Ceylonese Cashew-Coconut Chicken

By • May 17, 2013 25 Comments

115 + Save

If you like it, save it!

Save and organize all of the stuff you love in one place.

Got it!

If you like something…

Click the heart, it's called favoriting. Favorite the stuff you like.

Got it!


Author Notes: About twenty years ago, my great grand aunt Buba passed away. A grand lady married to a diplomat, she traveled the world and brought pieces of it back home with her. Upon Buba’s death, my other great-grand aunts promptly redistributed her belongings except for a tiny book on Sri Lankan cuisine, which lay forgotten until someone recalled my love of cooking. I became a proud owner of Ceylon Cookery, printed in 1968 and written by Chandra Dissanayake, the principal of the Ceylon School of Home Economics. At the time, I lived in a tiny Balkan country with no access to spices, coconuts, or exotic fruits and veggies, so my chances of experiencing Sri Lankan cooking were slim to none. Though I could only imagine the dishes, I absolutely loved the book! A couple of years later, I moved to the United States and met a guy from, you might have guessed, Sri Lanka. A year later we were married. Another year later, I finally visited Sri Lanka, the magical country of teas, spices, and jewels, and home to one of the most unusual, enchanting, and lesser-known Asian cuisines. I became addicted to their complex use of spices and the roasting and tempering that creates aromas one rarely finds anywhere else. And since Sri Lankan cooks are notoriously bad at recording their recipes, I became addicted to recreating them on my own. This one is among my favorites.QueenSashy

Food52 Review: The fragrance of the toasted spices and coconut in this recipe serve as an alluring introduction to Sri Lankan cuisine. Make the cashew paste the night before and you'll be able to whisk this dish onto the table in the time it takes to cook a pot of rice. Fry the chicken gently and stir the remaining cashew paste into the simmering coconut milk to reap the fullest flavor. Next time, I’ll boost the heat with more chiles and ginger. I’d also like a scattering of bright cilantro or mint, toasted cashews for texture, and a side of citrusy greens to balance the rich sauce.Melissa@HomeBaked

Serves 4

  • 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 unsweetened, dried 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
  1. In a small bowl, mix the cumin, coriander, fenugreek, fennel, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom. Set aside. Place a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil and shallots and sauté until the shallots become soft and yellow. Add the garlic, sauté for another minute, and then add in the spice mix. Continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the spices become very fragrant. Remove the spice mixture from the heat and let it cool.
  2. In a food processor, blend the cashews until powdery. Add the spice mixture, dried coconut, ginger, chili powder, tomato paste, salt, 3 tablespoons of the coconut milk, and 4 tablespoons of water, and purée into a fine paste. Thoroughly coat the chicken with the paste and let it rest for about 4 hours, or overnight, in the fridge. (If you are in a hurry, forget the resting; it will not be the end of the world.)
  3. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Place the chicken pieces in the pan and brown them nicely, about 4 minutes per side. (Do not overcrowd the pan, otherwise the chicken will not brown nicely, and will remain pale. If needed, do it in batches.) Pour out the excess oil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, pour the coconut milk into the pan, deglaze, and bring the coconut milk slowly to a boil. Adjust saltiness if needed and continue to simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes or so, until the sauce has reduced to a thick gravy. Serve with steamed rice, dosa, or roti (another wonderful Sri Lankan dish).
💬 View Comments ()

Comments (25) Questions (1)

Default-small
Default-small
F78bea4e-92d9-40fa-ad23-5d08dd3a44d0.image

9 days ago Melissa

We had this for dinner tonight.
It was really tasty- I didn't find it bland, but I did add a bit of salt.
It's quite mild. I have a few good curry recipes, so although this was good, it likely won't make the rotation.

5a1c5dc4-57e0-4a2c-a599-4bc5c8e77770.10547498_10154461666005425_7510055399668288938_n

about 1 month ago Jaxmccaff

This chicken was good but not amazing. This could be because I only let the chicken rest for about an hour but the flavour was very mild. I would also try putting fresh chillies in next time to help add some extra punch. I might also try making it in the slow cooker to see if that helps infuse the flavours a little more.

