Having grown up surrounded by coconut trees in our little island, called Marinduque, in the Philippines I love anything with coconut flavors. And we do use coconuts (tree and fruit) for everything that you can imagine. I don't know how our country will survive without this towering plant from the Palm family. We use its logs to build houses, leaves for roofing, oil for cooking and making our hair shiny, coconut husks for charcoal and of course it's meat for snacking, baking and plain eating. In the midst of a heatwave in the Philippines, nothing can be more refreshing than fresh coconut juice from a freshly opened young coconut! The possibilities are truly endless and I haven't even mentioned coconut milk!
I am actually so happy that in the food blogging world, coconut-themed recipes have arrived and made their presence felt. Coconut milk can now be found anywhere and not just in Asian stores but in major groceries. Naturally, when you think of Coconut milk the first thing that comes to mind is curry. Perhaps any country in Asia that has their own version of a curry sauce uses coconut milk for the sauce. Add some coconut milk and you can almost never go wrong, well at least in my experience. And we do use coconut milk in our mild Philippine curry, too (the freshly made milk from the coconut meat). Canned coconut milk is unheard of in my country. :-) That's just the way it is. But I am glad I have access to coconut milk and I don't mind if it's canned. I haven't ventured out making my own fresh coconut milk yet (though back in Manila, this is what we do all the time) and if ever that day comes, I will surely blog about it!
Anyway, here's an amazing Coconut Chicken Curry from India also known as Murgi Malai in Bengali. The word murgi means chicken and malai means cream (which can either be dairy or coconut). I used Coconut milk for the entire recipe but feel free to use a dairy alternative, if you prefer that. If you are a curry sauce lover, this is a must-try! My husband fell in-love with it the first time I made it so I hope you do to. Enjoy!
This is adapted from Best Ever Curry Cookbook - Chicken in Coconut Milk recipe by Mridula Baljekar.
2 Tbsp desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
2 Tbsp ground almonds
1 can coconut milk
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chili powder (I used a mild one)
1 to 1 1/2 tsp grated fresh galangal or ginger (fresh makes a difference so use the fresh one if possible)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp brown sugar (optional - but I like to temper the saltiness so I added a little sugar)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp cooking oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
3 green cardamom pods*
1 bay leaf
1-2 fresh Red chili, seeds removed and then chopped or 1/2 tsp red chili flakes (depends on the spice level you want)
3-4 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds
*Don't worry much if you don't have cardamom pods, I always have them since I make Chai Tea but you may omit it if it's not readily available or use the ground one if you can find it as it adds another layer of flavor to the curry.
In a frying pan, dry-roast the desiccated coconut and ground almonds, just until they become a shade darker (be careful not to burn it).
In a large bowl, combine the coconut milk, coriander, chili powder, grated galangal or ginger, garlic, salt and brown sugar and the toasted coconut and almonds.
Heat the vegetable oil in a deep pan to medium. Add the chicken cubes, bay leaf and cardamom pods and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until the chicken turns whitish.
Pour in the coconut mixture and stir well to combine.
When it begins to bubble (starts to boil), add in the red chili(s), cilantro and sliced almonds.
Cover and lower the heat to simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure that the meat does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Uncover and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the sauce thickens a little. Garnish with more chopped cilantro and sliced almonds, if desired. Enjoy with rice!
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