Tag Archives: Caribbean

Braised Chicken Curry with Yams

I had forgotten all about this recipe until a few weeks ago I was casting about in my memory for delicious stews to counteract the winter chill . . . and I remembered. All of a sudden, the flavor of this dish came rushing back and I knew I had to make it immediately.

The original recipe comes from Ming Tsai’s East Meets West, which I checked out of the library in Delaware years ago. I had scribbled some brief instructions on a lined sheet of paper which was subsequently swallowed up in my recipe binder where it lived for a few years, forgotten and alone. Until now! Though I loved the base flavor of the original recipe, I wanted some more texture and ‘zing’, so I added some golden raisins and cilantro to finish it off. It’s perfection.

Don’t hesitate–just make it!


(Serves 6)

2.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Salt and pepper, to taste

3 TBS olive oil

2 large onions

2 TBS minced garlic

1 TBS minced ginger (heaping!)

1/3 c Madras curry powder (fresh as possible)

4 c chicken stock

1 large banana (or 2 small ones)

2 bay leaves

2 large yams, peeled and cubed

1/3 c golden raisins

Garnish with cilantro and blanched almonds, coconut flakes, or lime juice

First, trim the chicken thighs. For some reason the fat on chicken thighs really grosses me out, though I’m immune to the fat of pork or steak.

Now pat them dry (super important!–this will help them brown well) and put salt and pepper all over both sides of them. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. When it’s very hot, add the chicken thighs. You may want to do this in two batches, because if you overcrowd the pot they will steam instead of frying.

It’s important to take your time during this step, because you want a really nice sear. It will probably take 10 minutes per batch. Don’t hurry though–you’re building flavor.

While the thighs are browning, roughly chop the onion. Very roughly.

No mirepoix required here, thank you very much.

Mince the garlic and ginger as well.

You should also have plenty of time to peel and chop the banana.

Once the thighs are done browning, remove them to a plate. They should look something like this:

Your pot will now look something like this:

Without cleaning it, dump the onion, ginger and garlic into the pot . . .

. . . and cook for about 5-6 minutes, until they’re getting golden and wonderful. Stir often so that you don’t burn the garlic! Right now your entire household will come to the kitchen to investigate what that heavenly smell is. Use your tongs with impunity to defend the pot and beat them back.

Now add the curry powder.

What a gorgeous, gorgeous yellow.

Stir constantly and vigorously for no more than 2 minutes. The spices need a couple minutes to get fragrant, but they also burn easily, so keep the ingredients in constant motion.

I should also mention that having the chicken stock handy is important, so that you don’t have to stop stirring. If you burn that curry powder, the flavor of the dish will be . . . not right.

Pour in the chicken stock . . .

. . . and add the bay leaves and banana.

Stir to scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pot.

Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat and add the chicken back in.

Cover the pot, but leave a little vent for the steam to come out.

Let it simmer for an hour and a half. During this time, the banana will completely dissolve. The flavor it adds is wonderful, but nobody would guess it was created by a banana. If you peak into the pot after half an hour, the banana will look frightening and disturbing. I actually poked at it and asked out loud “What the heck is this thing?” before a logical process of elimination revealed it was the very banana I had peeled and chopped with my own two hands not thirty minutes prior. So don’t peak, and just trust the fact that by the end of the hour and a half it will have completely disappeared.

If you get ravenous, grab a snack. This chocolate from a Big Jake food shipment came in handy. You can see proof that he delights in a good deal by the orange 50 cent sticker.

You should also use this time to peel your yams . . .

. . . and chop them into medium sized cubes.

And rinse and chop some cilantro if you plan on using that.

After 90 minutes, take the lid off the pot and smell the goodness at hand.

Now grab those yams, add them to the pot and give it a good stir to submerge them.

Cook for 30 more minutes with the pot partially covered–but no longer than that or your yams will get really mushy. During the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the golden raisins.

They will get plump and delicious, and they add a fun burst of texture and flavor.

Remove the bay leaves and serve over rice.

Top it with cilantro. Or blanched almonds. Or peanuts! Or lime juice! Or just eat it as is.

The chicken is fork-tender. Mmmmmm.

I also tried sprinkling it with coconut flakes:

Delicious. You can tell this was a different night because the color of the plate has changed.

Make it! It’s fall, and I can’t think of anything else I want for dinner at this moment. A bowl of this magic would hit the spot.

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