Chicken Korma + Homemade Garam Masala

Today’s the day before Ash Wednesday and aside from that, “International Chicken Korma Day”. I just made that last part up, for lack of other uninteresting things to say. So let me just get right to it.

I got this recipe from Rasa Malaysia, an Asian food blog that I’ve been following for quite some time now, really because I consider it one of the best Asian food blogs out there. Bee Yinn Low, the woman behind RM, brings together cuisines from almost every nook and cranny in Asia – even the occasional Filipino delicacy.
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Since I’m still building myself up as an amateur cook, it makes perfect sense to try to expand my repertoire with dishes from the Asian neighbors. And today I made my first “almost authentic” Indian dish.

I’ll be the first to admit that since Filipino cooking is not heavy on exotic spices (think cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, cumin…), sometimes the aromas of Indian (and also Muslim) cuisine, because of their lack of subtlety, can be off-putting. But of course, I’m one that enjoys the spice and heat that comes with the territory. In moderation, it’s not really a problem with me.

Most of the Philippines is familiar with Chicken Curry, and Korma is essentially a curry, but according to Rasa Malaysia, “Korma, also spelled as Khurma or Kurma, is a milder form of curry and is distinguished from other curries by its rich gravy and smooth texture, mainly because of its heavy incorporation of yogurt as part of its main ingredients.”
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Here in Zamboanga, a virtual melting pot of cultures, predominantly Christian but with a strong Muslim presence (partially because of its proximity to Malaysia) we are familiar with the kulma, and what I made approximates the familiar taste of what we know as curry laden with the trademark spices.
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This doesn’t have curry powder because the recipe called for Garam Masala. Because I didn’t check with our local delicatessen if they had it in stock, well, I made my own spice mix thanks to the wonders of the internet. It’s not difficult as long as you have the ingredients on hand. Heck, it’ll be easier to buy it from a generously stocked grocery, but I went the extra mile today because I had to.
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I say this a lot with my dishes, but I can really imagine myself making this again because it tastes great. Like estofado, I enjoyed eating the korma knowing that the “soup” or sauce has almost dried out, envelopes the tender chicken pieces and has become almost gravy-like. Well, that’s just me.

“Almost authentic Indian” aptly describes what I made today, and really, you either go big or go home. With my homemade garam masala, I guess I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.

Chicken Korma (Chicken in Rich Yogurt Curry) (serves 4 – 6; adapted from Rasa Malaysia)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 kg chicken leg and thighs, cut into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • a dash of cinnamon
  • 4 cardamons
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 8 black peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons liquid seasoning (or more, to taste)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (optional; that’s why I called it “almost authentic”)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Marinade:

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons Garam Masala (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder or paprika
  • 1 cup (250ml) plain yogurt, lightly whipped
  • 3/4 – 1 cup coconut milk (I had a 200ml tetra pack so I used that)
  • 2 large red onions, sliced and fried

Method:

  1. Marinate chicken with Marinade ingredients for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Heat up wok with 2 1/2 tablespoons oil, stir-fry the items listed under Ingredients, except liquid seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and let the whole spices to sizzle a bit until fragrant.
  3. Toss in the marinated chicken (with the marinade) and continue to stir-fry for 10 minutes. Add the liquid seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Turn heat to medium-low, cover the wok and cook for 40 – 60 minutes, or until the oil slightly separates, chicken is tender enough and you have achieved the gravy consistency that you prefer. You may add water if the sauce dries too quickly and if the chicken is still not cooked through.
  5. Season with salt and pepper. When done, remove from heat and serve with rice. Enjoy!

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Garam Masala (makes around 1/2 cup)

  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons whole cardamom pods
  • 2 tablespoons whole black pepper corns
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  1. In a skillet or a nonstick pan, over medium low heat, add the whole spices – coriander, cardamom, black peppercorns, cloves. Allow to toast for about 10 minutes until they take on a darker shade. You may stir it occasionally.
  2. When done, combine the toasted spices with the ground ones – cinnamon, nutmeg,  cumin in a mortar and pestle. Pound until the whole spices have been crushed and the mixture has become one cohesive powder. You may use a food processor or a coffee grinder.
  3. When done, store it in a dry container. You don’t have to put it in the refrigerator. It will keep for 3 months.

If you’re in Zamboanga and you’re thinking of doing this, I bought my cardamom from La Tienda (call them if they have it in stock) and the coriander from the spice and candy store near Mindpro’s grocery entrance, beside Bloomingdale’s. All the other spices can be found in the spice aisle of Mindpro’s grocery. 

Binagoongan Pork Adobo

Here I am with another round of adobo. I was actually unenthusiastic about this recipe when my mom first saw it in our national daily. The recipe called for bagoong ( [bɐɡoˈoŋ] bah-go-ong; fermented shrimp fry), coconut milk and sugar. *unrelated: I hated transcription and phonetics in college*

First off, I’m partial to a simpler, more traditional adobo – more vinegar than soy sauce, with no sugar. I don’t enjoy eating “sweet adobo” because after a few spoonfuls I lose my appetite. The only way to get me to eat adobo with rice after rice after rice if it’s salty-sour.
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Next, pork binagoongan is a recipe that calls for bagoong (shrimp paste) and sometimes even coconut milk. So why would I desecrate my adobo with coconut milk, bagoong and *shudder* sugar?

Then after making said recipe for Valentine’s day, I knew the answer – IT JUST WORKS (!).
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Looking back, now I understand why it’s called “Hybrid Adobo” – it blends together adobo and binagoongan, two Filipino favorites in one dish, creating something that plays like an incredibly satisfying tug-of-war in your mouth. This, right here, is delicious and it left the people around here craving for more. The enthusiasm that I get talking about this dish is off the roof!

Now my palate and appreciation for the humble adobo has definitely expanded. Sure, I might crave for the classic salty-sour, even the white (no soy sauce) variety from time to time, but this “hybrid”, is something else entirely.
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Because it’s difficult for me to call it a “hybrid” without thinking of a Zebronkey (a cross between a zebra and a donkey), let’s just call it…
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Adobong Binagoongang Baboy/ Binagoongan Pork Adobo (serve 6 – 8; adapted from The Philippine Daily Inquirer Lifestyle Section)

1 kg pork shoulder, cut to serving pieces

Marinade:

  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons liquid seasoning or soy sauce (I used 2 tbsp liquid seasoning and 1 tbsp soy sauce)
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 heads garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorn
  • 2 pieces bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons shrimp paste
  • 1 piece finger chili OR 1 tablespoon chili flakes (plus more for garnish, optional)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 200ml pack coconut cream
  1. Marinate pork with vinegar, soy sauce and brown sugar for 30 minutes.
  2. Sauté garlic in a pan until aromatic. Add peppercorn, bay leaf and shrimp paste.
  3. Add pork belly (without the marinade) and cook until it changes color.
  4. Add marinade, chili/chili flakes and water. Simmer for an hour or until meat is tender.
  5. Add coconut cream and simmer for 15 minutes more. Garnish with chili flakes if desired. Serve hot with lots of steamed rice. Enjoy!