Chicken fried rice adds spice with curry paste

My house smells amazing.

I just cooked curry, and my house smells like a food stall in Calcutta, or a kitchen in Guangzhou, or a home in Thailand, or a crowded street in Tibet, or a cafeteria in Kashmir, or a pub in England.

It’s heaven. Absolute culinary heaven.

Curry, in its original incarnation, is any kind of sauce or gravy in Indian cooking. Usually, it is heavily seasoned with a mixture of pungent and potent spices such as cumin, fennel or cinnamon. The British, who colonized India, loved the flavor of these dishes but apparently misinterpreted the Tamil word “kari,” which might have meant “sauce.” They thought it meant the assortment of spices that flavor it.

Eager to take these tastes back to England, British soldiers blended a mixture of their favorite Indian spices and called it curry powder. It is this powder that went around the world, creating what most of the globe thinks of as curries.

Curry ingredients may include black cardamom pods, cumin seeds, green cardamom pods, ground turmeric, cloves, dried red peppers, black peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, bay leaf, paprika and nutmeg. (TNS/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Hillary Levin)

Curry ingredients may include black cardamom pods, cumin seeds, green cardamom pods, ground turmeric, cloves, dried red peppers, black peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, bay leaf, paprika and nutmeg. (TNS/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Hillary Levin)

The exception is Thailand. While some dishes in that country do use a mixture of dry spices similar to the English conception of curry powder, most Thai curries begin with one of several pastes made from ground-up herbs.

This Thai fried rice uses a green curry paste.

Pieces of chicken — it’s a chicken fried rice — are simmered in the curry, and then the other ingredients are added one by one: eggs (which are scrambled into the mixture), rice, peas, green onion, Thai fish sauce and soy sauce.

It is a simple fried rice, but this method of cooking it means the flavors are layered. It’s hugely satisfying, comfort food, with green curry paste.

Chicken Fried Rice With Green Curry Paste

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon green curry paste (see note)
  • 1 large skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into small pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • 1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce

Heat the oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the curry paste and stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the chicken and stir well, cooking for about 2 minutes. Break in the eggs and scramble well, cooking for about 2 minutes until nearly cooked. Add the remaining ingredients one at a time, stirring between each addition. Serve hot or cold.

Makes 2 main-dish servings or 4 side-dish servings.

Note: Green curry paste and fish sauce are available at specialty stores and some well-stocked supermarkets in the international aisle.

Adapted from “The Big Book of Thai Curries” by Vatcharin Bhumichitr

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