Monday, November 24, 2008

Rice Cooker Chicken Curry

As a housewife and freelance translator I often find myself acting as though I were one of those many armed Hindu Goddesses. Instead of holding things like a lotus or a mace though, I wield spoon, knife, dish scrubber, peeler, and the like with one hand and, with the other, I run the washing machine, type at the PC, sweep, dust and what not.

In such circumstances, cooking a curry in a pan, on the fire, is flirting with disaster. Earlier, in India, I would judiciously balance a stainless steel Indian plate filled with water on the pan and this would prevent the contents from catching on the bottom of the pan and burning. Since we are temporarily in Malaysia where I'm convinced that the pans and stoves are geared to the Chinese stir fry methodology, I often ended up burning the food.

One such story is most memorable. When I first came here I was determined to adjust to the new conditions - especially the food. For each culture, the food smells of another can be daunting and, thus, I had to adopt a very Yogic posture of being, all accepting when faced with the smells and sights of dried fish all over the place, for example. 

One of the first evenings, in our new place, in a Chinese neighbourhood, I smelt something very interesting. I told myself I would have to get used to such odors and bravely went about doing this and that. It was not till much later that I found that the strange smell was coming from my very own "wet" kitchen (Malaysian homes have a "wet" kitchen which is generally outside the main house)! I had left some chicken bones to boil in a pot of water and forgotten all about it and it had boiled and burned and beyond!

After many an episode of charred meals, I began considering the humble rice cooker from a new perspective. The portly gadget squatting on my kitchen floor thought it could get away with just making rice for our dinner but little did it know that I had greater designs for it.

Well, one "auspicious" day, the rice cooker was subjected to a curry-making experiment and, since then, there has been no looking back.

For one thing, nothing gets burnt and, for another, the slow cooking seems to amplify the flavours.

I go about the curry, step by step, and can merrily pursue the other household tasks while waiting for each step to be over.


500 gms chicken (I use the breast and legs, with bones, and almost no skin)
1 small cup of finely sliced onions (about 2 medium onions)

About half a cup of chopped tomatoes (1 medium tomato)

6 small cardamoms
A piece of cinnamon
6-7 cloves
About one teaspoon or so of whole black peppercorns
One small bay leaf

Some 3-4 cloves of garlic and about half the amount of ginger, ground to a paste

6 green chillies, slit lengthwise

1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric powder
1 tablespoon of red chili powder
1 tablespoon of coriander powder

Salt to taste
A handful of chopped fresh coriander leaves
3 large spoons of cooking oil


Let the rice cooker get a bit hot and then add the oil. Let the oil get hot while you chop the onions.

Add the sliced onions to the hot oil and let them wilt. In the meantime, you can chop the other things and gather all the other ingredients. Add the salt, to hasten the browning of the onions. In this style of cooking, the onions may not become too brown.

Add the cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns and bay leaf and let it go on for a minute or so more. In the meantime you can rinse some dishes or attend to the washing machine.

Note that the green things in the cooker are bits of raw mango I threw in for the sheer fun of it!

Add some water to the chili, turmeric and coriander powder to make them into a paste. Add this paste and the tomatoes to the contents of the cooker. Let the whole thing cook for about five minutes but do check now and then to make sure nothing burns or sticks to the bottom of the vessel.

Add the ginger-garlic paste and maybe some more water to ensure that the contents do not stick to the bottom of the vessel.

Now let the contents cook till the raw smell of the garlic goes and the oil starts seeping out of the curry mass that has formed.

Add the chicken after moving the "masala" to one side. Heap the "masala" on to the chicken pieces.

Cook until the chicken changes colour. You will have to stir the contents around once or twice so that all the sides of the chicken pieces change colour.

Add water as required-depending on how watery or how thick you want your curry.

Let your curry cook while you attend to some other chores-roughly some 15 minutes.

Garnish with chopped green coriander leaves.

Best served with hot rice and poppadoms.

It can also be eaten with bread, chapatis, parathas, or even with appams or dosas.

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