Recipe: Kuku wa Ukwaju (Swahili Tamarind Chicken)

Posted by joseph on Mar 1st 2020

Recipe: Kuku wa Ukwaju (Swahili Tamarind Chicken)

A recipe for you.

I am in love with Jainaba Jeng’s authentic African-inspired simmer sauces. For years, I have been following her Instagram account, with these fabulous food photos and no recipes! I was like, “lady, if you don’t start sharing these recipes with me…” Now, she is. (insert dancing JRL emoji here) And, in turn, I am sharing with you.

This recipe is for a dish called Kuku wa Ukwaju (please don’t ask me to say that out loud. I encourage you to try it though saying it yourself; it’ll be fun. Sorry, but only non-Africans can play this game.) The translation for Kuku wa Ukwaju is Swahili Tamarind Chicken, which sounds fabulous, no?

I’ve copied and pasted this next part from Jainaba’s post (that’s me citing my source, lest she sends her copyright lawyers after me.)

This Swahili delicacy is a mainstay in my own home kitchen. It’s a feast for the senses and tastes even better the following day. Perfectly seasoned, charred chicken pieces simmered in a bold, complex and bright tamarind sauce until tender and infused with the aromatics in the sauce. Each bite hits your palate with a different flavor note and is far from average! If you’ve never had Swahili cuisine, Get on It. It’s stupendous… you’ll be so glad!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 jar Mombasa Tamarind Simmer Sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. African Jerk Paste (any heat level)
  • 3-lbs bone-in cut up chicken, skinned and cleaned
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt for marinade + additional ¼ tsp. for sauce
  • ¼ cup oil + additional 2 Tbsp. for marinade
  • 1 medium red onion finely sliced or diced
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp sugar or honey
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (no exceptions)
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves

STOVETOP DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare marinade for the chicken by whisking together in a small bowl the following – 3 Tbsp. African Jerk Paste3 Tbsp. Mombasa (reserve the rest for later)1 ½ tsp. salt2 Tbsp. oil
  2. Place chicken in a large non-reactive bowl. Pat with paper towel to get it as dry as possible. This may require repeating several times. Make incisions into the chicken to allow the marinade to penetrate the meat.
  3. Massage the marinade into the chicken until it coats the pieces evenly. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge overnight. We recommend marinating for at least 24 hours. If you are pressed for time, marinate for a minimum of 3 hours.
  4. Remove chicken from the marinade. Reserve the liquid from the marinade. You can cook the chicken using either a gas grill or by broiling in an oven.
  5. If using a gas grill, preheat the grill to high cook chicken on each side until charred but not cooked through; about 4-6 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil and set aside for later.
  6. If using an oven, preheat the broiler to high. Place chicken onto a wire rack with a drip tray lined with aluminum foil. Cook on each side until charred but not cooked through; about 6-8 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil and set aside for later.
  7. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet or pan, heat remaining oil to medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until caramelized. Add tomato paste, sugar, salt and reserved Mombasa sauce to the pan. Rinse the jar with ½ of the water and add it to the pan. Pour the remaining ½ cup water into the reserved marinade bowl, swirl the bowl around to release any tidbits clinging to it; add the liquid to the pan. Stir to combine.
  8. Add the chicken along with any juices accumulated on the plate to the skillet/pan. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Simmer covered for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn the chicken pieces over and simmer for an additional 20-30 minutes (or until the chicken is cooked). Stir in lime juice and sprinkle with cilantro leaves.
  9. Enjoy with chapati bread (or naan) or serve over cooked coconut rice.

SLOW COOKER DIRECTIONS

  1. Follow steps 1 – 6.
  2. In step 7, after caramelizing the onions; transfer them to the cooker.
  3. Add tomato paste, sugar, salt and reserved Mombasa sauce to the cooker. Rinse the jar with ½ of the water and add it to the cooker. Pour the remaining ½ cup water into the reserved marinade bowl, swirl the bowl around to release any tidbits clinging to it; add the liquid to the cooker. Stir to combine.
  4. Add the chicken along with any juices accumulated on the plate to the cooker.
  5. Cover with lid, cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 4-6 hours.
  6. After cooking is complete, stir in lime juice and sprinkle with cilantro leaves.
  7. Enjoy with chapati bread (or naan) or serve over cooked coconut rice.

INSTANT POT DIRECTIONS

  1. Follow steps 1 – 6.
  2. Set the instant pot to high sauté add remaining oil. When hot, add the onions and cook until caramelized, about 6 – 8 minutes. Turn off.
  3. Add tomato paste, sugar, salt and reserved Mombasa sauce to the pot. Rinse the jar with ½ of the water and add it to the pot. Pour the remaining ½ cup water into the reserved marinade bowl, swirl the bowl around to release any tidbits clinging to it; add the liquid to the pan. Stir to combine.
  4. Add the chicken along with any juices accumulated on the plate to the pot.
  5. Close, select the manual setting, and cook on high pressure for 25 minutes. Once cooking is complete, do a natural release. Stir in lime juice and sprinkle with cilantro leaves
  6. Enjoy with chapati bread (or naan) or serve over cooked coconut rice.

RECIPE NOTES FROM JAINABA

  • Bone-in chicken is highly recommended for this recipe but you could also use boneless thighs or chicken breast. Just be sure to adjust the cooking times accordingly.
  • To elevate the flavor of this dish even more, we suggest grilling the chicken pieces over charcoal to impart a smoky taste.
  • This recipe yields a saucy consistency, if you wish to tighten or thicken the sauce even further, simply simmer uncovered, checking often, until it reaches your desired consistency.
  • Marinating the chicken for at least 24 hours will produce the best results.

RECIPE & PHOTO: KITCHENS OF AFRICA