tsp cumin seeds handful of curry leaves (optional) 1/2 cup diced onions 2 tbsp crushed garlic 1 tbsp crushed ginger 1 tsp crushed Thai chilis (optional) 1 tsp turmeric 4 tsp garam masala 1 tsp Mum's special masala (optional) 3-4 cups water salt to taste handful of chopped coriander Method:
Thaw and cube chicken into 2x2 inch pieces. Wash and drain.
Optional: If using, grind up the spices for Mum's special masala. Spices should be dry and ground very fine.
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.
Add chicken pieces and salt to taste. Mix well. Cover.
Once chicken juices start to dry up add water until chicken pieces are almost completely submerged. Bring this to a boil.
Boil for 10 minutes then reduce heat to low until some of the water has cooked off and chicken is cooked thoroughly.
Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve!