Kuku Paka, a chicken-coconut curry, is a Swahili
dish from the coast of Eastern Africa. It is also sometimes called
an Ismaili dish, and it shows up on some Indian menus which all
makes sense when one considers that the Swahili civilization itself
is a mixture of influences from Africa, Arabia, and India. Etymologically,
Kuku Paka is a partial mystery. The African origins of Kuku Paka
are clearly seen in the word kuku, which means chicken in Kiswahili
(the Swahili language) and other African languages. But the paka
part is unclear. It's notable that nazi (the Swahili word for coconut)
is not used here, as it is in other Swahili dishes. And paka is
Swahili for cat, and it is related to Indian words for the verb
to cook and pure. Gastronomically, there's no mystery at all: it's
two or three spoonfuls cooking oil or butter
one onion, finely chopped
two sweet green peppers (bell peppers), chopped
one clove fresh garlic, minced
one-half teaspoon ground ginger
one teaspoon curry powder (or a similar amount of a combination
of ground cayenne pepper or red pepper, cumin, coriander, and turmeric)
a few whole cloves
one teaspoon salt
one chicken, cut into small serving-sized pieces
one cup water
four (or more) potatoes, cleaned and cut into quarters
three ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
two cups coconut milk (see Wali wa Nazi)
fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
one tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven. Over high
heat fry the onions and green peppers for a few minutes, stirring
constantly Stir in the minced garlic and fry for a minute longer.
Add the spices and salt and mix well.
Add the chicken to the pot. (Add another spoonful
of oil if necessary to keep chicken from sticking.) Brown the chicken
pieces on all sides. Remove chicken and set aside.
Add the water to the pot and bring to a slow boil.
Add the potatoes and cook them until they begin to become tender.
Return the chicken to the pot and continue to cook at a low boil,
stirring occasionally, until the chicken and potatoes are done.
Stir in the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes more.
Then add the coconut milk, reduce heat, and gently stir and simmer
until sauce is thickened. Stir in the lemon juicec. Garnish with
the fresh coriander leaves or parsley immediately before serving.
Serve Kuku Paka with Chapati or Rice.
Drink Cardamom Tea or Chai with the meal or afterwards.
Another way: In a separate pot, boil or fry the potatoes
at the same time the onions and chicken are cooking, (no need to
remove the chicken). Add the cooked potatoes to the onions and chicken
when the chicken is done, before adding the coconut milk.
Some cooks also add a bit of lemon juice and/or grated
lemon peel as is done in Akoho sy Voanio which is another African
chicken-and-coconut dish, from further south on Africa's east coast.