One of the most popular curry dishes in Guyanese cuisine is chicken curry. You’ll find it at the dinner table at family get-togethers, holiday parties, for a weeknight dinner, or weekend afternoon meal. This dish has roots in Indian cooking and is a contribution to Guyanese cuisine by the Indian population of Guyana.
Growing Up With Chicken Curry
I grew up eating this at least once a week in my home. My mom always made the best chicken curry in the family. It was lip-smacking, forehead-sweating good. Served over rice with a side of extra pepper sauce was truly a plate of comfort food for me. Now I cook it for my family once a week as well. Chicken curry is perfect for lunch, dinner or honestly even brunch! And if you know Guyanese people, you know that it is not uncommon to eat curry early in the day.
Serve this up for a weeknight meal, on the weekend, or for a small dinner party.
What Is Green Seasoning?
What I love most about Guyanese curries is their uniqueness. The addition of Caribbean green seasoning takes Guyanese chicken curry to new heights. Green seasoning is a seasoning base made of herbs and vegetables (typically onion, scallions, garlic, and spicy pepper) that’s widely used in Caribbean cooking to marinate meat. For this recipe, the green seasoning is combined with a spice blend of warm garam masala and curry powder.
Sear pieces of chicken legs and thighs in the curry paste and simmer in a gravy that’s created by adding water to the pot with whole spices and tomato paste, then finish with fresh scallions and roasted cumin. This curry will seriously make you feel moreish, licking your fingers and cleaning the plate.
Adding Layers of Flavor to Chicken Curry
Cook the curry in steps to layer flavors. There is a multi-step process and technique to cooking curry that helps the curry have a balanced taste in the end. Start by cooking the curry paste to bring out the flavors of the spices. Add the chicken and let the spices sear onto the meat. Next add boiling water from a kettle so everything cooks at the same temperature. Add tomato paste and whole spices while it simmers to marry all the ingredients and bring out the earthy aromas. Hints of cinnamon and clove create warmth. It feels like someone’s hugging you after you take a bite. This curry is so delicious it will be a regular on your menu!
Make Your Own Green Seasoning
Green seasoning varies from cook to cook and depends widely on what is available in your fridge and what you feel like adding to the mix. Traditionally green seasoning is made in a mortar and pestle, but I highly recommend using a blender or food processor to save time.
The green seasoning can be made ahead of time and placed in the freezer or refrigerator.
Freeze: Portion out the green seasoning in ice cube trays in the freezer for up to 4 weeks. For this recipe, 2 cubes is enough.
Refrigerate: Pour green seasoning into a glass container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Spices Used to Make Guyanese Chicken Curry
The main spices used in Guyanese chicken curry are Madras curry powder and garam masala. Madras curry powder is a blend that is hotter than a standard curry powder. I recommend using this type of curry powder for this recipe for the best flavor.
Garam masala is a spice blend that contains cinnamon, coriander, cumin seeds, cardamom seeds, clove, and fennel seeds (just to name a few) The seeds are toasted then ground into a powder and used in curries.
Guyana was once a British colony and therefore our food is heavily influenced by British cooking and customs including British-Indian cuisine. Curry is a generalized term, but in Guyanese cuisine we recognize curry powder as a single ingredient.
When making Guyanese curries using pre-packaged masalas and curry powder is very common. However, some people make their own curry powder and garam masala and store it for a few months at a time. Curry powder is a similar blend to garam masala except it contains turmeric and is what gives the dish a yellow hue. Homemade curry powders vary in their ingredients and from cook to cook. You’ll find spices such as curry leaves, cardamom, clove, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel, mustard seed, black pepper, and chilies to name a few, and in different amounts.
Key to Making Authentic Guyanese Curry
For the curry to have that Guyanese flavor, using West Indian products and taking extra steps to layer the flavors will only benefit the taste in the end.
- For an authentic Guyanese curry, I would recommend skipping the grocery store and buying all of your spices from a West Indian market (in a store or online).
- Do not skip the green seasoning. It makes all the difference in flavor. Chief brand makes a good green seasoning if you prefer a store bought option.
- Use bone-in chicken versus chicken breast—it provides a lot of flavor.
Wiri Wiri Pepper Substitutions
Sourcing wiri wiri peppers, little cherry peppers from the Caribbean, can be difficult. There are some shops on Etsy that sell these peppers if you can’t find them locally. You can swap them for habanero or Scotch bonnet peppers.
Guyanese Curry Variations
You can use different proteins like beef, lamb, or goat for this recipe.
Seafood curries need less garam masala and are entirely different recipes. I wouldn’t recommend using this recipe with fish or shrimp.
Rice or roti is typically served with curries. Parboiled rice is usually the rice of choice in the Caribbean, but basmati is a favorite of mine with chicken curry. I find it to be lighter and more fragrant. I also love chicken curry with paratha or oil roti—a flatbread that has been layered with ghee or oil and cooked on a cast iron griddle.
Also, don’t be afraid to pick up the meat with your fingers and savor it. It’s truly the best way to enjoy this dish!