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Literary recipe: Chicken curry and yellow rice inspired by "Born A Crime"

Literary recipe: Chicken curry and yellow rice inspired by "Born A Crime"

Before he became the host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah was a comedian living in South Africa and navigating the usual ups and downs of growing up against a backdrop of racial segregation, political strife and domestic abuse. Despite these circumstances, Noah maintains an warm, positive tone as he relates stories from his childhood in his debut book, Born A Crime

Born a Crime is a coming of age story about a mixed-race boy living in a country that forbade racial mixing of any kind. As South Africa attempts to rebuild after the devastation of apartheid, Noah simply goes through life in the only world he has ever known. Despite everything around him, his anecdotes focus on universal experiences, from trying to find one’s place in school, to interacting with the opposite sex, to dealing with familial obligations.

It is the universal aspects of Noah’s adolescence — rather than the individual ones — that make this book such an engaging read. As humans we may live in vastly different circumstances, but we can all understand the basic desire to fit in, to form connections, and to find our place in the world. 

Through a collection of poignant, humorous and relatable essays, Noah relays his life experiences as well as those of his mother, the defining influence in his life. To learn about a child 'born a crime,' we must understand the woman who committed the indiscretion in the first place. In each story, Noah considers his own place in the narrative, and then expands on the contributing roles of his family and his culture.

Because Born A Crime was such a relatable collection of stories, I wanted to create a dish with universal applications across many different cultures. Thus, I landed on chicken and rice. From biryani to fried rice to paella, it seems almost every county has their take on this staple dish. After reading Noah's book, I decided to attempt the South African version and ended up making yellow rice with Cape Malay chicken curry. 



For the chicken curry:

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 Tbsp ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric 
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups of water
  • 12 skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/4 cup diced potatoes
  • handful chopped cilantro

For the yellow rice:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 1 tsp raw sugar
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 2 1/4 cups of water
  • 1/2 tsp salt


Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes until softened, stirring evenly. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add all the remaining spices and stir briefly, then tip in the tomatoes with 2 cups of water.

Add the chicken thighs, making sure they are covered by the liquid, then cover the pan and leave to cook for 35 minutes. Stir well, add the potatoes and cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes more until they are tender. Stir in the chopped cilantro.

To make the rice, add the butter, rice, sugar and spices to a large pan with 2 1/4 cups water and the salt. Bring to the boil and, when the butter has melted, stir, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve with chicken curry. 

Adapted from BBC Good Food

Book club guide: "Born A Crime" by Trevor Noah discussion questions and menu

Book club guide: "Born A Crime" by Trevor Noah discussion questions and menu

The TBR List: March 2017

The TBR List: March 2017