India: Butter Chicken

Indian Butter Chicken

I got this Indian Butter Chicken recipe from my friend, Susie, who lived in India for almost a year.  I’ve known her through for a long, long time.  She’s helped out with the forums and blog ages.  I even got to meet her and her family in person in New York City a few years ago, right before she left for India (that’s us below).  Oddly enough, just by chance we were both there on the same day!  If you get a chance, check out her blog series on Mommysavers: The Frugal Foreigner.

Since she said one of her favorite Indian dishes was Butter Chicken, I thought that would be a good one to make for my kids.  Don’t let the sheer number of ingredients in this intimidate you. It’s not hard at all.  Plus, once you purchase the spices you can make lots of other Indian dishes.

India: Butter Chicken
Indian Butter Chicken is a great introduction to Indian cuisine. It's mild enough to appeal to many palates.
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • ¼ white onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 potatoes peeled and diced.
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ¼ cup water
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Saute shallot and onion until soft and translucent. Stir in butter, lemon juice, ginger-garlic paste, 1 teaspoon garam masala, chili powder, cumin and bay leaf. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in half-and-half and yogurt. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.
  3. Cook potatoes for ~10 mins, stirring often to evenly brown. Pull potatoes
  4. out of oil with slotted spoon/spatula, and add to sauce. Add chicken,
  5. and cook chicken until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat,
  6. and season with 1 teaspoon garam masala and cayenne. Stir in a few
  7. spoonfuls of sauce, and simmer until liquid has reduced, and chicken is
  8. no longer pink. Stir cooked chicken into sauce.
  9. Mix together cornstarch and water, then stir into the sauce. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until thickened.
  10. Serve with rice.
  11. NOTES: I didn't have garlic ginger paste, so I used chopped garlic and ginger. Also, I didn't have peanut oil so I used sesame oil.

new york 2010

Thailand: Chicken Pad Thai

chicken pad thai - EASY!

When it comes to Thai food, most people think of Chicken or Shrimp Pad Thai.  It’s a dish that is commonly served at casual local eateries in Thailand and probably the most common Thai dish served in America.   Thai food is known for balancing 3-4 different taste palates in one dish: sour, sweet, salty, and bitter.   For that reason, you may think the list of ingredients on some recipes looks pretty schizophrenic.   Somehow, they fit together like pieces of a puzzle.  That’s the art of Thai cooking.  I can appreciate that.

Chicken Pad Thai may not be the most adventurous dish to try from this region, but it was a good introduction to these flavors for my kids.   It was a safe, family-friendly choice.  Scott said enthusiastically, “This is REALLY good!  Where is it from?”  (you know, because the name didn’t give it away for him).  It’s quick, too.  The whole meal was done in about 30 minutes.

(Mankato friends – if you’re looking for the fish sauce, rice vinegar and other Asian ingredients, the Global Aisle at Cub Foods has everything you’ll need.  Bean sprouts are in the produce section).

Thailand: Chicken Pad Thai
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 5 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 5 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 10 oz. rice noodles
  • 4 Tbsp. sesame oil, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ C. sliced green onions (more for garnish)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 C. bean sprouts
  • ⅓ cup chopped unsalted peanuts
  • ⅓ cup chopped cilantro
  1. In a bowl, combine the cornstarch and soy sauce. Add chicken pieces and turn until well-coated. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine lime juice, rice vinegar, fish sauce, brown sugar and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
  3. Place noodles in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over noodles to cover and let sit 8-10 minutes until al dente. Drain. Set aside.
  4. In a large skillet or wok, heat 2 tbsp. sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and green onions and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add chicken and soy sauce mixture. Cook until chicken is cooked through. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  5. Heat 2 tbsp oil in the skillet. Add the eggs and cook until scrambled. Add the noodles, sauce and chicken. Cook about 2 minutes. Add bean sprouts and cook another 2-3 minutes until noodles are tender and bean sprouts are not crisp. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle with peanut and cilantro. Serve immediately.


chicken pad thai recipe easy chicken pad thai recipe easy

Chicken Pad Thai

chicken pad thai recipe easy chicken pad thai recipe easy chicken pad thai recipe easy

This dish inspired by Chocolate & Chillie and

Egypt: Halal Guys Chicken and Rice

halal guys chicken and rice

My Version: Halal Guys Chicken and Rice

halal guys chicken and rice

The Original

Most of you who know me also know I have a passion for NYC.  The first time I visited wasn’t until I was about 35 years old, but since then I’ve been there at least a dozen or more times.  I love the energy, the culture, and especially the food.   I could spend all day going from eatery to eatery stuffing my face.

