Chicken in Coconut Sauce

I’ve posted about Japanese curry, which came to that country in the nineteenth century by way of Britain whose empire once included India. This recipe is an Indian dish, not exactly a curry, but one with another interesting cross-cultural history. There are Jews in India, several different communities of them, and Claudia Roden has a chapter about them in her book,
The Book of Jewish Food.

For your Google-ing pleasure, I’ll name them: two groups of Cochinis, the Bene Israel, and the Baghdadis.
The largest of these groups is the most wholly Indian in the way they dress, speak, live, and eat; and are called the Children of Israel (Bene Israel). They lived for centuries on the west coast of India, south of Bombay—before the Cochinis found them and recognized them as fellow Jews in the eighteenth century.
They kept the Sabbath, practiced circumcision, made a distinction between “clean” and “unclean” foods, and recited a prayer in Hebrew. They had no religious books, so the Cochinis sent teachers to instruct them in the observances of Judaism.
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Chicken CurryIt’s Passover, so I’m taking a break from Japanese food because I’m thinking that soy-sauce is not kosher for many reasons. Chicken CurryMy husband became a Christian before I met him, but a good part of his growing up was influenced by his Jewish grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. He keeps some kosher rules, during holidays,Chicken Currylike not drinking beer or eating bread, cakes, or cookies made with flour during Passover and paying attention to not mixing milk with meat—but he just opened a can of smoked oysters for a snack.Chicken CurryI think that because it was all new to me when we got married I made an effort, so my knowledge of the dietary laws of kashrut are more detailed than his.Chicken CurryNote that we are eating rice, a custom followed by Sephardic Jews during Passover.
According to Bene Israel traditions, their ancestors were part of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel, shipwrecked off the coast of India in King Solomon’s time—two centuries BC. Bene Israel cooking is like western Indian cooking, but with their own special touches. They use onions and garlic in their dishes, unlike some (many???) Hindus. They also often add tomatoes, and coconut to their dishes. Many recipes include lots of fresh herbs, tamarind, lemon, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, and red chilies (though this particular recipe does not include most of these). For more detail, I highly recommend Ms. Roden’s book.
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Macalcal or Masala Chicken
Chicken in Coconut Sauce
from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden

page 371
serves 6, with rice

  • 4 medium onions, about 1 pound, coarsley chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons sesame or sunflower oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Juice of 2 1/2-inch piece of ginger, or finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 6 pieces of chicken (thighs or breasts, boneless, skinless)
  • Salt
  • Pepper (white)
  • 1 pound new potatoes, cut into thick slices
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 cup cashews or split almonds
  • 2 Tablespoons raisins

In a large pan, fry the onions in oil till soft and golden, stirring occasionally. This is a lot of onions, so it will take some time, and it’s best to start with the lid on so they steam a bit first. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Then add the ginger and turmeric and stir well.
Put in the chicken pieces and season with salt and white pepper. Cook 5 minutes and turn the chicken pieces. Add the potatoes and coconut milk and enough water to cover—about a cupful. Add sugar and adjust the seasoning. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes until the chicken is done and the potatoes are very tender. Add the cashews or almonds, and raisins. Cook a few minutes. Serve hot in a bowl over rice.

(If you enjoyed my scroll box, and want to make one of your own, please thank Panos!!)

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5 thoughts on “Chicken in Coconut Sauce

  1. I have that book as well:a wonderful and informative book, that not only has recipes but interesting stories and information as well. I love your blog!

    • Hi yaelian,
      Yes, that book is very interesting to read. I love the stories, some of them very funny, scattered among the recipes. The recipes I’ve tried have been good, too. The Minty Carrot Chicken on the same page as this recipe is excellent.

    • Oh dear,
      Bloggers at wp.com are not allowed to monetize their blogs; doing so will break the TOS and could result in suspension of the blog!
      It’s you who is sweet not to charge me for all your tutoring.

    • Did you notice that I somehow managed to keep the text in the longer left column from flowing into the shorter right column? That’s something that’s been happening when I’ve played with columns before.

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