{recipe} Sweet and Sour Indian Chicken

My mom often made this dish for company when I was growing up. In a big pretty bowl, over a bed of fragrant basmati rice, it looks beautiful and impressive despite being pretty easy to make. It sort of gives off the impression that you’ve been cooking all day, when in reality, you can cook the whole dinner from start to finish in less than an hour.

I have a very vivid memory of a childhood dinner during which this dish was served. My Dad has a soft spot for buying pottery and other crafts from budding artists, so we always had a lot of, shall we say, rustic pottery serving dishes in the house. One night there was a huge crowd around the table, including an aunt visiting from Oregon. As this monstrously large dish of chicken was passed to her, the poorly-made pottery cracked clean in half and spilled copious mounds of steaming hot, bright yellow chicken and rice onto her lap. While my mother tried to frantically scoop her dinner off the floor before the dog got to it, my aunt–without uttering a single word–quietly and calmly left the table and walked out on to the back porch, closing the door behind her. She then promptly stripped her pants off in one motion, started jumping up and down, and doused her legs with water.

Because of that incident, my mom didn’t make the recipe for quite a few years. Now that it’s back in the rotation, we are wondering why we ever stopped making it.

The recipe has a couple of tablespoons of powdered turmeric in it , which is not only ideal for adding earthy flavor and a gorgeous color, but also for the long list of positive health properties attributed to this yolk-colored root and its powdered form. Long used in Ayurvedic medicine, there are literally hundreds of published scientific studies about the wondrous healing properties of turmeric. It’s been suggested that it may fight infection, stave off cancer, prevent memory loss, and much more–and has pretty strong scientific chops to back the claims up.

Plus, you can dye Easter eggs with the stuff. But beware, because it can stain your clothes and (countertops) if you’re not careful.

Recipe: Sweet and Sour Indian Chicken
serves 8


  • 3 pounds chicken pieces, bone-in and with skin
  • flour for dredging
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced thinly
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • chopped cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)


  • Heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium high heat.
  • Dredge chicken pieces in flour to coat and brown chicken on both sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • In the same pan, add remaining tablespoon of oil, onions, and garlic and cook until soft and golden brown. Add sugar, ginger, and spices. Cook and stir for about a minute, then add vinegar and broth.
  • Add chicken, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste sauce and add salt if necessary. Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped cilantro leaves, if using.
  • Serve chicken and sauce over a bed of basmati rice.

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