It starts with the crisp hiss of deliciousness hitting hot oil. A whiff of cinnamon, cardamom and clove later, what follows is a mishmash of aromas evoking islands in the sun, leading you by the nose and into your wide open Ceylonese kitchen where the culprit sits simmering on the stove.
Wherever I go in the world, I always ALWAYS come back craving for this Sri Lankan chicken curry.
Juicy chunks of chicken simmered in a thick coconutty broth infused with aromatic spices, a generous dash of chili, uplifted by the soft caress of the curry leaf. Had with rice and a fiery coconut sambol, this is how you polish off whole pots of rice and then some more.
Sri Lankan food has its special place in the world and the Sri Lankan chicken curry is more unique than any chicken dish I have ever tasted. It’s overabundance of flavor greets the Sri Lankan tongue with recognition and familiarity so that instantly, you feel at home. Here is a dish that just “gets” you – Sri Lankan comfort food at its finest, our chicken soup for the soul. There is nothing that would set my agitated soul to rest than this particular chicken curry right here. This and also a large mug of sweetened milky tea.
Rugged in appearance but strangely exciting and soothing at the same time, here is a dish that you would want to have on a rainy day with a plate of steaming kissing your fingertips. Sri Lankans reading this would know how it feels to have a bite and travel back home in one’s head and start craving for it right away. It is inevitable. We are rather fond of our fiery curries that make us sweat and tear up. None of that milk breasted stuff would do.
Sri Lankan Chicken Curry
- Onion - 1, large, sliced
- Garlic - 2 tblsps, chopped
- Ginger - 2 tblsps, chopped
- Cardamom pods - 6, bruised
- Cinnamon stick - 1 cm
- Cloves - 4
- Chicken - 1kg, cut to desired sizes
- Sri Lankan curry powder - 2 tsps
- Curry leaves - 2 sprigs
- Chili powder - 1 tsps
- Coconut milk - 1 cup
- Mustard - 1/2 tsp
- Salt - To taste
- Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add to it some mustard seeds.
- When the mustard starts popping, add in the curry powder and the chili powder. Sautee 2-3 minutes ever so carefully as it is prone to burn.
- Add in the cloves, the cardamom and the cinnamon. Let fry slightly until fragrant.
- Add the ginger and the garlic. When golden, add in the onions.
- When the onions are beautifully translucent, add in the chicken and the salt. Toss well so that the chicken is enveloped within the spices, the onions and the mishmash.
- Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add in the coconut milk. Simmer until the gravy becomes thick. This should take about 15 – 20 minutes.
- Serve piping hot with rice and a fiery coconut sambol!
The meat will be falling off the bone. Soft and succulent and bathed in a silky and fragrant curry, delve into a fervent cloud of flavor with a hefty piece of bread and bite letting the juices dribble down your chin. It’s strangely satisfying, this savagery of tearing into the flesh with one’s fingers, mouthful after mouthful of tender chicken laced with spices and piquant chili. The thickness of the coconut milk mellows the hit of the spice and rounds up the elements, blending the garlic, the ginger, the curry powder, the cinnamon, cardamom and the clove in a way that only coconut milk can. This is what I come back to, over and over again – to be comforted, to be consoled by the luxuriously silky, spicy, piquant embrace that only this Sri Lankan chicken curry can give.
- When frying curry powder and chili powder, make sure they don’t burn as they tend to burn easily.
- I like to use the thighs and the legs only for this curry as I’ve found that they impart the most flavor. However, you are of course can use whatever part you want.