My dear friend Michelle had the opportunity to live in Hyderabad, India for a year and is, therefore, well versed in Indian cuisine. One day when we were hanging out, she was ranting and raving about curry powder. Her complaint is that Americans think that curry powder makes curry, when in fact curry powder totally isn’t Indian. Sure enough, if you look up curry powder on Wikipedia you’ll see this: “Curry powder and the contemporary English use of the word “curry” are Western inventions and do not reflect any specific South Asian food.” Michelle explained that “curry” basically means a saucy dish with tons of spices, and there are lots of different kinds of curries in India, and that none of them have curry powder.
Basically, curry powder isn’t Indian. The end.
Michelle was feeling bad, however, once she realized that there is a recipe she has from an Indian cookbook that actually does use curry powder. It’s called Curry in a Hurry and it’s her favorite non-Indian Indian food recipe. I’ve had this recipe sitting in my “to-try” pile for years and we finally made it last week! It was very good, even if it is fake curry. 😉 Nate commented that it actually tastes more like a North African dish, which is kind of true. Whatever it is, it’s delicious. All of my kids liked it, too, especially my 8-year-old Anna. (Here’s a link to the cookbook the recipe came from originally – Michelle likes this book a lot!)
As for which curry powder to use for this recipe, just use whatever you find at the store. I used McCormick’s curry powder. Michelle said that since she first shared the recipe with me, she has discovered Penzey’s curry powders and she likes them better than the standard grocery store versions. The Sweet Curry Powder is milder and Michelle says her kids really like that one, but her favorite is the Maharajah Curry Powder, which has really good flavor.
Thank you, Michelle, for giving us a way to use curry powder that doesn’t make you want to yell at us. 😉
- 1½ tablespoons oil
- ½ of a small onion, chopped
- 5 teaspoons curry powder
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 dried red chilies (I just used 1 so it wouldn't be too spicy for my kids)
- 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces (original recipe was 2 chicken breasts, but I added more)
- 3-5 cups fresh spinach
- Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent.
- Add curry powder, garam masala, garlic and red chilies. Stir for one minute.
- Add coconut milk, tomatoes, tomato paste and simmer until thickens, stirring regularly.
- Add chicken; simmer until chicken is fully cooked. (Alternatively, you can add already cooked chicken if you have it, just cook until heated through.)
- Add spinach, stir and cook until spinach as wilted.
- Serve over rice.