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Festival of Light (Eating)


Diwali. Deepavali. Divali. A festival when Hindus celebrate the triumph of good over evil, commemorating the victory of Lord Rama over the evil demon-king Ravana; earthen oil lamps are lit to symbolize the defeat of ignorance through knowledge; home entrances are made colourful with Rangoli designs to welcome Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity; and family and friends visit each other, exchanging sweets and savouries.

Ah…. Food… the one thing that never fails to bring people together. Christmas – Lunar New Year – Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Food is a big part of these holidays. And of course Diwali too. I mean, just thinking of the achingly sweet treats (my favourites are laddu, halwa and gulab jamun, among others) and my tastebuds tingle. I go bat-shit crazy and all sense of control is lost whenever my friends brings back a box of authentic Indian sweets from India after their holidays. Simply because I don’t know which one to start eating first. Yes. Horrible glutton, I am. Time stands still as I sink my teeth into those heavenly sweet (and spicy) treats.

As the eating and merry-making of Diwali continues for the next few days, lots of food will be consumed. So to make you feel less guilty about those sinfully good food, I’ve decided to share with you a healthified (low salt/low fat), but no less scrumptious, version of Butter Chicken, which my family loves.




Vegetable oil

500g skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2” cubes

1 onion, finely chopped

2-3 garlic cloves, crushed

1” knob of ginger, grated

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp chilli flakes

1 can (400g) chopped tomatoes

125ml chicken stock

1 can (400ml) evaporated milk

Salt, to taste

Small bunch of coriander, chopped


Heat oil in a wok

Add chicken pieces, in batches, and cook 2-3 minutes until browned

Remove from wok and set aside

In the remaining oil, add in the onion, garlic and ginger

Sauté until the onion softens and browns slightly

Reduce the fire

Add in the garam masala, turmeric, cumin and chili flakes

 Stir for about 1 minute, or until it is fragrant

Add in the tomatoes and chicken stock

Increase the fire

Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes

Return the chicken pieces to the wok, and cook for about 5 minutes

Add in the evaporated milk, and stir until heated through. (heating the milk for too long will cause the milk to separate. Not pretty, but still good to eat)

Stir in chopped coriander and serve hot with basmati rice, brown rice, regular rice, chappati, parathas, wholemeal wraps or plain ‘ol toasted french loaves.



** chopped vegetables can be added to bulk up this dish. Examples: potatoes, green and red bell peppers, carrots and mushrooms. Add the chopped vegetables right after stirring in the canned tomatoes and chicken stock. This will give them time to simmer in the sauce and soften a little.

** to make it vegetarian-friendly, substitute the chicken with chopped up king oyster mushrooms. Just start off the recipe by sautéing the onion, garlic and ginger and go from there. Add it in right after the canned tomatoes and chicken stock, same as the above. I find the texture of cooked king oyster mushrooms quite similar to chicken, I kid you not. Try it!

** I usually also prepare a side of cucumber raita. Cut two cucumbers in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Shred the cucumber, and squeeze out as much of the juice as possible. In a bowl, combine the shredded and squeezed cucumber and about 250ml of plain yogurt. I try to get the real Indian yogurt (Alvas brand) for this. Try looking for them in the wet markets. Give them a good stir. I also add in about 2-3 finely sliced shallots (they give a really good kick to it), then followed by squeezing the juice of half a lemon, maybe more. I sometimes sprinkle in some chilli powder, just to give it that little edge. Or if you prefer, chop up a few stalks of red chili (seeded or otherwise, up to you), and stir those in. Taste as you go along. Sprinkle in some salt. Not too much, or it’ll cause the cucumber to leech out more juice. Last but not least, stir in a few chopped up mint leaves. Best chilled before serving, to allow the flavours to meld together.

Oh, wowee, I just realized. Two recipes in one post. Heh, I am making up for lost time. So… go on, try this dish. Nothing stopping you from topping up your rice or reaching for that second piece of chappati to mop up every last bit of butter chicken on your plate. Go ahead, I won’t tell. I know you want to.

So excuse me now as I go stuff my face with those luscious indian sweets…



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