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Passport & Plate - “Goan Hospitality” Turmeric Chicken

India | Friday, 14 March 2014 | 4 photos

1-½ cups basmati rice
3 cups water
2 tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, diced

2 tbsp. butter
1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
1 to 2 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ tbsp. turmeric
½ tsp. cumin seeds
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. coriander seeds
½ tsp. mustard seeds
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. water
2 lbs. chicken drumsticks
1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk
Fresh cilantro and tomato, to garnish (optional)


How to prepare this recipe
To Cook Rice:
Rinse basmati until the water runs clear. Combine rice, water, butter, and garlic in a medium sized pot. Bring the pot to a slow boil. Cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and reduce heat to low. Simmer the rice for 15 to 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Let stand 5 minutes, then uncover and fluff with a fork.

To Cook Chicken:
Combine turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, mustard, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder, or you may crush all the spices together with a mortar and pestle.

In a large pot, on medium heat, cook the onion, ginger, and garlic in the butter for about 2 or 3 minutes, or until soft. Add the spices and about 2 tbsp. water and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Add the chicken drumsticks and cook them in the spice mix until they are slightly browned. Stir frequently and add additional water, if necessary, to keep the spices from burning. Add the coconut milk, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook the chicken for approximately 45 minutes, or until cooked through, turning occasionally.

Serve the drumsticks over basmati rice and garnish with fresh cilantro and tomato, if desired.


The story behind this recipe
I’d just finished a two year assignment in Micronesia as an American Peace Corps Volunteer, and I decided to take the long way home; overland across Asia, India, Northern Africa and Europe. After two years of eating mainly fish and taro, my journey quickly became an exploration in food on a global scale.

On Palolem Beach in Southern Goa, India, I spent days eating tender tandoori chicken, spicy grilled prawns, and naan potent with garlic. I spent nights sipping steamy cups of masala chai and watching the waves beat the shore. It was the best food I’d eaten in years.

One morning, I strolled inland to the markets and entered a scarf shop. A fine silk caught my eye, but I could not afford to purchase it. The shop owner, a young man named Amir, asked if I’d like to ride with him on his motorbike to neighboring Agonda Beach to look at his other shop.

As a woman traveling alone, I understood the risks of accepting. However, I was enchanted with Goa and I wanted to see more, so I took the gamble. At Agonda, Amir took me to a stretch of beach lined with large boulders. We spent hours talking and hopping along the rocks. I felt no fear.

Soon, night fell. “It’s late now,” he said. “Would you like to come to my home? I will feed you before I take you back to Palolem.”

I knew that this would be an opportunity that I might never again have to see how the local people lived. Amir shared a dark, one-room apartment with two other men. A western toilet was plainly situated in the far corner. His flat mates cooked on a gas stove on the floor as I entered. I watched them prepare fragrant turmeric spiced chicken and rice. Then, we sat on the floor, using cupped fingers to eat from a communal plate. The weight of my gender silenced most conversation, but I could feel their kindness with every bite. They had little, but they shared it with me.

Amir took me safely home that night and I never saw him again, but I will never forget his Goan hospitality or the taste of that chicken.

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