Growing up, like most Indian Americans, I was spoiled by my mother’s Indian cooking. I didn’t quite appreciate the variety and complexity (not to mention health benefits) of the dishes she made until I went to college, where the salad and sandwich bars and strange pasta concoctions made me homesick for something colorful and spicy. I soon joined a food co-op and was required, along with all other members, to cook once a week for 30 people. After experimenting at home, and with my mother’s guidance, I learned how to cook one of my favorite dishes, a tomato-based chicken curry, and all it’s variations. The recipe proved to be a great gateway into more general principles of Indian cooking, and the dish was a big hit for the next couple years at the co-op.

It’s been a decade since those days, and I've since moved into my career, and my new home in the Davis Square-area of Somerville. But I still cook this recipe when I miss home (and want to impress new guests) because all of the ingredients are easy to find locally and it doesn’t take long to make. It's also healthy, and most importantly, it's absolutely delicious.


  • 1 tablespoonolive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 4 medium-sized, spicy chilis, diced (such as jalapeños)
  • 3 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons Garam Masala
  • 4 vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 6 boneless chicken breasts,
  • Diced cilantro, chopped (for garnish)
  • Cooked Basmati rice (for serving)


  • Heat olive oil in large pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the mustard seeds and bay leaves and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the chopped onion and sautee for 2 to 3 minutes. When the onion is close to transluscent, add the garlic, ginger, and chili, and sauté for another 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the cumin powder, chili powder, and Garam Masala, and stir for 2 minutes to let the spices release their aroma and to coat the onions.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper, and let the curry simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add the diced chicken to the curry and stir to coat evenly. Simmer with the lid on for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat. Garnish with the chopped cilantro, and serve with Basmati rice.

Where you can get your ingredients in Davis Square:

Pemberton Farms & Garden Center - 2225 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-491-2224,

Foodland - 2234 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-349-0009

McKinnon's Meat Market - 239 Elm St., Somerville, 617-666-4443,