Madras Chicken Curry in the Tundra for less than $1.00: even better than it sounds

In the tundra, what better dinner could you have than piping hot chicken curry? Yesterday, there was a sale at the supermarket – I got about 3lbs of chicken drumsticks for $2.62 (or, 88 cents/lb). Fabulous price. Yes, I know, I know, Costco sells chicken thighs for 89 cents per lb…living in the land of the severe tundra, one does not always feel motivated to drive into the non-metropolitan areas that Costco typically occupies. And yes, I was a bit concerned that this chicken was 1/2 off…but I have not yet taken ill, so, I am guessing that the chicken was fine. Of course, once I got it home, I had to make a curry from it.

Madras Chicken Curry in the Tundra (best if it’s below 30F outside!)

Here it is:

  • skillet;
  • slow cooker* (mine is 6qts);
  • chopsticks or fork;
  • spatula;
  • 3 lbs of chicken drumsticks (or thighs);
  • 2 cans of organic chickpeas (or, 30 oz of wet chickpeas you soaked yourself overnight – approx. 1lb of dry – the canned will increase the saltiness factor);
  • 3/4 lb of yellow onion, broadly chopped;
  • 5 tablespoons of Madras curry (I used Suraj brand, the house brand of Westfair Foods – a Canadian food retailer);
  • 1/4 cup of nguoc mam;
  • 1 Knorr beef bouillion cube;
  • **forgotten from original post**2 cubic inches of ginger;
  • 1 lb of bok choy stems (the white stalk only); and
  • 5 tablespoons of vegetable oil.


Turn on your slow cooker to HOT. Chop the onion. Set aside. Wash the chicken. Set aside. Heat the skillet to medium. Pour the curry powder onto the skillet. As it begins to toast, stir vigorously with wooden chopsticks or a metal fork. Do not allow to burn! You should really smell the oils escaping out of the curry powder now. Add 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil. Keep stirring vigorously. Add the chopped onion. Saute aggressively.

Once you have browned the onion, set it aside. Wash the skillet. Set to medium high. Wait for the pan to heat up. Add the chicken. Brown each piece on one side, and flip in 7 min or so to the other side. FYI, I had to brown in batches, even though my skillet is large. After you have browned the chicken, set it into the slow cooker – which should be quite hot by now.

Leave the chicken bits stuck to the skillet.** Set the skillet to high. Peel, then grate the fresh ginger, and add it in. Vigorously fry it. Add 1/4 cup of water to the ngouc mam. Stir. Pour that into the skillet. Next, add the 1 beef boullion cube. Once it melts, add the curry/onion mixture back. Get everything in the skillet simmering hot. Pour into the slow cooker over the chicken. Open the cans of chickpeas. Drain them briefly. Pour into the slow cooker. Mix. Keep the slow cooker on HIGH. Leave for 2 hrs. Add the bok choy. Mix. Leave for another hour. Done!

Estimated total cost of ingredients: $7.53 and some change.

Here’s the math:

  1. $2.62 for the chicken;
  2. $1.98 for the canned organic chickpeas {obviously, cheaper if you soak your own};
  3. $1.61 for the yellow onion;
  4. $1.00 for the bok choy ($0.89 per lb);
  5. $0.22 for the beef bouillion {1/6 of$1.29 – you get six cubes in each packet};
  6. $0.10 for the ngouc mam {typically sells for $1.99 for a whole bottle);
  7. pennies for the fresh ginger;
  8. pennies for the curry (that was a gift, but, I’m guessing it costs no more than $10.00 for the whole bag);
  9. pennies for the vegetable oil; and
  10. pennies for the steamed rice that you will eat this with (I buy jasmine rice in a 25lb bag for under $12.00).

I’m not sure exactly how many servings this recipe will accomodate, but, there are about 5lbs of food here, without counting the rice that you’ll be eating with it! That’s a lot. Even if you ate 1/2 lb of this curry per meal, each such serving would be less than 80 cents. Not bad, for a premium meal. Oh, gosh, how to put it modestly…my chicken curry is legendary!!! Yours for less than a dollar per serving!!!

*I absolutely adore using my slow cooker to prep this with minimal fuss, mess, and attention span.

P.S. Tumeric, an ingredient in most curry powders, is a brain booster!

** These bits are fond – very important for proper sauce development! Take that, nonstick pans! (updated 05.12.08).

Update: June 8, 2008 – the photo at the top is from my more recent post about Madras Chicken Curry!

If you are coming to this post from My Open Wallet, you might be interested in my other posts about one dollar meals.


9 responses to “Madras Chicken Curry in the Tundra for less than $1.00: even better than it sounds

  1. I’m glad that the chicken didn’t make you sick! 🙂

    I’ve been trying to find a dish to make for my client to introduce her to curry and this sounds great. Do you have any suggestions about replacing the chickpeas as the author of the recipe? Not having made the dish yet I was wondering if you thought of any specific legume that would add consistent flavor and texture?

  2. I think that it depends on what your client likes…if it’s not clear whether she likes curry or not, I would suggest creating a curry sauce/gravy to serve with baked potato or something else somewhat more familiar. Baby lima beans sprinkled on white rice is also pretty to serve with curry. These beans are slightly bitter, and nutty, which can be nice to off-set the intense curry flavors.

  3. Thanks. Those are all good ideas. I’ll keep it all in mind while I’m at the store tomorrow. I think I like the lima bean idea. Not only is the flavor and texture going to go well but they also are more like the orginal chickpeas of your recipe.

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