Monthly Archives: May 2011 - Page 2

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala is chicken tikka, or chicken chunks marinated in spices and yogurt and roasted or baked in a tandoor oven, and served in a masala (mixed spices) sauce. It is so popular in Britain that the British Foreign Secretary once called it “a true British national dish”. Some think it may even have been invented in London.

There are many ways to make it, and traditional Indian cooking methods are quite time-consuming; they may involve grinding the spices on the day of cooking for freshness, and long cooking to produce very tender meats.

We chose to make it in the quickest possible way. Here’s our approach to Chicken Tikka Masala.


Here are the main spices we used:

In the center is a masala curry powder that we bought from a local Indian shop. Unfortunately we no longer know the ingredients, but we would expect it to contain cumin, pepper, cloves, cardamom, and coriander among other spices.

Clockwise from upper left are jalapeno peppers, ginger root, garlic, onion, parsley, paprika, turmeric, and xylitol which we included for a bit of sweetness. Quantities were 1 tbsp of each spice and 1 tsp of the xylitol.

We also diced 3 large tomatoes (weighing about 1.5 pound) and a chicken breast into bite-sized pieces:

Preparing the sauce

We melted some beef tallow in a wok and stir-fried the pepper, onion, ginger, and garlic for 5 minutes to bring out some of the flavor:

The ginger and garlic should be minced finely. After 5 minutes we added all the spices:

After another 2 minutes we added the tomato and cooked for 15 minutes:

Then we transferred the cooked sauce to a food processor and pureed it:

In another wok, while the sauce was cooking, we browned the chicken pieces in olive oil:

Once the chicken was browned, but well before it was cooked through, we added the pureed sauce and parsley:

Cook the chicken in the sauce for 15 minutes, and then add some Greek yogurt:

That’s it — it took us about 40 minutes. Serve it over rice:


The sauce was delicious! We kept some extra and tried it over salmon — it was even better with the salmon.

Around the Web; It’s Anthropology Week!

Here’s what caught my eye this week:

[1] Interesting posts this week: Paleo Pepper has compiled an online encyclopedia: the top 120 Paleo blog posts. Richard Nikoley asks: is optimality in diet a fool’s errand? He takes the view that individuals have an optimum, but not humanity. Via Seth Roberts, a fascinating story of how even doctors cannot get good care out of today’s medical system: How modern medicine killed my brother.

Also from Seth, his “morning faces therapy” has produced a great result for a man with bipolar disorder. We believe that “circadian rhythm therapies,” and bio-rhythm restoring techniques generally, are an underappreciated therapy. See, for instance, Intermittent Fasting as a Therapy for Hypothyroidism (Dec 1, 2010) and Seth Roberts and Circadian Therapy (Mar 22, 2011).

Emily Deans offers up a surprising danger of smoking pot – fungal infections of the lung:

[S]moked joints could easily be adulterated with natural fungi that grow into big nasty (and deadly) fungus balls in the lung.  I saw a case of this fungus ball in medical school in a patient immunosuppresed with HIV who also happened to smoke a lot of pot.  It could have been from other sources, of course, but my attendings assured me they had seen it several times in AIDS patients who were heavy pot users.  It’s not a pleasant way to go, and the treatments are horrible.

In a more controversial post, Emily argues that greater dopamine in the male brain creates “Genius and Madness,” while the lower dopamine feminine brain promotes sociability and social stability. But I wonder if a world led by “Generation XX” is really going to be more stable.

Mark’s Daily Apple notes that city living can be a brain drain. It certainly is for Shou-Ching and I; our nightmare would be living in New York City. Curiously I didn’t have the same sense of oppression in Tokyo, a much more open city. Boston is better than New York but we would prefer the country.

Robert Krulwich discusses the “loneliest plant in the world”: a male tree that can’t find a mate, as it is the only known surviving member of its species. Scientific American discusses how gut bacteria shape the brain. Chris Kresser suggests ways to keep your brain from aging.

Finally, if you’ve never seen a deer eat a bird, and would like to, Bix has you covered.

[2] Music to read exercise by:

The video can’t be embedded but is great. I wonder if the gymnastics were influenced by Parkour?

