Let’s Cook! Spicy Durban Style Chicken

July 8, 2012

With thoughts of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival already running through my mind (yes, I’m already counting down, see Is it too early? if you don’t believe me…), I decided to finally try a recipe we saw demoed at last year’s festival: Spicy Durban Style Chicken.

Spicy Durban Style Chicken

Sanaa, the restaurant at the Kidani Village section of the Animal Kingdom Lodge, is one of my (and Miss Bonnie’s) favorites on property.

So when we saw that Chef Bob Getchell, who has headed the kitchen at Sanaa from day one, was doing a demonstration one day at the Food & Wine Festival we signed up right away.

He showed how to make one of the more popular (and spicy) dishes from the “Slow Cooked in Gravy, Simple and Well Seasoned” section of the Sanaa menu – the dish is right up my flavor-alley – a bit Indian, lot’s of spice, a bit hot – so without much further ado, let’s cook!

Okay, here’s a little bit of ado…

I’ll give you the recipe pretty much as presented, but as Dedicated Readers should know by now, I didn’t exactly follow the recipe to a tee… so I’ll give you some notes and comments where I varied from the recipe…

Okay, so now we can cook!

Spicy Durban Style Chicken


For the Dry Masala (Spice) Mixture:

2 Whole Star Anise

1/2 Tbl Whole Cumin Seeds

3 Whole Bay Leaves

4 Green Cardamom Pods (you may have to find an Indian market for these puppies…)

1/2 Tbl Ground Cinnamon (I also added a couple of whole cinnamon sticks during the cooking as you’ll see below)

3 Tbl Ancho Chili Powder

2 Tbl Chili Powder (the recipe doesn’t specify anything more than this, so I used the typical blended chili powder from the grocery, but if you have other specific, pure powders in addition to the Ancho, I’m sure that would be great)

2 Tbl Madras-style (hot) Curry Powder

1 Tbl Turmeric Powder

Some of the goodies…

For the Curry Sauce:

1 1/4 Lbs Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs, cut into bite-sized (about 1″) pieces

1/4 Cup Canola Oil

1 Cup Diced Onions (the recipe specifies yellow, but whatever you have around should be good)

2 Jalapeno Peppers, seeded and minced (or keep the seeds in if you like it hotter, of course I used 3 peppers…)

Hi there, Hot Stuff!

2 Tbl Ginger-Garlic Paste (I’ll show you how to make that later)

3 Cups Canned Crushed Tomatoes with their Juice (I used a 28 oz can of San Marzano Tomatoes and crushed them by hand and saved the extra liquid to use in place of the water called for in the recipe)

Water as needed, about 1/2 Cup

Salt and Freshly-ground Black Pepper to taste

1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro

and most of the fresh stuff…


For the Dry Masala (Spice) Mixture:

Put the star anise, cumin seeds, bay leaves and cardamom pods into a heavy, dry skillet and turn the heat onto medium high.

Stir and toast until fragrant and slightly browned…

be careful not to let the spices burn – stir often and reduce your heat if needed – if you do burn them, discard and start over. When done, remove the spices from the skillet and allow to cool.

The toasted whole spices

Put the toasted spices into a spice grinder (an inexpensive coffee grinder, kept to use just for spices, works great)…

and grind into a powder.

The now-ground, toasted spices

Measure out the rest of the Masala spices…

The dry Masala Spices

add the ground toasted spices, and put all back into the dry skillet.

Final toasting of all the spices

Heat and toast the spices as before until fragrant. Stir constantly and be careful not to burn. When it’s smelling good remove from the skillet and allow to cool.

For the Chicken Curry:

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven until close to smoking.

Meanwhile, salt and pepper the chicken pieces and when the oil is hot, add some of the chicken to the pan.

Cooking the chicken pieces

You’ll want to get a nice browning on the chicken pieces, so don’t crowd the pan and turn/stir-fry the chicken as needed. Depending on the size of your pan, you’ll probably need to brown the bird in two or three batches.

When browned, remove the chicken pieces and set aside for now.

If you want, now add a couple of cinnamon sticks to the oil and stir a few seconds until the sticks start to unfurl.

An extra bit of cinnamon goodness…

Next add the chopped onion and jalapeno…

and cook over medium high until the onions start to get translucent.

Then add the ginger-garlic paste and stir well for about a minute…

Adding the ginger-garlic paste

then add the dry spices.

Getting your spice on…

Mix all well and cook another minute while stirring constantly.

It may not look so pretty at this point, but all the toasting, stirring and cooking will make a big difference in the finished sauce.

Add the tomatoes, stir and bring to a simmer.