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

about 1 month ago Cindy Holland

Honestly, this is my first negative review and I am willing to admit I must have done something wrong. It was bland and tasteless which was surprising given the amount of spices/cashews. Also, the color was beige and unappealing and looked nothing like the photo. I can't figure out what I did wrong. Should have loved this dish....:(

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

about 1 month ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

Cindy, I am sorry that you did not like the dish… You may not have done anything wrong to it, because even though it seems like there is a lot of spice, the dish is actually quite mild. The only thing I can think of in terms of producing the lack of color is the browning of the chicken (because it happened to me once) – most of the color in this dish will come from browning the chicken and deglazing, not really the spices.

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

6 months ago mstv

I made this tonight with a dhal and rice pulao and it turned out great! I used skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (cut in half), legs, and drumettes (two of each). I used 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper and 1 1/2 tsp chili powder. I only have about 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk so I simmered the curry with the lid on and the texture was prefect. Delicious! Thank you for this wonderful recipe.

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

about 1 year ago Shai11

I made this last week and it came out beautifully. I was expecting a robust result, but it was surprisingly sophisticated. I've tried other recipes with similar flavors, but this one was heads above the rest. I'm adding it to my rotation!!! Thanks for sharing the recipe

C279e39f-23d1-45a9-ace3-eb1985c6a2ac.sally

over 1 year ago Sally

I love the author's notes and the dish itself sounds like my perfect curry. Will be trying this next week. :D

B9263c85-3b68-4dcb-a276-2e9f04c57469.my-haircut

over 1 year ago indieculinary

Yum! I can't wait to try this.

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

about 2 years ago ritagorra

You mean chicken thighs, right?

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

about 2 years ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

Yes :)

9a61d3c7-2821-4579-8601-c61c43d1c19f.img_0472

about 2 years ago darksideofthespoon

This was really good. Next time I make it: I'll increase all the spices, probably won't marinate the chicken and cut down on the oil - we found it to be a little greasy. Was great with steamed rice and naan!

2f4926e2-248b-4c22-a6f7-8f2d888b8488.3-bizcard

about 2 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I just saw this and plan on making it very soon, it sounds absolutely delicious. I love stews, I can't wait to try this.

Ec89bac4-d90d-46fb-a336-04afd14d1e80.img_1958

about 2 years ago gingerroot

What a beautiful dish! I belong to a cooking club associated with my local chapter of Slow Food and last year one of the highlights was a Sri Lankan feast, hosted by two members originally from Sri Lanka. We all helped to prepare the dishes - you are right, they don't follow written recipes per se, but cook by taste and feel. It was a glorious meal. I can't wait to make your dish!

Fad1d966-4923-41f5-815f-8c19d8b337e4.flower

about 2 years ago Bevi

I too am so making this!

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

about 2 years ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

Bevi, Abbie, if you guys end up making it, I would very much appreciate your feedback...

E7b6597b-db6e-4cae-b9f3-699b508f4ed3.036

about 2 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I am SO making this. Sounds fantastic and now I want to go to Sri Lanka

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

about 2 years ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

Thanks :)

Ca7fccb8-666c-41dc-a074-438636998431.spiceroute

about 2 years ago Madhuja

Beautiful story and a gorgeous dish! Love your stash of cinnamon!:)

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

about 2 years ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

Thank you Madhuja! It is my prized Ceylon cinnamon, and my husband is not allowed to return home unless he brings back some.

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

over 1 year ago fatgirleating

This is marinating in my fridge RIGHT NOW and I'm very excited. Incidentally, penzies.com sells ceylon cinnamon both sick and ground. Not nearly as romantic as having your beloved bring you some, but should do for the rest of us

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

over 1 year ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

My beloved forgot to bring cinnamon from the last trip to Sri Lanka and I am too now turning to penzeys :) Please let me know if you liked it...

549d9fb3-53ef-4170-b68e-8bae2e055be7.dsc_0048b

about 2 years ago healthierkitchen

Mmm. Sounds delicious!

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

about 2 years ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

Thanks!

5861b4ad-965e-4a67-9c9c-76c273534f33.img_0001

about 2 years ago Kukla

Love your fascinating story QeenSashy, and the dish sounds delicious with all these exotic spices!

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

about 2 years ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

Kukla, thank you!