Monkey Weddings & Summer Sapphires

South Africa to Nova Scotia: Stories, Recipes & Memories

Kapitan's Chicken Curry

I may be biased, but Kapitan’s Restaurant in Johannesburg made the best curry I’d ever had the good fortune of eating many times over. Known simply as “Mr. Kapitan,” Madanjit Ranchod made Durban curry for over 60 years in his legendary Johannesburg establishment. He was particularly famous for chicken curry that was served with saffron rice. Sadly, when he died in 2007 the restaurant closed down. Every curry I eat, I am still comparing to Kapitan’s.


I grew up eating curry—Durban curry—which is unique and often difficult to replicate. It has a distinct taste all of its own, which is based upon a layering of complex flavors. There are two secrets. The first lies in the blend, which can consist of up to 15 different spices. The second is the frying of the spice mix together with onions and garlic. This is my version; tweaked, built-upon and practiced. I love curry, whether it’s in sweltering heat or when temperatures are in the minuses with fresh snow falling. I make a jar of the spice mix so I have it ready when the craving calls, which is often.


Serve it with saffron rice and topped with spicy radish pickles.





Spice Mix

3 teaspoons mild chili powder

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon fennel

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves


In a medium bowl, mix the spices together and place in an airtight container. Store in a cool, dry place.


Chicken Curry


Yield: 4


2 tablespoons canola oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

6 chicken breasts, sliced into pieces

2 tablespoons curry mixture

3 medium potatoes, quartered

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 tin whole tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup frozen peas (optional)


In a heavy based saucepan, add oil and heat. Add onion and saute for a minute. Add garlic and curry spice and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and mix with the spices. Cook for 5 minutes. Add a little water if the spice mix is sticking to the pan. Add carrots, potatoes, tinned tomatoes and salt. Place the lid on the saucepan, and simmer on medium for 35-40 minutes. Add peas and cook for 5 minutes. Serve hot with saffron rice, and top with spicy pickled radish or chutney.





Copyright © Colleen Thompson, 2020.
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