Real Men Eat Curry (or, in this case, Aduk Ayam Goreng Basah)

lensnmatter, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The splendid Tachybaptus recently posted a recipe on this very blog for the ever-controversial quiche. “Real men eat quiche”, was the surprisingly strident assertion accompanying the article – a bold claim indeed. However, as it was a Friday and Lady Cutlery had expressed a desire for said comestible, I decided to grasp the nettle, put this audacious claim to the test and give the Tachybaptus recipe a go. Well it was a triumph; as splendid as it was delicious. It was accompanied by a simple salad and washed down with a crisp dry white. I thoroughly enjoyed it and never once felt ghey. You can find this <a href=””>excellent quiche recipe here</a> and I heartily encourage you to give it a try.

Which brings us to the purpose of this article. By way of a thank you to Tachybaptus, I have decided to extend the “Real Men Eat” theme and inflict upon you one of my favourite recipes (and I encourage others to do the same – particularly if you have a decent recipe for chilli con carne that doesn’t involve chocolate).

The following is a recipe I picked up while working in Abu Dhabi. I was there for a series of live events built around the annual circus of profligacy more commonly known as the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. If memory serves, the F1 circus first rumbled into Abu Dhabi around 2007-8. It wasn’t a Grand Prix as such, but a Festival of Speed or some such nonsense. It was a series of test events to see if Abu Dhabi could host the real thing, and clearly it could because a few years later the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix became a regular fixture on the F1 calendar, usually with a fair bit of involvement from some of the lads I worked with on a regular basis.

I don’t actually remember any of the salient details because I wasn’t directly involved with F1’s tentative first steps in the Gulf. At the time I was gainfully employed building temporary stages and grandstands in various European locations, so that a succession of immensely talented individuals could tread the boards in front of their adoring fans. However, in 2012 (possibly 2011) I found myself in Dubai for a lavish birthday party for one of my fellow stage builders. He had moved to the Gulf when the F1 circus had first began and was busily working on that year’s Grand Prix. The party was a tremendous success and we all got spectacularly drunk. However, whilst navigating the hazy miasma of the following morning and carefully nursing a weapons-grade hangover, I received a chirpy phone call from an earnest young lady thanking me for agreeing to fill in at short notice and questioning what time I would be arriving in Abu Dhabi to begin work. As I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about I mumbled some feeble excuses, promised to call back and promptly hung up.

Questioning my fellow party goers allowed the horrible truth to emerge: at the party I had drunkenly bragged about my non-existent expertise and foolishly agreed to stage manage a three day music festival (about 27 bands/artists) built around the F1 weekend in Abu Dhabi. Six hours later I was on stage, feverishly grasping my freshly printed reams of technical requirements, artist itineraries and a seemingly endless pile of rehearsal, sound check, performance and broadcast documentation. As I stared at the mountainous collection of drum kits, flight cases, instrument cases and wardrobe cases; fielding baffling questions such as “are we going to Leslie the B3 and DI the Jupiters?” from increasingly impatient technicians, I realized – with a sinking of heart and a loosening of bowel – that I really did know slightly less than the square root of naff all about being a stage manager.

Well, the next few days were hell. I slept for about 2 hours a night, lived on coffee, energy drinks and junk food, delegated everything and bluffed my way through it all. Special mention must go to an extremely competent sound engineer from the UK known simply as Druid. He seemed to spend the entire week foaming at the mouth and calling me a utter, utter, Gareth Hunt. By the time we were finished he was a broken man. In fact, during the entire hideous festival there was only one bright interlude of comfort and joy: the delicious food delivered by the recipe I’ve reproduced below.

Obviously, a substantial festival requires a lot of crew, and all our crew seemed to be divided up along national and cultural lines. The production crew were all European, security were all Nigerian, the limo drivers were all Nepalese, the plant and truck drivers were all Indian, the technicians were all Filipino and the muscle – the poor bloody crew that had to manually schlep everything in the searing heat – were all Pakistani; and it was astonishing how rarely this demarcation was broken.

The backstage crew room was one of the most popular spots on site because, unlike the stage, it was wonderfully air conditioned, and to seriously frosty levels I might add. The Filipino techs knew it would be their only on-site refuge, so they made damn sure it was colder than an Eskimo’s privy. Walking in was like falling into an ice bath after escaping from an oven. It was bliss. There are highly skilled hookers who couldn’t dream of providing that level of gratification.

