Blog Home Agent of Chaos City Poetry Zine Buy Stuff!
...and they lived happily ever after. Smith & Lady: poets, artists, photographers & adventurers.
Our relationship was forged to the soundtrack of Yoko Ono's magic,
frenetic, love-laden song, "Walking On Thin Ice." ( play song )


Yesterday we had a party. It was an opportune time as we have Yuyutsu here and we’ve finally straightened our place. I decided to make a chicken curry because I wanted Yuyu to try it. When we were in London I fell in love with chicken curry, and started to learn how to make it. The following ‘recipe’ is based on my experience with making chicken curry about 50 times. The recipe has kind of evolved over time with trial and error.

Yuyu made a wonderful lentil dal–a himalayan curry–and I’m going to try to pin down his ingredients and blog it as well. It was so fun. Yuyu and I were cooking side by side in the kitchen, my shoebox of asian spices open on the counter.


2 T mustard seeds
1 T cumin seeds
1 T coriander seeds
1/4 C olive oil
1 T butter
4 medium onions, chopped into 1″ cubes
1/2 bulb garlic, peeled, diced

Heat olive oil in large heavy-bottomed pan. Olive oil isn’t technically ‘asian’ but I think it works well. Add mustard, cumin and coriander seeds and butter. Monitor the seeds and flame to make sure they don’t burn. When the mustard seeds start to pop in the oil (maybe a minute or two after being added), add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion starts to turn translucent. Stir frequently so the garlic doesn’t burn.

Meanwhile, put these ingredients in a blender:

1/4 to 1/2 C masman curry paste – IMPORTANT *
1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
2 large chilies, with seeds — or more if you can tolerate it!
4 large tomatoes, chopped roughly into wedges
1/2 to 1 C roasted cashews
2 to 3 T good pungent curry powder
more garlic if desired (good for health!)

Pulse and puree the paste, ginger, chilies, cashews, tomatoes and curry powder. You might find it necessary to add a little bit of water to make the ingredients more ‘blendable’ by the blender. You could add more chilies if you can tolerate hot curries. The chilies have a kind of synergy with the ginger and spices and really bring out the flavor, kind of like an Indian ‘menthol’ effect.

Add the fried onion mixture to the tomato mixture in the blender and pulse until fairly paste-like. Don’t worry if it is a bit lumpy or if the seeds haven’t broken down. They will break down more when the paste is cooked. Pour the paste back into the heavy pan. Add another quarter cup olive oil and mix together. Cook on a low flame for about a half hour, scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally. You might find it necessary to add more water if the mixture gets too dry. The mixture should be kind of like a lumpy gravy consistency, pulpy. You want it too cook down a little, so don’t cover the pan. It will make a mess, occasionally plopping bits of orange goo onto your stovetop and walls. This is normal.

After cooking for about a half hour, you can add a half stick of butter (if desired) and a can of coconut milk. Blend in until the butter is melted. It’s not necessary, but the butter is a nice kind of fat to add, good comforting taste. And really enhances the flavor of the spices and I highly recommend it. I don’t skimp on fat in this recipe. Fat is VERY important for flavor and satiety. Many Indian recipes call for ghee (clarified butter) but I find it’s not necessary.

Sample the mixture to see if it is salty enough. The masman curry paste has a lot of salt, so it should be sufficient, but you could add more to make the ingredients ‘zing.’ Sometimes a little sugar brings out more flavor, although I didn’t use sugar last time.

At this point you have a good gravy base for a curry. You could do variations on this using chicken or beef or lamb or just vegetables if you are vegetarian. I think it’s best with chicken and potatoes or chicken and yams or chicken and carrots. I add about 2 pounds of chicken diced into 1″ cubes – a mixture of thigh and breast meat is great.

Last time I made this I used chicken and potatoes. Two pounds of chicken, and about 3 C potatos chopped into 1″ pieces. I added the chicken and potatoes to the gravy in the pot and cooked for about 45 minutes to an hour on a low flame, scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally. I did not lid the pan because the gravy tends to break down more and become more liquidy, and you want a kind of thick gravy at the end, so I let the steam escape. Keep a glass of water nearby to add to the mixture in case it cooks down too much. I kept cooking it until the potatoes were tender and the gravy was cooked down to a nice thickness.

You could dice a half cup of fresh cilantro and add it to the gravy at the end if you like.

Serve with fresh roti or warm pita bread or basmati rice.

– – –

* Masman curry paste – you can find this at an asian grocer. You could try to make it from scratch, but it requires a lot of ingredients, and it’s best if you grind them fresh. The curry paste includes things like chile, ginger, lime peel, etc. You could try a different curry paste here if you like, but the masman is my favorite.


  1. Blayne says:

    Thank you! Your experiments have clearly paid off. It was really delicious. Where do you get your masman curry paste? And what kind of curry powder do you use? I’ve found they vary so much from one brand or mix to the next and I haven’t yet settled on any particular one.

  2. Lady says:

    I get it at a big Asian grocery store–it’s kind of on the side of Asia Plaza. Unfortunately I don’t know the brand of the curry powder I bought last. I crave pungent, savory powders but you don’t know what it’s like until you get it home. I’m thinking there’s probably a lot of fenugreek in the powders I prefer. That Asian grocery has lots of inexpensive options so it’s possible to buy a couple powders in one trip and see which one you like best. I don’t necessarily go for hot curry powder–I add the heat in myself with chiles. I’m more interested in aromatic & pungent powder.

  3. MadM says:

    I am sooooo hungry after reading this. I also liked, “It will make a mess, occasionally plopping bits of orange goo onto your stovetop and walls. This is normal.” Made me grin (and seems like a universal Food Truth).

  4. matt v says:

    don’t hold me to this by rote ~ but
    “curry” ~ if my sources are correct ~ (won’t tell you what they are, as i cant recall ;D) comes from a similiar sounding asian word (?) which basically means ‘sauce’? so ~ it would seem to reason that there can be different curry mixes. The standard ‘curry powder’ that seems to be indigenous to my region (U.S.)’s grocery stores is more or less a set formula. i sort of liken this to the americanized dijon mustard (compared to true old recipe dijon mustard with the half crushed seeds)
    a curry seasoning can actually have any variant of ingredients in it.
    now that that’s got *that* out of the way ~ thank you for this recipe
    i am looking forward to making this.

  5. matt v says:

    footnote ~ i could be off by a landslide on this
    i just understand that curry mixes are sort of customizable ~
    after being raised thinking it was either ‘gold’ or ‘red’ curry powder

Leave a Reply


Copyright (c) 2009 Smith & Lady
Designed by Lady K