When, fresh out of university, I packed up and moved to Japan, I carried two things with me – a jar of peanut butter and a giant bag of dried apricots. These weren’t my favourite things, but I knew that if I could have a taste of home, everything would be okay. And in those first weeks, when everything was different and everyday was full of challenges, a handful of apricots and a slice of bread spread with peanut butter sustained my spirits.
Though I’ve always cooked and baked, it wasn’t until I met my husband that I actually started cooking in Japan. Embarrassingly enough, I hadn’t even found my local supermarket! (Though, to be honest, I hadn’t actually looked for it). Long days led to late nights and why cook when everywhere you look is amazing food? And why cook when your kitchen is really not much more than a hot plate in a hallway? And a very narrow hallway at that!
But then, Love found me. And there’s a funny thing about Love – it demands to be fed. It activates that little thing inside us which says nourish or provide or protect. We fall into age-old roles, without even realizing it. I remember the first thing I made for my not-yet-husband. Chicken curry. Just like my mother had always made. A taste of my Bajan childhood.
Then, together, we navigated all sorts of tastes. Delighting in introducing each other to foods from our personal histories. Learning culture via food, over food, through food. Crafting a new home for ourselves, a new culture of our own, one dish at a time.
And we never really looked back. Nothing soothes a homesick heart quite like a familiar meal – while my country won the battle of the lands when we moved to Canada, I do my best to feed my husband’s soul with food from his. Rich bean stews and super sweet condensed milk desserts taste like the concrete jungle of his Brazilian youth, while piping hot ramen and bowls of sukiyaki nourish his Japanese history. And rice. Lots of rice.
What do I want to say about food? So much! Food is love. Food is culture. Food connects through common flavours and teaches through tasty differences. Food, for us, is Home.
So here’s the recipe for my chicken curry – it’s a simple one and doesn’t require a lot of fancy ingredients, perfect for cooking in any kitchen – no matter how small!
- 3 Tbsp / 45mL oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 lb / 500g chicken breast, cubed
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp / 15mL curry powder (make it a heaping spoonful if you like your curry spicier!)
- 1 1/2 cups / 375mL chicken stock
- 1 Tbsp / 15mL tomato paste or ketchup
- 1 Tbsp / 15mL lemon or lime juice
- 3 potatoes
- optional – 1 Tbsp / 15mL mango chutney
- Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and fry until soft. Add chicken and garlic. Brown lightly and evenly.
- Add curry powder, sprinkling evenly over chicken mixture. Stir to combine. Lower heat and cook gently for 2 minutes.
- Add chicken stock, tomato paste (or ketchup), lime (or lemon) juice and mango chutney (if using). Stir to combine.
- Bring to boil. Cover and simmer for one hour.
- While curry is simmering, peel and cube potatoes. If preparing potatoes ahead of time, put cut potatoes in water until it is time to add to the curry. This will stop them from turning brown.
- Add cubed potatoes. Bring back to boil. Cover and simmer for an additional 1/2 hour to an hour. Potatoes should be soft and flavourful.
- Season with salt to taste.
- Serve over fresh rice, wrap in a roti skin or pair with naan for dipping. Lovely with sliced cucumber and / or banana on the side.
Yum! I’d love to know, what dish makes you feel at home even when you’re far away? And, if you wanted to teach someone about your life and culture through food, what dish you would make?