Continuing our What Is Black Food? series, we spoke to content creator and home-cook Shadaé Williams about challenging the assumptions people make about spices, how her Jamaican heritage inspires her cooking, and what has shaped the way she thinks about food.
How does your heritage/culture influence your home cooking?
My Jamaican-American heritage heavily influences my home cooking, from making very traditional meals to dishes that are inspired by the many spices I love.
Does the dish you’re sharing today have a story behind it?
I first learned to make curry chicken from my dad. All Jamaicans have their own little additions that make curry chicken their own, and I've picked up tidbits from friends and family to perfect my recipe.
What does the term Black food mean to you?
Food that has fueled and also comforted Black people, in all walks and phases of life. Connecting us with the diaspora we are a part of, Black food can bridge the gap of the distances the origins of our food comes from.
Are there any assumptions made about Black food that you would like to challenge or dispel?
I would like to dispel the idea that more heavily spiced food is unhealthy. Spices are one of nature’s medicines, such as the turmeric used in Jamaican curry. It has ayurvedic and anti-inflammatory properties that will be marketed as a new health craze when a certain group of people discuss or “discover” it, but is ignored as something that was deeply ingrained in other cultures for centuries.
What experiences and people in your life have shaped your cooking practice and the way you think about food?
My experiences of dining around a table or cooking in the kitchen with family and friends have been a part of some of the best memories in my life thus far. I believe that food and eating together play such a huge role in the sharing of culture and history and shouldn’t be taken for granted.
How do you incorporate joy into your cooking practice?
Cooking can feel almost like muscle memory sometimes, which gives your mind a break and you can simply enjoy what you're doing in the moment.
Where do you hope to see the future of Black food in America / Canada going?
Respected in the culinary world for the techniques and flavors it can bring to traditional culinary settings.
Shadaé’s Curry Chicken
1 whole chicken
1/4 small pumpkin, chopped
3 potatoes, diced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 stalks green onion, sliced
1/2 green onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 stems of thyme
1 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup spicy curry powder
1/4 cup roasted garlic powder
3 tbsp. all purpose seasoning
3 tbsp. onion powder
2 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tbsp. salt
- Cut up the whole chicken and clean with lime juice. Rinse and pat dry, then season with half of the curry powder, garlic powder, onions, garlic, thyme and green onions. Add all of the onion powder and all purpose seasoning, cayenne pepper (optional), and 1/2 cup of the oil. Mix well and set aside.
- Over medium-high heat, add remaining oil, curry powder, garlic powder, green onion, thyme, onion, and garlic to your Perfect Pot. Let it sizzle and incorporate well. Add in pumpkin and potatoes and cook covered until softened.
- Once pumpkin and potatoes are softened, add in chicken and let simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes. Once it’s boiling and the chicken has produced gravy, add in green pepper, butter and Scotch bonnet (or habanero pepper). Add in a little water if more gravy is desired and salt to taste; let simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
- Remove habanero from your Perfect Pot when done. Serve with white rice and enjoy.