Mombasa Style Baked Chicken Curry with Vegetables
Mombasa’s rich, coconut infused chicken curry is a dish the whole family will love. Redolent of exotic, warm spices, and served on a bed of roasted vegetables, this curry is prepared in the oven. It’s perfect for entertaining or for a casual weeknight supper.
I know curry isn’t really Indian. But, there’s a reason its Indian-inspired flavors are so beloved that they’ve been endlessly tinkered with, adapted, and renamed. They’re exotic, aromatic, delicious, and timelesss. These qualities have endeared curry to generations of people across the globe.
If you don’t live in Africa, you will be surprised to learn that curry is beloved here too. The legendary spice route once ran along the coast of East Africa, where valuable spices were traded for exotic animals, gold, and ivory. This region of Africa was frequented by Asian and Arab traders, whose cuisines have influenced its cooking.
Hence, Mombasa, Kenya, Durban, South Africa, and Zanzibar — amongst others — developed their own unique curry blends and dishes. Today, these blends are a source of pride and an integral part of national identity.
Kuku Paka, Kenya’s Chicken Curry
Mombasa’s kuku paka is a coconut-based curry, which is popular up and down the coast of East Africa. In Kenya, it is a favorite holiday dish.
Kuku paka’s preparation begins with chicken marinated in a rich assortment of seasonings and braised over hot coals. Then, the grilled meat is nestled in a richly flavoured coconut milk-based sauce. The result is a smoky, finger-licking good sauce. Kuku paka is the fabled fare of Kenyan beach holidays.
However, my family enjoys sauces with plenty of vegetables. Plus, we don’t live at the beach. So, charcoal grilling isn’t always convenient.
Therefore, I reworked the recipe to make it oven friendly. Adding roasting vegetables, which absorb the chicken drippings and flavourful sauce as they bake was a no-brainer.
This is not an authentic kuku paka. However, the sauce is true to the spirit of the original dish and it’s still finger-licking good.
My oven baked version of Kenya’s beloved chicken curry uses flavorful dark meat and adds a rich nest of vegetables at the base. It makes a hearty one-dish meal, which is delicious when served over steamed basmati rice.
I recommend marinating the meat the night before, particularly if you’ll be preparing this curry on a busy day. Marinating in advance saves you time and deeply infuses the chicken with rich curry flavors. However, if you are a last-minute cook — as I often am — you can marinate the chicken as briefly as one hour and still enjoy a delicious curry.
As with all of my recipes, please adjust the number of chilies to accommodate your family’s unique tastes. After all, that’s one of the pleasures of home cooking! Moreover, if you’re not used to chilies, adding too many will dull your tastebuds and prevent you from enjoying the rich flavors of this dish.
For the roasted vegetables at the base, please feel free to use whatever is available and in season. If you’re not fond of turnips, exchange them for patty pans. Even potatoes would be tasty as part of the base. The trick is to cut the veggies into bite-sized pieces so that they cook through at the same time as the chicken.
I hope your family enjoys this rich, delicious Kenyan chicken curry every bit as much as mine does. Bon appetit!