Chef Biju’s Spicy Chicken Tikka Interview by Brad Roe with images from Biju Thomas & Wyatt Caldwell

You’ve probably heard the name of chef Biju Thomas connected with the Little Curry Shop or his partnership and friendship with Dr. Allen Lim at SkratchLabs or seen him riding and feeding athletes young and old at gravel and cycling events. The good news is, you will be hearing more from him in Peloton.

Biju Thomas in his element. Image: Wyatt Caldwell.

We heard a rumor about spicy chicken and rice that we’ll get to shortly, but first tell us about your new role at Outside Inc. as a senior content producer. My new role is really a dream job for me as someone who grew up in Colorado as a huge fan of Outside magazine. For years I’ve been lost in those magical cover shots of massive adventurous dreamscapes, endless blue skies, fresh air and always another hill to crest. I’ve been given the role as a food and nutrition producer across brands and various extensions of Outside as we grow. This means that I get to look for and tell great stories about food and our culture of being active, being outside and of course seeking adventure. This will include sharing great food and cooking ideas along with my favorite recipes, whether at home or on the road.

Okay, now let’s get to the rumor. We heard you made around 1,200 bowls of rice and spicy chicken tikka daily, from scratch, behind the trailer in the sand by a pond! Is this true? This is true. We were launching SkratchLabs back in 2012 and taking any opportunity to get out in front of people at events small and large. Allen and I wanted to share personally with people the joy we found in making and sharing great food, from scratch, and how that can not only affect people’s performance as athletes, but just create a much happier vibe around something we all love to do.

At Sea Otter that year, our friend Dave [Edwards] of Primal clothing shared the back of his booth for us to pull and set up a kitchen trailer in the sand, where it kept sinking on the shore of that somewhat murky pond at the racetrack. I set up a few outdoor stoves, we had some giant rice cookers and just went to town cooking hundreds of pounds of fresh chicken all day.

So, let’s say we don’t have a trailer or a pond, or sand, walk us through making this recipe at home. This is something that I get asked often about: “How do I make a great curry?” Really, there are a million ways to make any food great, especially curry. My parking-lot-curry recipe comes from the need to make a ton of food quickly with one large pot and no real space or time to prep once on site. This means that I would make a “fresh curry base” and have tons of it on hand all day. Use this basic technique to learn, adjust the flavors, heat, color and all, each time you make a new batch, until you get to your very own personal curry of perfection…in a parking lot!

Biju’s Spicy Chicken Tikka.

WHAT YOU NEED

3 lbs chicken
1 large onion
1 bulb garlic
1 thumb/2-4 oz ginger
4-6 jalapeños
1 bunch cilantro
Curry powder
Ketchup
1 large can tomato sauce
Rice/bread/yogurt

HOW YOU MAKE IT

For approximately 6 servings (in order of cooking)
1. 3 lbs. chicken thighs cut to bite-sized pieces, sprinkle some salt and pepper, set aside
2. Fresh base: In Cuisinart chop coarsely together: 1 large onion, 4 garlic cloves, 1 thumb fresh ginger, 2 jalapeños, 1 handful of fresh cilantro
3. Bring large pot to medium-high heat, add 1/2 cup coconut oil (any oil will work)
4. Add in fresh base, stir and scrape bottom of pot as you get a nice char and color, while softening the veg.
5. Add cut chicken to the pot, let “sear” on bottom of pan until you get bit of color and some burnt bits, scrape bottom
6. Add 2 tablespoons of your favorite curry powder, any will do. Get something more yellow than brown
7. Add 1 large can: 16–20 oz. of tomato sauce + rinse out can and add same amount of water
8. Add 1/4 cup ketchup
9. Close lid and let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally
10. Remove lid, taste for salt, add coconut milk if you’d like
11. Serve with flat bread or over steamed rice with a side of yogurt

“Feed Zone Table,” “Feed Zone Portables” and “The Feedzone Cookbook” are available at velopress.com

From issue 106. Buy it here.