Chicken Aloo

Gaeng Gai Sai Aloo


The potato is a staple in the Shan hills, where it’s known as aloo, the Hindi and Urdu word for potato. The same word is used for potato in Burmese. (The potato, of course, is native to the Americas, and it traveled to Asia sometime after 1500.) Interestingly, the word for potato in neighboring Thailand is not a variant of aloo, but man farang, which translates, literally, as “foreign tuber.”

I ate this welcoming stew sitting outside under the stars at the farm of a good friend, with white rice, a blanched greens salad, and a Shan-style tea-leaf salad. I like to serve it on cold winter nights with roasted root vegetables and plain rice.


  • 1 small (-pound) whole chicken, chopped into -inch pieces, or about 2 pounds chicken legs and/or breasts, chopped (see A Note on Chopped Chicken), rinsed
  • 1 cup small shallots
  • 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
  • About 4 medium Roma (plum) or other fleshy tomatoes, cut into thin wedges (1½ to 2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon toasted and ground Soybean Disk ( and see Cooking with Tua Nao), or substitute 1 teaspoon brown miso paste
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and smashed
  • ¼ cup peanut oil or vegetable oil
  • 5 cups water
  • 3½ to 4 cups 1-inch cubes peeled potatoes
  • ½ cup chopped coriander leaves and stems
  • ½ cup minced scallion greens


Place the chicken, shallots, salt, tomatoes, turmeric, cayenne, tua nao powder or miso, and lemongrass in a large heavy casserole, drizzle on the oil, and place over medium heat. Stir and turn to mix and to distribute the oil, then cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir and turn to expose more surfaces to the hot pot, cover, and cook for a few more minutes.

Add the water, raise the heat, and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a medium boil and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and boil, half-covered, until they are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed.

Sprinkle on the chopped coriander and scallion greens, stir, and serve.