Getting to know Africa includes experiencing the vastly different - and yummy - expressions of each culture through food.
We're (as the headline suggests) absolutely coocoo for Kuku Paka. What's that you say? Simple - Coconut Chicken Curry.
Originating from the East African coastal area, this is a lovely dish for hot summer days. The word "kuku" means chicken in Swahili. Most believe that "paka" means the dish is made with coconut milk, although "paka" is also a Punjabi word meaning delicious. And, it is! Although we particularly enjoy this family recipe, remember you can search online and find lots of variations on this dish. An online recipe site we use over and over again is The Congo Cookbook. My East Africa Journal is also a great source for recipes. Their recipe is the closest we could find to the way we prepare this dish. The trick is to find a good, basic recipe and then tweak it to your taste!
- 1 Hot Chili Pepper, chopped
- 2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon of Ginger, chopped
- 3 tablespoons of natural Yogurt
- 1 teaspoon (or to taste) of Salt
You can add some dried hot chili flakes if you want to. Combine all the marinade ingredients. Now, add the chicken! Add approximately 3 pounds of chicken to a large plastic bag. We use boneless breast, but chicken thighs work equally well. Cut the chicken into "bite-sized" pieces and pour the marinade over the chicken. You can marinate the chicken for as little as one hour but we prefer overnight for the best juicy flavour!
- 1-1/2 medium size onions, chopped
- 1 Star Anise (this is optional but we like to use it)
- 1 small stick of cinnamon
- Half a can of plum tomatoes, chopped (Hint: We just use already diced, canned tomatoes)
- 1 teaspoon of tomato purée
- A handful of chopped coriander
- 50 grams creamed coconut OR half a tin of coconut milk
- Head up about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (we use a canola/olive oil blend) in a frying pan.
- Add the chopped onions and the star anise, along with the cinnamon stick and fry until the onions are caramelized.
- Add the marinated chicken and sauté until the chicken is browned.
- Add the tomatoes and tomato purée and cook over medium heat for about ten minutes. Make sure you stir occasionally to avoid sticking and burning. You can add a little water if need be.
- Add the coconut (creamed or milk) and cook another 5 minutes.
You're done. We usually serve this dish with rice or a side salad.
Some people add potatoes or hard-boiled eggs to this curry. Potatoes can be pre-cooked and then cut into bite sized chunks. Add toward the end. Allow enough time for potatoes to absorb the heat and flavours. Hard-boiled eggs should be added to each plate (sort of as a "garnish"). If you like a milder version, we suggest not adding the optional chili flakes. If you really like a mild curry, then don't use the hot chili peppers. Substitute a chopped sweet bell pepper instead. A friend of our recently recommended that we reserve some of the coconut milk that gathers at the top of the can (the really creamy stuff) and add it at the very end. We tried it and found it makes the curry very "silky" - delicious! They also sometimes add some lime leaves as a garnish. Equally delicious is to just provide some lime quarters and let people choose how much (or if) to add. Sometimes, we grill the chicken on the bbq, instead of pan frying. Also just yummy!
Enjoy! And please let us know how you enjoy this recipe and any creative culinary modifications you make.