Caribbean-Style Coconut Curry

Mariel here. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of spending a few blissful days in Belize. While technically on assignment – just another cross I must bear as a freelance writer – I managed to thoroughly enjoy myself in spite of the balmy 85-degree weather, the sparkling sunshine and the azure bathwater lapping at the front door of my overwater bungalow.

OK, enough bragging.

While Belize’s incredible topography – beaches! mountains! wet caves! savannahs! – and its kaleidoscope of land- and sea-dwelling creatures provided enough stimulation to keep my multitasking Manhattan mind thoroughly enraptured, I also managed to sneak in a few meals that just about knocked off my flops. I was in Ambergris Caye for the majority of the trip and, despite shelling out for more than a few overpriced dinners at resort-bound dining “destinations,” my favorite meal – a rich, flavorful coconut curry – cost less than $10 at the sand-covered Elvi’s Kitchen. Go figure.

Back on the decidedly less dreamy island of Manhattan, I found myself still drooling over the Caribbean rendition I so enjoyed in Belize. So, like anyone with too much self-confidence thanks to a mom who thinks you can do anything, I set out to recreate the dish in my NYC nook. And you know what? It was incredible.

I proudly present my own Caribbean-Style Coconut Curry. This vibrant sauce works well with cubes of lean chicken breast or fresh shrimp. And it saves (and freezes) beautifully.

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Caribbean-Style Coconut Curry
Makes 6-8 Servings

2 lbs raw shrimp peeled and de-veined – $10.00
2 lbs chicken breasts cut into 1-inch cubes – $6.00
1 zucchini, diced – $1.20
1 large sweet onion, chopped – $1.40
1-inch piece of ginger, grated – $0.60
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced – $0.72
3 medium tomatoes, chopped and seeded – $2.44
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped – $1.89
Juice of 1 lime – $0.69
4 green onions, chopped – $0.79
1 TBS minced garlic – stock
1 TBS olive oil (or virgin coconut oil, if you have it) – stock
2 15-oz unsweetened coconut milk – $3.78
1 cup chicken stock – stock
1 TBS brown sugar – stock
2 TBS tomato paste – stock
2 TBS curry powder – stock
1/4 tsp cinnamon – stock
1/4 tsp ground cloves – stock
1/4 tsp chili powder – stock
Grand total, assuming well-stocked kitchen – chicken version: $19.51
Grand total, assuming well-stocked kitchen – shrimp version: $23.51
Cost per serving – chicken: $2.44
Cost per serving – shrimp: $2.94

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, ginger and garlic and cook until the onions become soft and translucent. Add the jalapenos and zucchini and continue cooking another 5 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid burning the veggies.

2. In the large skillet, add the tomato paste, curry, cinnamon, chili powder, ground cloves over med-high heat. Stir well for about a minute. Add the coconut milk and chicken stock, simmer through until steaming (but not boiling), then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes – or until the sauce has thickened. At this point, make sure to taste the sauce and incorporate salt & pepper, according to your preferences.

3. Meanwhile, cube the chicken or de-vein and peel the shrimp. Sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper and a dash of chili powder.

4. In a separate skillet, heat a bit of olive or coconut oil over high heat and brown the chicken on both sides. If using shrimp, cook until the shrimp become pink and a bit browned on both sides. Set the chicken or shrimp aside.

5. Once the curry has thickened, add the CHICKEN, tomatoes, brown sugar, most of the cilantro (reserve a pinch for garnishing), green onions and lime juice (if using SHRIMP, hold off on adding it to the curry and see step 6). Combine well and simmer on med-low heat for 10 minutes. Taste-test and adjust spices.

6. Serve the curry hot over white (or jasmine-infused) rice. If using SHRIMP, keep the shrimp and the curry separate until you’re ready to serve, otherwise I find that the shrimp tends to distort the flavor of the curry with a certain “fishiness.” Garnish with fresh cilantro.


    • feastonthecheap says

      I was very pleasantly surprised by how well it turned out (and how similar it was to the Belizean version!). If you end up making it, you’ll have to let us know how it turns out for you

  1. says

    OH BOY! I know what I’ll be doing in the kitchen tonight!!! Just wish that we had an ‘Adams’ down the road for the cilantro and shrimp!

    • feastonthecheap says

      Ha, I know, this is definitely one of those recipes where fresh cilantro makes a difference. But you could skip the shrimp and do chicken instead – I loved them both, equally… Have a wonderful day, enjoy the sunshine!

    • feastonthecheap says

      We thank you very much for your comment! Have a very happy Memorial Day weekend. Best, M&M

  2. Amanda says

    We’ve been on Caye Caulker for 2 weeks and hubby’s been loving this dish. Can’t wait to go home and try your recipe!

  3. jeff says

    Just returned from Beliz and the wonderful Chicken coconut curry dish at Elvis! We will be trying your recipe for some friends this weekend. Let you know how it turns out!

    J Silesky
    Seattle, WA


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