Cooking With Suzie – Installment 1 – Butter Chicken

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, we have hired a part time Amah.  This is a societal expectation as expats to help give back to the community of Penang. An Amah is the general term used in the Indian community here for housekeeper/nanny.  She helps me keep up with this house and watches B when I want to run to the store (alone!!) or if Nathan and I want to go do something, just the two of us.  We hired Suzie when we first arrived, on the recommendation of another family from Nathan’s company that left to back to the states at the end of September.  She had worked for them for the last 5 years.  She is an absolute delight, and I am so glad we have had the experience in just knowing her.  She has an absolutely fascinating story that I might tell you one day.  But today is the day for Butter Chicken.

Suzie is here at the house a half day on Tuesdays, a whole day on Thursdays and half day on Saturday.  On her whole day I have asked her to teach me how to make some of the dishes of India and Malaysia.   This is something I would like to be able to take with me when we leave so I can cook some of these things at home.  We have a couple of great Asian and Indian Markets in Austin so I am hoping once I learn the ingredients, I can duplicate them some what at home.

So I am going to be doing some posts now and again called cooking with Suzie, this is as much for my records as I would like to share what I have learned.  I know for a fact, several of you  will be interested (I am looking at a couple of my cousins here  …Sarah..Laura..)  So here we go……Butter Chicken.

First Suzie and I went to the grocery and bought our spices.  We have really cheap, bulk spices at the store down stairs.  We got: cardamom, coriander, cumin and ground chili (cayenne)


And for the most important one:  Garam Masala


Then we went to the Indian shop at the wet market by the house.  This is where this recipe gets sneaky with a sense of humor at least to me.

We bought and these two items:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALadies and gents that is tomato soup and orange powder to make it the dish red.  Yes, the lovely red color that you see when you order Tandori Chicken or butter chicken is orange food coloring.   So when you are making this dish on your own, don’t worry if it doesn’t come out as red as mine does, because the red it kind of fake.

This is the Indian store at the Wet Market.  It is so much less overwhelming to go with someone that can communicate effectively with the vendors.  Suzie speaks four languages.  Her Indian dialect, English, Malay and enough Chinese to get by.


We also bought an onion and some cilantro


We got some young ginger.  I learned somethings about ginger over the course of the day.  There is young ginger and old ginger.  Young ginger is used more often in Indian dishes because it has a milder flavor.  Also you do not have to peel young ginger, you can grate it with the skin on because the skin is still really thin.

We bought some yogurt that is homemade.  Suzie said that the key to the yogart in this dish is that it is of mild flavor so it doesn’t over power everything else.  So no Greek yogurt for this dish.


Then we went and got our chicken.  I am not going to lie, it terrified me a little.  But it was really good, really fresh chicken.


You pick out the chicken you want by either pointing it out to the guy or picking it up and putting it in one of the baskets and handing it to him.  There is a bucket there you can dip your fingers into if you touch the chicken.  I am quite glad that Suzie just pointed.  I was very relieved that it was an option.  I am not sure that there would be any issue though, because that chicken was alive a few hours prior to our arrival….so yeah it was pretty fresh.  Have I mentioned that chicken in general here it really good?  It has a lot of flavor.

After we finished at the wet market Suzie took me to have banana leaf curry for lunch before we had to go pick up B at school.


Yuuuuuuuuummmmmm.  Okay now back to cooking

So first things first the chicken.  Put your four chicken breasts into a bowl.


Break off a thumb size piece of garlic and grate. Add to bowl with Chicken.

Grated Ginger
Grated Ginger

Also add to bowl with chicken put in about 1/2 tsp. of salt, 1/4 tsp. of garlic powder, 1/4 of a tsp. of Garam Masala, a sprinkle of orange powder and 1 tsp of yogurt.  Mix well.

seasoned chicken
seasoned chicken

Heat frying pan with about 4 Tbls. of butter and a little oil.  Suzie did this whole thing on medium high to high heat.  She told me to not be afraid of heat.


Cook the chicken.


While the chicken cooks, chop the onion and cilantro.


Add your onions to the chicken.


Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pan and keep cooking the onions.  Until they look like this.


For the gravy get your spices together.

Now when I talk about the measurements, these are heaping tsp.  Throw in 2 Bay leaves, 1/2 tsp. of Garam Masala, 1/2 tsp of Coriander, 1/4 tsp of Cardamom, 1/4 tsp of cumin, 1/8 tsp of Cayenne, 1/2 tsp of Garlic.


Throw the dry spices into the onions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAdd half of the cooking cream and simmer for a couple of minutes.

200 ml of cooking cream = 7 or so ounces.
200 ml of cooking cream = 7 or so ounces.

Then add the tomato soup.  Suzie used a regular soup spoon and added 4 of them.


Add a Tbls. of Brown Sugar


And a pinch of the orange powder. And small spoon on yogurt


It should then look like this:


Add the rest of the cooking cream and simmer for about a minute.  Throw the cilantro on top and you are done.


Close up for good measure.
Close up for good measure.

I served this with coconut milk rice, which is basically throwing a can of coconut milk in the rice cooker to replace part of the water add a little grated ginger if you want, and some salt.  B loves this rice.

Here are is the breakdown of the recipe.

For the Chicken:

  • 4 Chicken breasts
  •  thumb size piece of ginger  grated
  • 1/4 tsp garlic
  • 1/4 tsp of Garam Masala
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of yogurt
  • sprinkle of orange powder –  a little of this goes a long way (optional this does not affect the flavor)
  • 4 Tbls of butter
  • 1 Tbls  of Canola Oil
  •  1 small onion                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     For the Gravy:
  •  2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tsp Coriander
  • 1/2 tsp  Cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp Garlic
  • 1 Tbls Brown Sugar
  • Tomato Soup
  • Yogurt
  • 6 to 7 ounces of cooking cream
  • Salt to taste
  • Sprinkle or orange powder (optional doesn’t affect the flavor)
  •  Tbls or so of Minced Cilantro
    1. Put the chicken in a bowl with with ingredients listed mix well with a fork
    2. Heat Skillet with butter and oil
    3. Fry Chicken in heated skillet
    4. Chop Onion in to chunks and put in skillet with Chicken
    5. Take out Chicken once cooked through and set aside
    6. continue to cook onions until they are soft and a nice crispy golden brown (this take a while – approx 10 minutes or so)
    7. Once onions are crispy add the powder spices cook for about a mintue
    8. Add about half the cooking cream and let simmer for about a mintue
    9. Add the brown sugar, tomato soup (about 4 soup spoon scoops) and the yogurt simmer for about a minute
    10. Add the rest of the cooking cream cook for another minute or two
    11. Throw the Cilantro on top
  • Serve with Rice or Naan… Enjoy, we certainly did.  This turned out just as good as the Butter Chicken we have had at local Indian Restaurants.  I am going to attempt to recreate without Suzie watching over me next time.

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