[3] My Favorite Posts This Week: The best posts this week were by Melissa McEwen of Hunt Gather Love, who has been running a series on “The Human Colon in Evolution.” All posts are great – I loved today’s (part 5) because it was new to me, and part 4 because it argues our “safe starches” are great foods for the gut – but they’re all outstanding:

[4] Human origins elucidated:

An important paper on human origins came out this week. “A Revised Root for the Human Y Chromosomal Phylogenetic Tree: The Origin of Patrilineal Diversity in Africa” used Y-chromosomes to trace the male “Adam” back to 142,000 years ago and northwest Africa, in what is now the Sahara but was then an open woodland environment. This is significant for many reasons, but one is that this region had easy communications with the Middle East along the Mediterranean coast and supports the possibility that interbreeding between Neanderthals and Africans, with significant back-migration into Africa proper, may have been an important process in the evolution of modern humans. Dienekes (here and here) and Razib Khan comment.

JS Stanton at had a nice essay. I don’t agree with everything in it; in particular, JS underestimates the violence of Paleolithic society. The work of Lawrence Keeley is helpful in this regard:

In browsing the comments to JS’s post I saw a link to a weird book by Danny Vendramini called Them and Us. A video by the author presents his case: Neanderthals were chimp-like super-predators and predation and rape by Neanderthals killed all the dumb humans, until the smarter humans figured out how to kill all the Neanderthals. Here’s how Vendramini imagines the Neanderthals:

There is plenty of evidence indicating that this view of the Neanderthals is wrong. I will just note that the fraction of Neanderthal genes in present-day humans is of the same order of magnitude as the level of mixing African-Americans and European-Americans have achieved in 200 years – this despite 30,000 years of selection which will have tended to work against survival of most Neanderthal genes. The idea that such extensive mixing came about through rape conducted by radically different species in perpetual warfare is, I think, totally untenable. There must have been extensive voluntary interbreeding.

Curiously, the Vendramini view recapitulates one of the earliest hypotheses about Neanderthals. This talk by Carl Zimmer shows that (at 2:40) in 1909 leading anthropologists shared Vendramini’s view of the Neanderthals, whereas today they seem — ahem — considerably more attractive:

[5] We’re glad it’s helping! Chris Kresser on Twitter:

I’ve been having some success w/modified ketogenic diet a la Paul Jaminet w/50g CHO, 6 TBS MCT oil 5g leucine.

This method of producing ketosis is much healthier than the zero-carb low-protein diets sometimes used.

UPDATE: It’s mood disorders generally, and depression specifically, that the ketogenic diet has been helping with.

[6] More on Food Deserts: Beth Mazur of Weight Maven has written of the significance of “food deserts” in the obesity epidemic. Basically, where fresh whole foods are difficult to buy, obesity rates are high.

Now the USDA has a cool interactive map showing the locations of food deserts:

Via Razib Khan

[7] Did monkeys keep pets?:

Via Yves Smith.

[8] Our book on sale: I know of at least one store that offers our book for sale: The Grainery in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Their web site has a great line from Thomas Edison:

“The doctors of the future will give no medicine , but intrest their patients in care of the human frame, diet and the cause and prevention of disease.” — Thomas A. Edison

The proprietor of The Grainery, John Kessenich, spoke recently on “Eating for Perfect Health” and might have used some of our ideas. If you happen to find yourself in Baraboo, check out The Grainery and ask John for health tips!

[9] Why the Kindle version isn’t available: I have too much brain.

[10] Primal Fashion Week: No, this is definitely not Paleo re-enactment. I doubt Neanderthal women ever wore a Sperm Coat or paired it with a Heart Tube Hat.

Personally I would prefer a cheetah skin.

[11] Low-dose naltrexone is great for Crohn’s: On my editorial calendar is a discussion of the role of endorphins and enkephalins in immunity, and the opportunity to increase their levels and circadian variability and thus modulate immunity through low-dose naltrexone (LDN), with beneficial effects against certain diseases.

While I dither, clinical studies of LDN are progressing. This week, a report came out on LDN for Crohn’s disease:

Eighty-eight percent of those treated with naltrexone had at least a 70-point decline in Crohn’s Disease Activity Index scores compared to 40 percent of placebo-treated patients.

[12] Shou-Ching’s Photo-Art:

© 2011 Shou-Ching Jaminet.

[13] Not the weekly video: Ducks Against the Wind:

Via erp, who says, “It’s getting harder and harder to keep your ducks in a row!”

[14] Weekly video: Marriage is health-improving and life-extending, especially for men, so I consider this (done in moderation!) an exemplary health practice:

Via Orrin Judd

An Osteoarthritis Recovery Story

Jacqueline wrote us in late March asking for tips for osteoarthritis.