The thing about New York City is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get incredible food (more on my favorite Frugal New York Eats).  Food bargains are everywhere.  Some of the best offerings are under $10.  In fact, one of our favorites is the Halal Guys Food Cart on 53rd and 6th.   Their chicken and rice plate is only around $6, and it’s worth the long wait in line.   Every once in a while, I crave it and nothing Mankato comes close.

Their fare is billed as “Middle Eastern” so I tweeted them to see which nationality, specifically, to assign to their yummy food.  I felt really special when they responded to my tweet.  The answer?  Egyptian.  So with that, I cross the first African dish off my checklist.

Egypt: Halal Guys Chicken and Rice
Cuisine: Egyptian
For the Chicken: 2 Tbsp. lemon juice 1 tsp. dried oregano ½ tsp. ground coriander ½ tsp. cumin 3 garlic cloves, minced ¼ C. olive oil Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (the kind in the bag work well) For the Rice: 2 Tbsp. butter ½ tsp. turmeric ¼ tsp. cumin 1½ C. Basmati or Texmati rice 2½ C. chicken broth Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper For the Sauce: 1 C. mayo 2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish ½ tsp. salt ½ tsp. cracked black pepper 1 Tbsp. lemon juice ¼ C. white vinegar 1 C. Ranch dressing ⅓ C. Greek yogurt ⅓ C. sour cream 2 Tbsp. white sugar 3 tsp. dry dill weed
  • For the chicken, whisk together the lemon juice, oregano, coriander, cumin, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Place inside a crock pot and pour sauce over it. Cover and cook until chicken is done (4 hours on high, 6-8 hours on low).
  • For the rice, heat butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Saute the rice for a couple minutes together with the tumeric and cumin, until it begins to brown slightly. Add the chicken broth, cover and reduce heat. Cook 20-25 minutes until liquid has been absorbed.
  • Serve with shredded lettuce, tomato wedges, and pita.


Notes:  The Halal Guys sauce is SO yummy.  It’s a great dip or salad dressing too.  The above recipe makes a whole quart.  Cut it in half if you don’t think you’ll be using it for anything else.  Otherwise, it does keep in the refrigerator for a couple weeks.

halal guys chicken and rice

Thanks to The Gothamist for the sauce recipe

I first posted the Halal Guys Chicken and Rice recipe on


Hungary: Chicken Paprikash

hungarian chicken paprikash

Hungarian Chicken Paprikash, the website I started nearly 14 years ago, is known for its wonderful Frugal Living Forum.  The down-to-earth members love to share their tips, advice, and especially their recipes.  The “Kitchen Chatter” forum is one of the most popular areas of the site.  Over the years, I’ve tried a countless number of them – many of which have become my family’s favorites.

Recently, I asked its members to post their Heritage Recipes.  Member dreamerpoet submitted this recipe for Chicken Paprikash from her grandmother, whom she refers to as a “Straight-off-the-boat Hungarian.”  It doesn’t get much more authentic than that.

Here are the changes I made to the recipe:  I browned the chicken in the butter first, instead of the onions.  After browning them, I set them aside and did the onions in the yummy bits that remained.  That way, the onions could soak up the chicken fat and drippings.  I also added 1 cup of chicken broth to the sauce.

Hungary: Chicken Paprikash
Serves: 4-6
  • 3 lb. chicken legs and thighs, separated
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 large onion, sliced (I used three smaller onions)
  • 2 Tbsp. Hungarian paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1-2 tsp. salt
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • 1 C. sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp. parsley
  • 1 lb. egg noodles or dumplings
  1. Saute onion in butter. Stir in flour and paprika, cook stirring constantly for one minute. Stir in salt, pepper and tomatoes. Add chicken, turning to coat pieces.
  2. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
  3. Remove chicken with slotted spoon.
  4. In separate pot, cook noodles and drain. Make sure the tomato sauce is boiling, Place sour cream in large bowl, then stir in a bit tomato sauce into bowl to temper so the sour cream doesn't curdle. Add the rest of the tomato sauce, blending well. Add parsley, reserving some for garnish.
  5. Spoon sauce over chicken and noodles, then serve

Hungarian chicken paprikash