• Yield: Serves 4 to 6

There is no way I could even attempt to match the virtuoso performance that Maya Angelou put on when she prepared her curry for me in her Sonoma kitchen over four decades ago. My own curry, from my book Sky Juice and Flying Fish: Traditional Caribbean Cooking, is more of a West Indian–type curry that includes potatoes along with the chicken. They serve to not only stretch the chicken, but also to lend substance to the curry. While this is traditionally eaten with roti, I like to serve it with rice (yes, I know two starches, but why not) and then add as many of the “boys" — mango chutney, tomato chutney, chopped peanuts, raisins, finely grated coconut, lime pickle, fresh pineapple pieces, kachumber salad, raita, and papadum — as I can get.


  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 1 large onion, minced

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced

  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

  • 3 tablespoons Madras-style curry powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chiles, or to taste

  • 1/2 cup or more cane vinegar

  • 3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into strips

  • 3 large potatoes coarsely chopped


In a large frying pan, heat the butter and sauté the onion, garlic, and ginger until the onion is soft but not brown. Add the curry powder and the chiles, stirring so that they do not stick or burn. Add the vinegar. There should be enough to make a smooth paste. (If not, you may need as much as 1/4 cup more.)

Cover the chicken pieces with the paste and place them in a covered bowl in the refrigerator. Allow the chicken pieces to marinate for at least 2 hours. When ready to cook, place the chicken pieces in a large frying pan and add enough water to reconstitute the paste and prevent scorching. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, checking occasionally. (You may find that you will have to add more water to prevent scorching.)

After 30 minutes, add the potatoes, cover, and continue to cook for an additional 15 minutes or until the chicken and potatoes are cooked through. Serve with white rice accompanied by the “boys.”

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Excerpted from My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir by Jessica B. Harris. Copyright © 2017 by Jessica B. Harris. Published by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Reprinted with permission.”

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