HomeRecipesMain DishDurbanish Curried Roast Chicken

Durbanish Curried Roast Chicken

One of my all time favorite meals is Indonesian Beggar’s Chicken. So when I saw the New York Times’ recipe for a Durban-style curried roast chicken, clay pot visions swirled in my head. The Times version was adapted by Florence Fabricant from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe, so the pedigree is solid. But how to replace all those nightshades?

Garlic scapes. But a lot of other subtle changes, too. I imagine this one steams across the finish line tasting quite a bit different than the original intent. Fortunately, it tastes good enough to have been repeated often in our household.


  • 1 whole roasting chicken
  • juice and zest of 1 medium sized lemon (~1/4 cup juice and 1 tablespoon zest)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 6 cloves, garlic
  • 1/3 cup garlic scape
  • 1/4 cup onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon smoked cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground green peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons ground Grains of Paradise
  • 2 teaspoons ground Indian long pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sumac
  • 1/4 teaspoon red cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida (hing)
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground anatto
  • 1 can of coconut milk


1Prepare your clay pot. With our Romertöpf this means soaking it in water for several hours. Your mileage may vary.

2Prepare the roasting chicken according to your own best practices. (I know the culinary world is divided on whether or not to wash a chicken. Public health departments the world over suggest not to, because tap water splashing off of the chicken can spread potentially harmful bacteria in your kitchen. These bacteria will die if the chicken is properly cooked.)

3Set aside the chicken. It is useful to have the chicken dry, so if you’re not going to use a paper towel to accomplish this then place the chicken, uncovered, on a plate in your refrigerator for a couple of hours

4Combine all other ingredients in a blender or food processor bowl and blend to a paste. Depending on the moisture content of the ingredients, you may need to add a bit more oil or lemon juice.

5Smear the chicken, inside and out, with the spice paste. You want the paste on all available surface areas on both the inside and the outside of chicken. About a third goes inside the chicken, where there’s obviously no real aesthetic benefit to spreading it around perfectly. But the more evenly distributed the paste is within the body cavity, the better the opportunity for those flavors to fully co-mingle with the chicken. The remainder should be spread evenly over the outside of chicken. Garlic scapes don’t make for the smoothest spice paste, so I often pat the paste into place. Once it’s nestled back in the pot, pour the can of coconut milk, making sure to cover both ends.

6For best flavor results return to the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. (Full disclosure: it’s rare that I’m so organized. It’s still a very tasty bird if it’s popped directly into the oven.)

7Bake in a 425 degree oven for approximately one hour; actual time will be determined by the size of your bird. You’ll have your own metrics for when a roasting chicken is done; use them. Personally, I prefer to cook until the leg joint is clearly loosening from the body. At this stage the meat is practically melting off the bones.

8Allow to rest for 15 minutes. The juice ladled over rice is divine.


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