Durban Dim sum: A heartwarming chicken curry

Durban 'Dim Sum': Heartwarming Chicken Curry

Sunday brought with it a serious case of the blues. I have struggled with depression, on and off, for many years now and I have become attuned to the signs that an ‘attack’ is imminent. It’s very hard to explain depression, to people who have not experienced it. For me, there’s a lot of crying, feelings of despondency and despair, and more often than not – no rational explanation for why I am so very sad.  This last bout has been largely circumstantial depression – missing loved ones far away, anxieties over work, feeling that I’m not making sufficient strides in my career, feeling useless – overall a joy to be around, non? Anyway, the latest cold snap pushed me into action and the above recipe is the result. I read that a close translation of the Chinese ‘dim sum’ is ‘to touch the heart’, and for me, a dish that does this only too well – is a curry. There is something almost meditative about preparing spices for a curry, the warmth of the colours and the aroma as they are heated is enormously pleasing. I am not going to say that making a curry cured my depression, but in the moments I prepared it – I certainly felt a little better and a little more hopeful. It’s an amazing thing, how life will throw you a bone, when you feel at your lowest. Just yesterday I received an email from the National Theatre Studio in London, informing me that I made the shortlist of 20,chosen from close on 300 playwrights from the African Continent, to attend an African Playwrights workshop/convention in the UK later this year. It couldn’t have come at a better time. The results will be released mid August and 4-6 of the short listed playwrights will be chosen. Please keep your fingers crossed for me!  The curry above is my simple ‘go-to’ recipe that has evolved over the years. I don’t like mine too spicy, but if you do, I suggest substituting the medium-heat garam masala for a hot one, and  perhaps adding an extra teaspoon or two to your curry.

Durban Dim sum: A heartwarming chicken curry

Serves 4-6

2 tbsp sunflower/canola oil

800g free-range, skinless, boneless chicken breast, sliced

4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 piece of ginger, about the size of your thumb, peeled and grated

1 tsp crushed garlic

2 tsp medium-heat garam masala

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

about 6-8 fresh curry leaves

about 3 pieces of cinnamon bark – or  2 cinnamon sticks

1 tin peeled and chopped tomatoes

2 cups (500ml) chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Basmati rice, sambals and fresh coriander to serve


Start by heating your oil in a large heavy based saucepan, over medium-heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until glossy and golden. Add the ginger and garlic and stir for a minute – being careful not to burn the garlic. If needs be, add another splash of oil. Add the garam masala, turmeric, ground coriander and cumin. Stir and cook for about a minute, again, being careful not to burn. Add the chicken cook for about 3 minutes, add the potatoes and stir to coat in the spices. Then add the tomatoes, curry leaves, cinnamon and chicken stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and put the lid on, simmer, stirring from time to time until the liquid is mostly absorbed and the chicken is tender and the potatoes are cooked – about 1/2 hour. Season to taste. Serve with basmati rice, fresh coriander, chutney, sliced bananas mixed with natural yoghurt. Smile.



  1. Divine Louise, thank you! Was just looking for a nice curry recipe and this looks like something I can handle just fine. Congratulations on your fantastic news! I do hope you are feeling better. 🙂

  2. I love the note to Smile at the end of the recipe. You make this appear so easy and I know that so many things can go wrong!! I hope that you feel much better soon. I will be keeping my fingers crossed that you make the final list for the National Theatre workshop!

  3. i love making curries too.. i have a great book i bought in india – it’s quite fussy but there’s nothing like taking some time over the weekend to mingle with spices and herbs in the kitchen… it’s the closest i get to being spiritual. sherran says surfing does the same for her! i can tell at a glance your recipe is a winner – and i think your pics are great – colourful, well composed but also recognisable from the real world, not magazines.

    • Thanks so much for your feedback Laurence! I agree with you, cooking can be a very spiritual and nurturing thing. I am sure both you and Sherran will return from India with some fabulous culinary inspiration! Please be sure to share it! 🙂

  4. Temoré – lovely reflection dear Louise. I think I’ll start my S&B apprenticeship with this one .. and hold thumbs for your play! Fantastic achievement to get into the last 20 – must be good for future work options too ….

  5. Lovely post Lou. First chance I had to read it and depression is a bitch! Nothing more, nothing less. But making something, whether food or a poem or a blog, takes one out of the self. I know depression all too well and thank Isis for the good news! It’s wonderful to be selected out of so many entrants and I’m keeping fingers crossed for you. Hope the good news continues. And think I’ll try your curry this freeeeezing night. Lots of love to you dear Lou.

    • Thank you so much for your lovely words, dear Janet! Always good to know you are not alone when you’re in dark places! xxxx

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