She had experienced continuous pain and stiffness in her thumbs for the last year, and occasional pain when gardening for more than 10 years. Her younger sister also has joint pain and can’t turn her neck. Her father, now 73, has had pain in his thumbs for decades which eventually spread to his fingers, and a shoulder spur which had required surgery. Jacqueline’s dad says that osteoarthritis “runs in the family.”

Of course, even if there is some sort of genetic basis for osteoarthritis, it will be modifiable through diet and nutrition.

Jacqueline had been eating low-carb since 2003: meat and vegetables for dinner, fruit and yogurt or eggs, bacon, and sausage for breakfast, but an occasional sandwich for lunch. Around 2007, Fitday gave her macronutrient ratios as near 65% fat, 17% carb, 17% protein. In 2009 she gave up wheat entirely. At that point she developed dry eyes.

Upon reading our “low-carb dangers” series which discussed dry eyes (see Dangers of Zero-Carb Diets, II: Mucus Deficiency and Gastrointestinal Cancers, Nov 15, 2010), she decided to add some carbs back to her diet. Potatoes and bananas cured her dry eyes.

But the joint pain remained, and she asked for any further suggestions. My reply was:

Shou-Ching had a condition like that and it got better with regular vitamin K2 supplementation. Presumably it was caused by improper calcification. Magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin C are the next most likely to be important.

I think malnutrition is probably the major cause of osteoarthritis. (We know it can cause it in moose!)

For rheumatoid arthritis the cause is usually infectious. Low-dose antibiotics, as suggested by the Road Back Foundation, often work.

The dry eye indicates a glucose and/or vitamin C deficiency. Either will contribute to joint problems too, since the joint lubricants are all made from essentially the same materials as tear lubricants / mucus. So it’s good you’ve re-introduced starch, but I would add more than just some potatoes and tubers. After you’ve gotten used to very low-carb it can be hard to re-orient yourself to the quantities you may need. If glucosamine helps, that suggests you don’t have enough glucose to make your own glucosamine. I would eat more starches and take more C also.

I think you’re probably close and a little more diet experimentation should be able to fix the problem. Rice and vitamin K2 are probably your best friends.

Jacqueline implemented that advice. She wrote back in early May:

What I did:

I kept on taking the 1.5g glucosamine daily and tried, really tried to up my carbs (as starch) intake – you’re right, once you get used to not eating them, it can be quite hard to do. I seem to have succeeded somewhat as I have gone back to using Fitday a bit and have managed (on the days I was checking) about 100g carbs a day. If I didn’t manage with the carbs, I consciously tried to eat a bit more protein on the day instead.

I have increased the frequency with which I take magnesium and vitamin K2 … and started taking a vitamin C (1g) every day. I’m easing off on vitamin D though as summer and some sunshine is finally here. I’ve also pretty much stopped the fish oil – this is of course related to your recent posts – because I do eat oily fish weekly and other fish and seafood regularly….

I have also cut out my addiction to cashew nuts since I was in Paris for a few days before Easter….


The aching and stiffness has been receding steadily. The right thumb was already improving with my trying to increase carbs (because of the dry eyes) and taking the glucosamine. The right thumb now feels pretty much back to normal. The left thumb has also stopped aching especially over the last 2-3 weeks although it is still a bit prone to ‘catching’ with sudden pain – and a sort of pulling in the ligaments  – as if it can’t react quickly enough to a sudden move e.g. when driving. I am now – over the last few days – playing the piano a lot more (got a bit out of practice with the Paris trip etc.)  – and my thumbs are recovering well – not sore the next day like they were before.


There are basically three kinds of arthritis:

  • osteoarthritis, which I associate with nutrient deficiencies, is a loss of cartilage and lubricating fluid in the joints, or an improper calcification or ossification of the soft tissue;
  • reactive arthritis, which is due to infections; and
  • rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disorder but the autoimmunity is usually caused by an infection and clearing the infection will usually clear the autoimmunity.

Food toxins can also collect in the joints and cause immune reactions that produce arthritis-like joint symptoms. Foods that frequently cause allergies, such as tree nuts, may be worth eliminating as a test, as Jacqueline eliminated cashew nuts.

Since diagnosing the cause of arthritis symptoms is an art more than a science, and nutrient deficiencies are easily remedied, they’re almost always a good place to start with any joint pain and stiffness.

I’m glad they’re working for Jacqueline! It’s nice when the easy fixes work.


UPDATE: For our recipe for kimchi, see “Homemade Kimchi” (June 26, 2011).