It was during one of my regular retreats to this icy haven that one of the Nepalese drivers invited me to share his midday meal. Eagerly accepting his kind offer, I cast aside my cold and congealed chicken burger and watched with dribbly anticipation as he produced a large plastic tub of yoghurty gloop, stir fried it on the crew room cooker for a few minutes, tossed in a handful of green bits and served up a gorgeously spicy chicken dish which I greedily scooped up with fresh Arabic flat breads. After a few days of living on cold (and usually ancient) junk food, it was manna from heaven. I was so impressed I begged him to get his good lady wife (an Indonesian lady I believe and the provider of this dish) to write the recipe down for me. To my delight, she did, and I now faithfully reproduce said recipe for the delight and delectation of my fellow Puffins. This dish is particularly useful, as much of the effort can take place the day before you intend to serve.

The Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp of butter ghee*
  • 1kg cubed chicken breast (also works well with boneless chicken thighs)
  • 2 finely sliced, medium sized, white or brown onions
  • a thumb-sized piece of peeled and grated ginger
  • 6 cloves of freshly crushed garlic (please don’t use commercial paste)
  • 150g of full-fat Greek yoghurt
  • 2 inches of cinnamon stick broken up into bits
  • dried red chillies (3 or 4 for us, but feel free to adjust to taste)
  • 6 green cardamoms (skin on but broken open)
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 tbsp of white poppy seeds
  • 25g of raw cashew nuts
  • 1 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp of channa dhal
  • 1 tsp of garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp of turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 bunch of coriander
  • 1 tbsp of finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • Chopped fresh green chillies (3 or 4 for us, but feel free to adjust to taste)
  • 150ml of water


Open a bottle of good quality wine (red or white according to taste; rose is perfectly acceptable on Fridays) and pour yourself a glass.

The Yoghurty Gloop:

In a dry, flat-bottomed pan, the following ingredients should be gently roasted until they become lightly browned.

  • 1 tbsp of white poppy seeds
  • 25g of raw cashew nuts

They should develop a light tan, but must not burn. Allow them to cool, then grind them to a fine powder in a spice or coffee grinder.

In a dry, flat-bottomed pan, the following ingredients should be gently heated until they become aromatic.

  • 2 inches of cinnamon stick broken up into bits
  • dried red chillies (3 or 4 for us, but feel free to adjust to taste)
  • 6 green cardamoms (skin on but broken open)
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp of channa dhal

They should neither burn nor brown. Allow them to cool, then grind to a fine powder in a spice or coffee grinder. Pour another glass of wine.

Add 2 tbsp of butter ghee* (not vegetable ghee – see note below) and 1 quarter tsp of turmeric powder to your pan and sauté 2 finely sliced, medium sized, white or brown onions for about five minutes. Add a thumb-sized piece of ginger (peeled and grated) and 6 cloves of freshly crushed garlic. Stir fry for another couple of minutes. You want the onions to be soft and translucent, but not noticeably browned. Squeeze most of the ghee from the onion mixture (press against the side of the pan) and allow to cool. Save the ghee and pour another glass of wine

Chuck 150g of full-fat Greek yoghurt into a food blender, add your (now cool) cooked onion mixture and the ground spice mixtures and blend until smooth. Add this marinade to a kilogram of cubed chicken breast, mix thoroughly, cover and bung in the fridge overnight. Finish the last of the wine – your work for the day is done.

The Tedious Bit:

The following day, instruct your gardener to harvest a bunch of fresh coriander from your herb garden. Instruct your maid to wash and examine the bunch, discarding any pale or woody bits (roots and thicker stems, generally). You want only soft green stems and fresh green leaves for this recipe, the rest can be safely dispatched to your compost heap without another thought. The leaves should be picked from the stems (a tedious palaver) and, once separated, the soft green stems should be finely chopped. Cover both and store in the fridge.

The Cooking Bit:

Add 2 tbsp of butter ghee* to your pan (include the reserved ghee you used to cook the onions – it will be full of flavour) and gently fry 1 heaped tsp of garam masala for about 30 to 40 seconds. Add a tbsp of finely chopped soft green coriander stems and the chicken/yoghurt gloop, turn up the heat (medium high) and stir fry for about 5 minutes. Add water and salt, cover and gently simmer until the chicken is cooked and the flavours have blended to your satisfaction (around 30 mins does it for us). Gently stir in 1 tbsp of fresh chopped mint (just a tsp if you have to use the horrible dried stuff – please try not to), chopped fresh chillies (to taste), a heaped tbsp of chopped coriander leaf and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve lightly dusted with more finely chopped coriander leaf. This dish goes well with basmati rice, chapatis, raita, pickles and poppadoms. I usually scoff it with cauliflower rice to keep the carbs down.

*By the way, I caution against the use of vegetable ghee as is made of hydrogenated seed oils and contains high levels of trans fats. Additionally, it doesn’t taste very nice.

And as for the festival… Well, I suppose it all went rather well. Druid returned to the UK, never to be seen again, I went on to stage manage a number of high profile artistes, and these days technicians rarely seem to call me an utter, utter Gareth Hunt.

Happy chomping!

© Ivory Cutlery 2023