I tell people I have Indian roots. And if you know me, you probably know it’s true even though I look 100 per cent Chinese.
My Indian roots aren’t due to some inter-marriage or something.
My Indian roots come from growing up in a small town like Banting, where we had Indian neighbours on both sides.
My two best pals are Indian – one is a Ceylonese Christian (who hated to be called “Lain-lain” on her IC) and the other is Hindu. Many of my school friends were Indian. That is what real unity is about.
But that is what growing up in the 80s was all about.
So I am familiar with Indian food. I’ve eaten enough when I hung around my best pals’ homes. When I was a child, my dad used to take us for banana leaf lunch in Brickfields right after we’d visit the Buddhist temple on Wesak Day.
One day I decided to find an Indian chicken curry recipe. A friend tells me that there are a few types – the completely wet type of curry, the dry type (varuval) and the in-between type (paretel).
I decided to cook a chicken paretel since I’ve never done it before. This recipe comes from the Rotary International recipe book produced by the Malaysian Rotary Club chapters. My sis was once in the Banting chapter so she contributed 2 recipes and got the book in return.
I must say the paretel is quite easy to cook. You don’t even need a blender or mortar and pestle (as most curry recipes call for, to blend the onions and garlic). That is why I deem this recipe my 2013 “favouritest” chicken curry recipe (besides another one called Ayam Kerala which I’ve taught my bestie to make).
The only thing I did was to make my own yogurt (but you can always use commercial yogurt from any old supermarket if making your own yogurt isn’t the sort of thing you want to do). And I used curry leaves from my own curry leaf tree. But the rest are all store- or market-bought ingredients.
As any curry lover will tell you, curry tastes better the NEXT DAY. Just make sure you refrigerate the curry once it has cooled. The next day, gently heat it up and it goes excellently with rice or even bread. As it is a semi-dry curry, don’t expect lots of gravy.
Here’s how you make Chicken Paretel:
1/2 chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 tsp turmeric powder
1.5 tbsp chilli powder
Marinate the above for 30 minutes.
Next, prepare these ingredients:
- Julien about 4 slices of fresh ginger.
- Smash and slice 4 cloves of garlic.
- Peel a large onion and slice thinly.
- Wash 4 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 4 cardamom pods & 1 star anise.
- Wash 3 sprigs of fresh curry leaves.
- Prepare 1/2 cup water.
- Prepare 1 cup (250 ml) of yogurt.
- Mix and set aside 1 tsp jintan manis (fennel powder) & 2 tsp jintan putih (cumin powder)
1. First, heat up your wok with some oil.
2. Fry this until fragrant: ginger, garlic, onion, dried spices and 1 sprig of curry leaves.
3. Add the marinated chicken to the wok and fry for about 5 minutes. Add in 1/2 cup of water.
4. Add yogurt and then cover the wok and turn fire to a low simmer and let the curry cook for about 15 minutes or until chicken is tender and cooked.
5. Add the rest of your curry leaves with the cumin and fennel powder. Add salt to taste. Cover and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes.
6. Your curry is done once you have a layer of oil on top of the curry. Serve hot with rice or bread.
*This dish should not be too dry or too wet but just enough gravy to coat the chicken.
**If you enjoy a spicier curry, you can adjust the chilli powder to 2 tablespoons. The initial recipe called for 3 tablespoons of chilli powder but I found it too spicy and overpowering. Don’t forget, the ginger gives this dish tongue-numbing kick too.