While the Chinese stir-fry vegetables, Koreans pickle them. Wikipedia explains the history of kimchi:

Early kimchi was made of cabbage and beef stock only. Red chili, a New World vegetable not found in Korea before European contact with the Americas, was added to kimchi recipes some time after 1500. Red chili pepper flakes are now used as the main ingredient for spice and source of heat for many varieties of kimchi. In the twelfth century other spices, creating flavors such as sweet and sour, and colors, such as white and orange, were added.

There are many varieties of kimchi. The Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul has documented 187 varieties of kimchi, and there are an almost infinite number of variations upon the basic varieties.

Kimchi’s Health Benefits

Kimchi is a natural probiotic. At early stages in its pickling, lactic acid bacterial species such as Leuconostoc mesenteroides and Lactobacillus plantarum dominate. [1] As kimchi ages, more species appear and the bacterial environment diversifies.

There is evidence that eating kimchi helps against autoimmune disorders and allergies. [2, 3] It’s also plausible that kimchi would help against bowel conditions, since those often feature a limited repertoire of gut flora. (See Bowel Disease, Part IV: Restoring Healthful Gut Flora, July 27, 2010.)

Kimchi Side Dishes

Kimchi is usually served as a side dish when fresh. Here are a few photos from our local Asian supermarket.

When most people think of kimchi they think of cabbage. Here is a whole row of cabbage kimchi:

Cabbage kimchi is made by soaking the cabbage in salt, squeezing the water out, and layering the salted cabbage with a marinade. Marinades may contain shredded radish, chili powder (which gives the red color), garlic, garlic sprouts, and green onion.

Often the marinade will include oyster or anchovy as a flavor enhancer: you can see a sign for oyster cabbage kimchi in the above picture. These are better quality kimchi; poor quality kimchi may use MSG.

However, there are many other types of pickled kimchi besides cabbage. Here is another picture from our local supermarket:

Along the bottom and upper left are pickled vegetables, on the upper right are fermented seafood. In this picture are probably about 80 different varieties of kimchi.

Here are some examples of what we eat:

On the left is Napa cabbage kimchi, which is for Koreans what salad is to Americans. It includes Korean radish, pepper powder, onion, green onion, apple, pear, sugar, salt, ginger, garlic, salted shrimp, salted anchovy, and oyster sauce. On the right is a spicy radish kimchi.

This is another extremely popular flavor, cucumber kimchi. It’s seasoned with chives, Korean radish, hot red pepper powder, onion, carrot, sugar, salt, ginger, garlic, salted anchovy, and sweet rice flour.

Pickled white radish. One of Paul’s favorites, with a very mild taste; seasoned with cayenne, fish sauce, and salt.

Clockwise from upper left: pickled seaweed (seasoned with vinegar, wine, sugar, cayenne, scallion, oil, green pepper, garlic, and ginger); pickled garlic cloves (seasoned with vinegar, salt, sesame, panicum, black bean, and miso); seasoned sesame leaves (with cayenne and garlic); pickled yellow radish; and garlic stem kimchi (flavored with garlic, sesame, and pepper paste).

This last picture illustrates how we often eat vegetables with dinner. We’ll cook an entrée and starch, but serve the vegetables family-style in their original plastic containers; everyone can serve themselves. It makes for a nice buffet of vegetables with very little labor.

Kimchi Soups and Stews

As kimchi gets older, it becomes sour as acidic fermentation products build up, and the mix of bacterial species tends to change to a less probiotic mix.

Older kimchi will therefore be put in soups and stews and boiled to remove bacteria and dilute the sour taste.

Some examples can be seen in this trailer for an upcoming US public television series, “Kimchi Chronicles”. First, a promo introducing the series:

This longer trailer shows an example of using older kimchi as an ingredient in a stew:

How to Make Kimchi

Here’s a video showing how to make kimchi at home:


It’s a good idea to find some flavors of kimchi, or other fermented vegetables like pickles or sauerkraut, that you like. It’s an inexpensive and nourishing way to obtain probiotic bacteria; and a convenient and easy way to eat vegetables!


[1] Cho J et al. Microbial population dynamics of kimchi, a fermented cabbage product. FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2006 Apr;257(2):262-7.

[2] Won TJ et al. Modulation of Th1/Th2 Balance by Lactobacillus Strains Isolated from Kimchi via Stimulation of Macrophage Cell Line J774A.1 In Vitro. J Food Sci. 2011 Mar;76(2):H55-H61.

[3] Won TJ et al. Oral administration of Lactobacillus strains from Kimchi inhibits atopic dermatitis in NC?/?Nga mice. J Appl Microbiol. 2011 May;110(5):1195-202.