Kuku Paka (Chicken & Coconut Curry)

I was happy that the weather cooled down a little bit so that I could sneak this dinner into our springtime menu. The sauce was beyond creamy and delicious. Typically, this dish is prepared with charcoal-grilled chicken; I loved that this recipe was adapted to make using the broiler instead- perfect in cooler weather.

This recipe was adapted from Let’s Eat by Zaynab Issa, via Bon Appétit. It is a wonderful version of this popular East African-Indian chicken curry. It gave my son, who is studying World History in high school, a moment to review the impact and influences of the Indian Ocean trade routes prior to 1450 with our family. 😉 In Swahili, the trade language formed across the Indian Ocean, Kuku means chicken and Paka means to smear, to spread, or to apply.

The original recipe recommends using boneless thighs but notes that any cut of chicken, or a mix of breasts, tenders, or drumsticks (with pieces of similar size), could be substituted. A mix of vegetables can also be used in lieu of chicken to create a vegetarian version. I served it over rice with steamed spinach. Fast and fabulous.

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

  • 3 to 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 lemons, divided (one for marinade & one for serving)
  • 1 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt, divided, plus more (or 2 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt)
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika or Kashmiri chile powder
  • one pinch or dash of cayenne pepper (omit if using Kashmiri chile powder)
  • 2–3 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 8 to 10 large)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 plum tomato
  • 1 medium jalapeño or 1–2 green Thai chiles, seeded and ribbed
  • 1/4 cup (packed) cilantro leaves with tender stems, plus more for serving
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 4 T (1/4 cup) heavy cream (can substitute nondairy milk or additional coconut milk)
  • Basmati rice and/or crusty bread, for serving
  1. Finely grate the garlic cloves into a large bowl with a Microplane; alternatively, a garlic press can be used.
  2. Cut 1 lemon in half and squeeze juice into the bowl; discard seeds.
  3. Mix in 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt (or 1 tsp Diamond Crystal) and the smoked paprika and cayenne pepper (or Kashmiri Chile powder).
  4. Add the skinless, boneless chicken thighs (I used 10) and toss to evenly coat.
  5. Cover bowl and let sit at room temperature 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the curry base.
  6. Coarsely chop the onion, tomato, chile(s) (depending on how spicy your chiles are and your heat tolerance), and cilantro. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend or process until smooth. (I used a Vitamix.)
  7. Place an oven rack in the highest position. Heat the broiler. (I set my oven to Broiler+Max at 500 degrees.)
  8. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a high-sided skillet or large pot over medium. (I used a large, low, and wide enameled cast iron pan.)
  9. Add ground coriander, ground cumin, and ground turmeric. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  10. Pour in purée and add 3/4 tsp Morton kosher salt (or 1 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal). Stir to combine and cook, stirring occasionally, until raw onion smell subsides and curry is paste-like in consistency, 15–20 minutes.
  11. Arrange chicken on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet and broil until cooked through, charred in spots, and a thermometer inserted into the thickest parts registers 165°, 14 to 20 minutes. (I placed the chicken “skin side down” for 7 minutes, flipped each piece over and cooked an additional 7 minutes.)
  12. While the chicken is cooking, shake the can unsweetened coconut milk to ensure coconut cream is incorporated, then add coconut milk to curry and stir well to combine. Curry should be pale yellow. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until warm and slightly thickened, 5–10 minutes.
  13. Once chicken is finished, add chicken and all of the pan juices to the curry and reduce heat to low; mix well to combine. Stirring constantly to prevent curry from breaking, dribble in the heavy cream.
  14. Taste and season with more salt, if needed.
  15. Serve the chicken and sauce over Basmati rice garnished with additional cilantro.
  16. Cut remaining 1 lemon into wedges. Serve kuku paka with crusty bread and lemon wedges for squeezing over at the table, as desired.

