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Today: A poultry introduction to Sri Lankan cuisine.
I’ve never been to Sri Lanka, but it seems like a magical place. It’s home to the Sigiriya rock fortress, was once known as Gem Island for its famously beautiful sapphires, exports some of the best tea in the world, and has a rich cultural history that dates back at least 125 thousand years (that’s not a typo). With such an impressive résumé, it’s no surprise that Ceylonese cuisine (Sri Lanka was called Ceylon until 1972) is delicious and wonderfully unique, albeit often overloooked in favor of food from its South Asian neighbor, India.
This flavorful Ceylonese Cashew-Coconut Chicken incorporates many of the flavors we love from Indian cuisine, but is distinctly Sri Lankan, with the addition of toasted fenugreek and coconut milk. If you’ve never made Sri Lankan food before, this is a good place to start. Once you’ve made the cashew paste marinade for the chicken and sourced all of the spices (I counted over 10!), the entire process takes about 30 minutes and is a complete meal when served with rice, dosa, or roti (a recipe we’ll cover in Sri Lanka 102):
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 small shallot (about 1 ounce), finely minced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 ounces raw cashew nuts
1 tablespoon dried unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon chili powder or ground chiles (this is to get you started; a Sri Lankan cook would probably use 4 times as many)
1 tablespoon double-concentrated tomato paste
1 pinch salt, plus more as needed
2 cups plus 3 tablespoons coconut milk, divided
1 pound boneless and skinless chicken thighs, each thigh cut in half
Photo by James Ransom
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