Coconut Chicken with Cashews
This is an adaptation of a traditional Bora Muslim recipe that I learned from my friend Mustafa, a Bora from Bombay who lives just around the corner from me in Manhattan. Mustafa makes this with a commercial spice mix that his mother sends him from Bombay. I figured out what was in the mix and used those spices here. Ground cashews serve to bind the sauce.
You’ll find cashews in dishes from all over India, but like almonds, they are generally associated with Mogul or Muslim cuisines. Serve this with pita and rice, and chilled sliced red onions tossed in fresh lemon juice and sprinkled with paprika.
Total Timeunder 1 hour
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationmain course
Taste and Texturemeaty, nutty, savory, spiced
- 1 cup raw or roasted cashews, plus ¼ cup roasted cashews, for serving
- 4 whole dried red chiles
- A 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
- 6 whole cloves
- 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 8 garlic cloves
- A 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
- ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut, or ¼ cup ground raw or roasted cashews
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut crosswise into thirds
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Process 1 cup of the raw cashews to a powder in a food processor.
Combine the chiles, cinnamon stick, cloves, coriander, cumin, onion, garlic, ginger, coconut, and ¾ cup of the ground cashews in a large saucepan or casserole over low heat. Cook, stirring, until the cashews and coconut have turned light golden, about 10 minutes. Cool and process to a paste in a food processor.
Wipe out the casserole and put it over medium heat. Add the oil, the spice paste, and the black pepper, and cook, stirring, until the mixture turns deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Keep a cup of water beside the stove as the mixture cooks. As the spices begin to stick, add water, about 1 teaspoon at a time, and scrape the bottom of the pan with the spoon to pull up the browned bits and keep the spices from burning.
Add the remaining ground cashews and cook, stirring, 5 more minutes. Add the chicken and cook, stirring, until it turns opaque, about 5 minutes.
Add the water and the salt, bring to a boil, turn the heat down, and simmer, partially covered, until the chicken is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Taste for salt and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup roasted cashews. Serve hot.
2004 Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness