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Amawele’s Sweet Potato Chicken Curry


Twins sisters Pam and Wendy Michaelson, chef-owners of Amawele’s South African Kitchen, serve this curry at their San Francisco stand atop a bed of steamed vegetables. You can also serve this over rice or quinoa. This can be made a day ahead but you will likely need to add water to loosen the sauce as it reheats.

Note: White sweet potatoes, also called Japanese sweet potatoes, are becoming more easily available at grocers like Berkeley Bowl (Berkeley), Farmer Joe’s (Oakland) and Rainbow Grocery (San Francisco). White sweet potatoes have pale skin and white flesh and are milder and more delicate in flavor than their orange-colored cousins.

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  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon mild Indian curry powder (see Note)
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mild or hot paprika or a combination, to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds white sweet potato (see Note)
  • 3 tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste or garlic put through a garlic press
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 12 fresh curry leaves (see Note)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar or lemon juice (optional)


Preparation time 30mins
Adapted from


Step 1

Combine the garam masala, curry powder, turmeric and paprika in a small bowl; set aside.

Peel the sweet potato and cut into 1-inch chunks. Put into a pot, cover with unsalted water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a hard simmer and cook until the potatoes are very tender, 10-12 minutes. Drain, reserving 2 cups of the cooking water; set potatoes and cooking water aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.

Add the garam masala mixture and the garlic paste to the onions, and stir to combine. Thirty seconds later, add the chicken, salt and water. Reduce the heat, partially cover the pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is just cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Add 2/3 of the sweet potato and stir to combine. The curry will thicken as the sweet potato breaks down. If the sauce becomes too thick, add some of the reserved water to increase the amount of sauce and achieve the desired consistency.

Stir in the curry leaves and fold in the remaining sweet potato while adding more water as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings with sherry vinegar and lemon juice, if using, and salt. Serve hot.

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