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from: Eastern Africa | cooking method: boiling-simmering

Kuku Paka

Kuku Paka, a chicken-coconut curry, is a Swahili dish from the coast of Eastern Africa. It is also sometimes called an Ismaili dish, and it shows up on some Indian menus -- which all makes sense when one considers that the Swahili civilization itself is a mixture of influences from Africa, Arabia, and India. Etymologically, Kuku Paka is somewhat unclear. The African origins of Kuku Paka are clearly seen in the word kuku, which means chicken in Kiswahili (the Swahili language) and other African languages. But the paka part is unclear. It's notable that nazi (the Swahili word for coconut) is not used in the name of this dish, as it is in other Swahili dishes. Some say that paka denotes a dish made with coconut milk. However, paka is also the Punjabi word for delicious. (Paka is also the Swahili for cat, and it is related to Indian words for the verb to cook and pure; probably just a coincidence.) Gastronomically, there's no mystery at all: it's delicious chicken.

clove market, zanzibar

What you need

What you do

Another way: In a separate pot, boil or fry the potatoes at the same time the onions and chicken are cooking, (no need to remove the chicken). Add the cooked potatoes to the onions and chicken when the chicken is done, before adding the coconut milk.

Some cooks also add a bit of lemon juice and/or grated lemon peel as is done in Akoho sy Voanio, which is another African chicken-and-coconut dish, from farther south on Africa's east coast.


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