Way back in my early 20s (so no that way back), I spent about a year living and working in Udaipur, India. It is a “small” city packed full of traditional culture, surrounded by the Araveli Mountain chain, and is affectionately known as the Venice of the East with its various man made lakes.
There is a lot of culture, convention and religion that influences feeding habits in India, and one of the things I love most about Udaipur is how harmoniously the different groups live and work with each other, and most importantly respect each other’s moral code. What this means is that pork is off limits to respect those practicing Islam, beef is off limits to respect those practicing Hinduism, and grocery stores, restaurants, and public spaces are very transparent when it comes to vegetarian/vegan options. Side note: Some Hindu’s do not consume egg, but they do eat dairy so it can get a little tricky.
All this to say, I learnt A LOT about the culture of food, I gained so much respect for the age-old traditions that accompanied meal preparation, and I took home with me a deep seated appreciation for the traditional flavours of Indian food (but NOT the spice, I never adapted much there).
When I started trying to re-create and experiment with these flavours in my own kitchen at home, I realized just how easy it was to get the same depth of flavour and nostalgic taste without all the added dairy (for my lactose sensitive tummy), all while sneaking in more veggies.
While Butter Chicken is NOT an authentic Indian dish ((it was actually adapted during the migration of Indian’s to Europe), it is still packed FULL of the fragrant and nutritious Indian spices, and with a few tweaks can be made into a deliciously healthy meal.
But don’t take my word for it, try it out for yourself.
Important note: for years I have been making this COMPLETELY VEGAN and just started integrating chicken back into my diet. So I will share the minor tweaks you’d make to make this a completely vegan meal.
- 2 free-range/ organic boneless and skinless chicken breasts, cubed
- OR, 1 brick of extra firm tofu, cubed
- OR, 2 cups of chickpeas
- 28oz can of strained/crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 1 cup of coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon (or to taste) ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
- 1 large tomato finely diced
- 1 white onion finely diced
- 3 cups of cooked brown rice
- OR, cauliflower rice (finely diced cauliflower using a food processor)
- ¼ cup of diced green onions, or chopped coriander for plating (whatever you prefer)
- In a large frying pan (or large saucepan) heat coconut oil and saute cubed chicken until cooked through
- If using tofu, you can fry the tofu in a separate pan until crispy on all edges, and add when the sauce is all combined
- If using chickpeas, you can add then at the end once the sauce is prepared.
- Add diced onion, diced tomato, ginger and garlic to the cooked chicken and stir until onions become translucent
- Add all dry spices and fully coat the chicken until the spices become fragrant
- Add canned tomatoes, tomato paste and coconut milk and coconut palm sugar
- Let simmer for 30-40 minutes on low to allow the spices to fully combine and the sauce to thicken
- Serve over brown rice, or cauliflower rice and top with your choice of greenery
If you have never experimented with Indian flavours, NOW is the time. It is hard to go “wrong” and you can always tweak the spice distribution to taste as the sauce thickens up.
When you try it, share your successes below in the comments.