One of my favorite things about food is exploring different cuisines from other cultures and areas of the world. I recently took an Indian cooking class from Aparna Khanolkar, The Mistress of Spice. I have always been a fan of Indian food, but I have never attempted to make it before. I always thought there too many spices and ingredients involved. I never felt up for the challenge, until now! Aparna’s recipe for Punjabi Chicken Curry takes a little time and patience to wait for the ingredients to cook and build flavor, but it is well worth the wait. Plus, it is simple to prepare and the ingredient list is short.
Aparna teaches the Ayurvedic lifestyle, which is an ancient science of health and medicine originating in India. It is the idea of maintaining balance in the human body, both physically and spiritually. Aparna translates her beliefs into her cooking and treats food as medicine. She stresses the importance of maintaining balance in the foods we eat by using the proper spices.
In Aparna’s class, she taught us about heating and cooling spices and their role in helping to balance the digestive process. She also taught us about the six tastes that a spice can have: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Another interesting tip I learned was about the importance of adding spices to the oil and letting them cook for a few minutes. This allows the spices to release their medicinal oils so that our bodies can absorb the oils and we can get the health benefits of the spices.
Aparna’s class was such an interesting and educational new outlook on food and eating. I hope you enjoy this recipe and a little bit of information about the Ayurvedic lifestyle. Namaste!
Punjabi Chicken Curry
Recipe adapted from Aparna Khanolkar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne, use less if you are sensitive to spice
- 3 tomatoes, chopped
- 2 chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups brown rice, cooked
- In a large pot (use one with a tight-fitting lid), heat the oil over medium heat. Add in the onions and stir to coat in the oil. Arrange the onions in a single layer on the bottom of the pan and turn heat to medium-low. Cook onions until caramelized and golden brown, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and then arranging back into a single layer on the bottom of the pan after each stir. Do not rush this step.
- Turn heat up to medium-high. Add in the garlic, ginger, turmeric, and cayenne, stir to combine. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add in the tomatoes and cook until the liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add in the chicken, season with salt, and cover with the tight-fitting lid. Turn heat down to low and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
- Serve over brown rice.