FEATUE: COOKING LOCAL Coconut Chicken Yellow Curry

December 04, 2009


       Welcome back to the kitchen. This week I need something bright and spicy

to cut through the dark winter blues. I find myself craving sunny, citrusy, and warm foods this time of year, and

sometimes longing to be far away from the cold. So recently I ended up with some nice organic chicken thighs and a

can of pineapple, wondering what to cook. I still have plenty of wonderful Indian yellow curry powder in the

pantry, which is flavorful and complex. And I’ve got a bunch of veggies in the fridge. So with a can of

coconut milk and some spices, we’ve got an awesome coconut chicken yellow curry in the


       I’m basing this recipe mostly on mouth memory and intuition, and not

exactly following an Indian, Thai, or other specific recipe. I tried this recipe and loved how it came out, but

there is always room for change and refinement. So feel free to make substitutions, fiddle with ratios, and

otherwise make this curry your own.

       Loyal listeners might point out that we’ve done curries in the past.

But I would respond that each curry is different, and it is fun to explore similar but distinctly different

dishes. If you would like to incorporate local ingredients, look for garlic, onions, and carrots from a root

cellar or local farmer with cold storage. And for vegetarians, try adding in tofu if you’d like or

substitute potatoes and squash instead, which can also be hunted down locally all year.

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But for my

most recent version of this Pinapple Coconut Chicken Curry dish we will need:

"margin: 0in 0in 0pt"> 

-1 pound

chicken thighs or other bone-in cut of mean, preferably skin-on

-One large onion, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces

style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt">-1 or two carrots, sliced into ½”


-1 green or red bell


-1 stalk


-1/2 pound green peens, with

stems snapped off

-1 can crushed

pineapple, including juice

-1 can

full fat coconut milk (don’t mess around with the flavorless light stuff)

-4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced

"margin: 0in 0in 0pt">-About 2-3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

very fine (I think it is hard to overdo the ginger and garlic in this recipe)

-The juice of 1/2 lime, plus a teaspoon of grated lime zest (the juice

adds tartness, the zest has the essential oils and holds up well to the heat of cooking)

"margin: 0in 0in 0pt">-1-2 tablespoons spicy yellow curry powder (I am still

using the special village blend I brought back from South India in 2005. Thankfully customs didn’t ask about

the kilo of powder bundled up into little packets! I recommend finding a finer blend than generic big box store

curry powder. Try ordering online or finding a specialty spice shop for the really good stuff.)

style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt">-1 teaspoon turmeric (optional)

style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt">-1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds

style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt">-1/4 teaspoon whole coriander seeds (these are the

fruits of the cilantro plant)


cup fresh cilantro, chopped (or you could go for basil if you prefer that Thai curry style. It is also ok to leave

both fresh herbs out)

-1 red chili

pepper, chopped up fine (optional)

-a small splash of fish sauce (optional but awesome, adds a distinctively Asian flavor)

style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt">-a pinch of salt or a splash of soy sauce, to


-2 tablespoons cooking



"font-size: 14pt">       OK, let’s take out a nice, big, high walled frying

pan or pot and get cooking! To start a proper curry, at least the Indian way, we will toast the chili pepper with

whole seed spices in oil over a fairly high flame until they sputter and jump, popping open from the heat. Next,

add in the chopped onion and continue to cook over a high heat. Clear a space in the onions and lay in your

chicken pieces skin side down.

       We want to sear the chicken a bit, but we aren’t trying to cook it

all the way through. So let it brown on each side, turning as needed. Once it has a nice crust all over, remove

the chicken and onions and set aside.

style="font-size: 14pt">Now pour in some of the fat from the can of coconut milk, and about 1/3 of the can of

milk as well. Heat this over a medium heat and simmer the minced garlic and ginger. After that has cooked for a

few minutes, stirring continually, add in the celery and carrots to sauté. Wait a little while before

adding the peppers, because they won’t take as long to cook. And we will save the green beans until the very

end, so they have some crunch when we serve the curry.

When the veggies have simmered for about 5 minutes and softened a bit, add

back the chicken and onions and pour over the rest of the coconut milk. Now stir in the curry powder and turmeric,

which might actually be easier before you add the chicken. Finally, add the can of crushed pineapple and the fish

sauce, along with a little salt or soy sauce if needed. Oh, and I really like some extra tanginess to cut through

the sweet, so I’ll add lime juice and some zest. If you think the pineapple is tart enough, trust your



everything together. This looks bright and colorful and smells incredible! The liquid should almost comer over the

chicken entirely. If it does not, feel free to add in some water to the pan. Bring the liquid up almost to a boil,

then reduce it down to a low simmer. We are cooking chicken with the bone in, which will fall apart into succulent

pieces if we cook it low and slow. So I’d recommend just forgetting the curry and letting it cook for an

hour or so, or until everything is tender. Just turn over the chicken every 20 minutes or so.

style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt; text-indent: 0.5in">About 10 minutes before you are

ready to eat, remove the chicken from the curry. Add in the green beans so they get a chance to wilt. Also stir in

the chopped cilantro. Now, using two forks, pull all the chicken meat off of the bones. Discard the bones, skin,

and gristle. This step is optional, but it will make the curry much easier to eat and I like the presentation

better. Add the meat back to the pot and stir.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that you should make a big batch of jasmine rice

while the curry is simmering. I am a big fan of the rice maker. This cheap appliance makes perfect rice every

time, and is surprisingly convenient.

style="font-size: 14pt">Once the green beans are cooked just barely al dente, serve up heaping bowls of this

sweet/spicy coconut chicken curry over rice. Add a bit more chopped cilantro on top for a colorful presentation,

and a dollop of plain yogurt if you need to cut the heat of the dish.

Nice work everyone! This meal is an amalgamation of

wonderful southeast Asian flavors. It is spicy, but also wonderfully creamy and sweet. It is definitely my

American take on curry, but I think you’ll find it transports your tongue far away. I’d love to hear

what recipes you’ve picked up on your travels. Email me at isaac@kohoradio.com. Cooking local in the KOHO Kitchen, I’m Isaac Kaplan-




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