Kuku Paka

This week’s Tasty Tuesday takes us to the land of Barrack Obama – Kenya.
This simple dish, sometimes called kuku na nazi, is a fabulous coconut curry from the East African coast. It is a perfect illustration of how African, Arab and Indian influences meld in the coastal region.

4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS
Chicken, cut into pieces — 3 pounds
Onion, chopped — 1
Hot chile peppers, chopped — 2 or 3
Ginger, peeled and chopped — 2 tablespoons
Garlic, chopped — 2 tablespoons
Oil or ghee — 1/4 cup
Curry powder — 1 tablespoon
Cumin seeds — 2 teaspoons
Chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce — 2 cups
Coconut milk — 2 cups, or 1 (15-ounce) can
Salt and pepper — to taste
Cilantro, chopped — 1/2 cup

METHOD
Add the onion, chiles, ginger and garlic to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add a little water if necessary.
Heat the oil or ghee in a large pot or wok over medium flame. Add the onion puree, curry powder and cumin and sauté, stirring frequently, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until cooked down.
Stir in the tomatoes and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Then add the chicken, coconut milk, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through and tender, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Add more water as needed.

Stir in the cilantro, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and serve with with rice or chapatti.

KUKU PAKA VARIATIONS
For authentic flavor, grill the chicken pieces before stirring them into the simmering sauce. If you like, you can also use boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs.
Some recipes add potatoes or hard-boiled eggs to the curry. The potatoes can be cooked ahead, cut into chunks and stirred into the curry toward the end.
Eliminate the hot chiles for a milder dish. Or substitute a chopped sweet bell pepper.
Reserve some of the coconut cream that gathers at the top of the can and stir it into the sauce at the very end for extra silky results.

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