There are exactly 2 Indian restaurants in Wichita, Kansas, population 400,000+.
And they are right across the street from each other, completely on the other side of town from where I live. I suppose that makes it easy for them to walk across the street and borrow a cup of curry, or maybe they save on delivery costs and just have suppliers ship combined orders to the middle of the street. Don’t get me wrong, they both serve some pretty good stuff. One is a buffet, and the other is a sit-down and order place. I’m just saying it would be nice to have a little diversity, and maybe some better geography. Until one or the other of those things happen, I’ll just do my best to bring the taste of India (or a facsimile thereof) to my table all on my own.
I found this recipe for chicken curry in a cookbook called 660 Curries, by Raghavan Iyer . This cookbook was on the NPR top ten list of cookbooks for 2008 which I stumbled upon during some random Googling for Indian cookbooks the other day.
It occurred to me that it might be fun to see how many of cookbooks listed I could find at my local library and whip me up some new and exciting recipes from. Which I am definitely going to do. Sometime soon. I swear. But for now, 660 Curries was available, so I grabbed it.
This is a big book. Really big. Which I suppose it would have to be, to hold 660 curry recipes. (I’m always happy to point out the obvious). Many of the dishes are simple, with easy to find ingredients. Some of the dishes would require me to use up my air miles to get the stuff I need to make them. (or improvise, which is always an acceptable plan B in my book). The lack of illustrations is a bit of a disappointment, though. When cooking the unfamiliar, it’s always nice to have a pretty picture to compare my creation to, so that when I’m done cooking and I look at my dish and think “Is it really supposed to look like that or did I miss something important?”, I have some sort of a visual reference.
I’ve made 2 dishes from this book, and plan to make more when I get it for my birthday (<—-husband, please re-read last sentence and bookmark. Thank you for your time.). The chicken curry turned out quite well, even with some plan B substitutions going on. I just love the combination of curry, coconut milk and tomato, slightly sweetened with sugar. They work together to make a flavor that is uniquely different from the individual parts. The second dish tasted wonderful, better than the chicken curry even. But visually…how shall I put this…it was less than appealing? Butt ugly? I have the photos and the recipe, and I may sneak it up on the blog late at night when no one is looking. I haven’t quite decided yet. Bottom line, 660 Curries is an excellent book of never-ending source material for any type of curry craving you might be having, along with some great recipes for Indian breads and chutneys. For vegans, vegetarians and people just scaling back on meat consumption, it also has a huge selection of hearty but meatless legume and veggie curries.
I do suggest that you have at least occasionally eaten, if not cooked Indian food before you invest in this book. If you don’t know your masala from your elbow, I would recommend you start with something a bit simpler and more illustrated, like Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick and Easy Indian Cooking. I used to watch her cooking shows on PBS religiously years ago, and she really has a knack for explaining and simplifying such a complex and unfamiliar cuisine.
2 tbsp canola or grapeseed oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp garlic, minced
4 tsp ginger, minced
1 large tomato, diced (about 1 cup)
1 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
½ cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
Preheat a skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil and sauté the onion, garlic and ginger until lightly golden, about 5 minutes.
Add the chicken and the curry powder and cook until the chicken is browned on all sides, about 5 more minutes.
Add the tomato and any juices, salt, sugar, and coconut milk.
Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 5-7 minutes. If the sauce gets too thick, add a tablespoon of water. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro.
Serve with rice (basmati rice is wonderful with this) and/or an Indian flat bread, such as naan.