Cook over high heat for three or four minutes, stirring frequently. If it seems a bit dry add some tomato juice or water (or even some of the beer you may be sipping on while you’re cooking).

Add the chicken to the sauce

Add the water (or tomato juice, or even beer or dry white wine) and stir well.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the chicken is tender (the recipe says 10-15 minutes, but you really can’t simmer this too long…), stirring occasionally. The sauce should be fairly thick, but adjust to your liking (simmer longer to thicken, or add more liquid for a more wet sauce… duh…). Taste for seasoning and salt and pepper as needed. If you want more heat you can add something like Sriracha or other hot sauce now, or allow each diner to add at the table as desired.

A little herbage at the end…

When ready to serve, stir in the cilantro.

Spicy Durban Style Chicken served with Basmati Rice and Roasted Cauliflower

Serve with rice (plain Basmati is fine, but would also be killer with Coconut Rice) and veggies of your choice (Simple Roasted Cauliflower would be a nice compliment to the spicy curry). A little sprinkle of cilantro to garnish won’t hurt a thing…

This same sauce is also used at Sanaa for the Spicy Durban Shrimp, so you can easily change the protein as you desire. It would even be great as a vegetarian dish – maybe use some roasted veggies in the sauce (cauliflower, carrots, etc.) or with some other protein source (such as seitan or tempeh).

With all the grinding and stirring and such, this certainly isn’t quick weeknight fare, but the results are well worth the effort. You can certainly make the spice mix a day or two ahead, and like most other “stewy” dishes, this seems to get better a day or two after it’s made, so make plenty and have leftovers.

I haven’t tried it, but I can’t see why this shouldn’t freeze pretty well.

At the demo, the dish was paired with a real nice Riesling from Loosen Brothers Winery in Germany.

A not-overly sweet Riesling (or other white wine) paired very well with the spicy curry – beer will also go well.

This is another one I hope you try – and as always, please let us know what you think in the comments section!

Back to the kitchen, see you soon!

Oh yeah, here’s how to make the Ginger-Garlic Paste (it’s real hard, hope you can follow along…). Take five or six big peeled garlic cloves and cut into chunks. Take some pieces of fresh peeled ginger that looks to be about the same volume as the garlic and cut into pieces about the same size as the garlic. Stick these into a mini-chopper/processor and add a tablespoon or so of olive oil.

Making Ginger-Garlic Paste

Process until the pieces make a fairly wet paste, added more oil as needed.

Any leftover paste will keep covered in the fridge for a few days, add enough extra oil if needed to keep all the paste covered.

Okay – now back to the kitchen again!

8 Responses to “Let’s Cook! Spicy Durban Style Chicken”

  1. nora Says:

    Yum! We also saw Chef Getchell on September 30th last year, and like you are eager for Food & Wine Festival this year. We posted about the opening of Culinary Demonstrations and this demo in particular if you’re interested.
    I’d be very disappointed if WDW removed the spicy options from Sanaa’s menu. In fact, I’m already disappointed that so much of the “ethnic” food at WDW is tamed down to the point of near blandness.


  2. […] (and Drinking) Around the World cooks up Spicy Durban Style Chicken from the 2011 Epcot Food and Wine […]


  3. Fred Says:

    Wow, looks great! My wife would love this as she if from South Africa where the city of Durban resides. The Cape Malay influence is strong there. This seem to be a very authentic South African dish. Of course, they don’t have Jalepenos and would use much hotter curry and the red chili peppers, but everything else seems dead on. I’m going to have her make this with the powders we bring back and then with the ingredients we find here and see how it might differ.


    • fishyrocketboy Says:

      Thanks Fred – look forward to seeing how your version turns out – please share!
      I know very little of traditional or “native” South Africa cuisine – this dish just screams Indian flavors to me – would I be correct in assuming that this is really an English influence/transference from Colonial days?


  4. Raymond Says:

    Tried this recipe…. SO GOOD!! Came out better than I expected. Almost too spicy, but not quite there. So good!


  5. Rik Says:

    Thank you for posting the recipe! After years of eating at Sanaa, they appeared to have taken the chicken off the menu and only have the Spicy Durban shrimp. I finally decided to google the recipe and came across your site. In reading through, I am thinking shrimp is not an exact substitution. Sanaa’s shrimp is very tender. I am guessing they do not pre brown it and put it straight in during the simmer phase to let it cook then (almost like a jambalaya).


  6. Mr. Bilbo Says:

    This is the real deal! We made the recipe last night. The kitchen smelled wonderful and the dish tasted very much like the restaurant version. We had to make a few substitutions (anise seed for star anise and ground cardamon for cardamon pods) due to availability. Even the bulk stores did not have those two items. Served with Basmati rice and fire-roasted corn.


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