Thai-Style Stir-Fried Rice Noodles with Chicken & Bok Choy

I receive a LOT of baby bok choy in my CSA share. Every time my husband spots it, he requests his favorite Thai dish, Pad See Ew. I do have a favorite version that I typically prepare, but, by chance I received a new recipe (email 😉 ) for his special dish when I received my recent bounty of bok choy.

The goal of this recipe was to recreate a high-heat wok cooked dish on a stove top by altering the stir fry technique. By cooking the ingredients in batches and combining all of the ingredients just prior to serving, the high-heat char typical of this dish was achieved. This version was indeed the closest I’ve come to reproducing my husband’s favorite take out dish.

This recipe was adapted from Cook’s Illustrated. I used baby bok choy instead of broccolini, chicken thighs instead of breasts, Thai chiles instead of serrano, and fresh rice noodles. I reduced the oil and doubled the recipe as well. Great!

Yield: Serves 8

For the Chile-Vinegar:

  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 Thai chiles or 1 serrano chile, stemmed and sliced into thin rings

For the Stir-Fry:

  • 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut against grain into ¼-inch thick slices
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 24 oz fresh wide rice noodles (can substitute 16 oz 1/4-inch wide dried rice noodles)
  • 5-6 T vegetable oil (I used sunflower seed oil)
  • 1/2 cup oyster sauce
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • 4 T packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 T white vinegar
  • 2 tsp molasses
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 8 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 pounds baby bok choy (about 10), sliced into 1/2-inch pieces, separated into leaves and stems (broccolini or broccoli are good substitutes)
  • additional greens, if desired (I added 1/2 head of my CSA Sugarloaf Chicory as well)

For the Chile Vinegar:

  1. Combine vinegar and serrano in bowl. Let stand at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.

For the Stir Fry:

  1. Combine chicken with 4 tablespoons water and baking soda in bowl. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Rinse chicken in cold water and drain well.
  2. If using fresh rice noodles: Place noodles in very hot tap water until they can be separated into large pieces. (If using dried rice noodles: Bring 6 cups water to boil. Place noodles in large bowl. Pour boiling water over noodles. Stir, then soak until noodles are almost tender, about 8 minutes, stirring once halfway through soak. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain well and toss with 2 teaspoons oil.)
  3. Whisk oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, molasses, and fish sauce together in bowl.
  4. Heat 1 T oil and garlic in 12-inch (nonstick) skillet over high heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is deep golden brown, about minute.
  5. Add chicken and 4 tablespoons sauce mixture, toss to coat, and spread chicken into even layer. Cook, without stirring, until chicken begins to brown, 1 to 1½ minutes.
  6. Using tongs, flip chicken and cook, without stirring, until second side begins to brown, 1 to 1½ minutes.
  7. Push chicken to 1 side of skillet. Add 1 T oil to cleared side of skillet.
  8. Add eggs to clearing. Using rubber spatula, stir eggs gently and cook until set but still wet. Stir eggs into chicken and continue to cook, breaking up large pieces of egg, until eggs are fully cooked, 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer chicken mixture to bowl.
  9. Heat 1 T oil in now-empty skillet until smoking. Add bok choy stems and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the remaining bok choy leaves and 4 tablespoons sauce and toss to coat.
  10. Cover skillet and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.
  11. Remove lid and continue to cook until broccolini is crisp and very brown in spots, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking. Transfer broccolini to bowl with chicken mixture.
  12. Sauce any additional greens in the remaining cooking liquid, if desired.
  13. Heat 1 T oil in now-empty skillet until smoking. Add half of noodles and 4 tablespoons sauce and toss to coat. Cook until noodles are starting to brown in spots, about 2 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking. Transfer noodles to bowl with chicken mixture.
  14. Repeat with remaining 1 T oil, noodles, and sauce. When second batch of noodles is cooked, add contents of bowl back to skillet and toss to combine. Cook, without stirring, until everything is warmed through, 1 to 1½ minutes.
  15. Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately, passing chile vinegar separately.

One Year Ago:

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I’m sharing my special stir fry at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #146, co-hosted by Antonia @Zoale and Petra @Food Eat Love. Enjoy! 🙂

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