Add An Immune-Boosting Kick to Your Chicken With These 4 Spices


Adding an immune-boosting punch to your chicken can be as easy as incorporating a few common spices. Photo: twomeows/Getty Images

Looking for a new way to spice up your everyday chicken dinner? Poultry is one of the best sources of lean protein, important for muscle-health. And it contains all nine essential amino acids that our body doesn’t produce, but are important to the maintenance of our immune system and healing mechanisms, among other things. 

Let’s take it up a notch and add in a few immune-friendly ingredients to our chicken recipe. We want turmeric, ginger and even a dash of brain-boosting cinnamon. But, one that we’re also a fan of, is chilli and chilli powder. 

Here are two ways chilli and chilli powders that can help in the time of Covid-19.

1. Fights Fat: The capsaicin compound found in chilli powder revs your metabolism, which increases your fat burning skills. 

2. Builds Immunity: The fiery spice contains vitamin C, acting as an antioxidant to strengthen the immune system and heal injuries and infections.

We asked the chefs at Little Sister, a Toronto restaurant that features a delicious and healthy mash-up of Dutch and Indonesian flavours – think rendang curry, traditional satay and nasi goreng – to share a recipe for chicken Ayam Opor that we can make at home. Plus, it incorporates plenty of immune-boosting ingredients.

Consider ordering takeout as well. Little Sister is one of the many restaurants feeding Toronto healthcare workers, as part of the Feed the Frontlines TO initiative (Vancouver also has a feed-the-frontlines program). When you purchase meals this way, you’re giving to the front line and supporting your local restaurant employees. For more, visit and

chicken recipe
Photo: Courtesy of Ayam Opor

Little Sister’s Ayam Opor 

A classic coconut-braised chicken dish with galangal, ginger and lemongrass. Make sure to have all ingredients prepped and ready, as the recipe calls for complex layers and flavours.


600 grams chicken thigh, skin on, bone in

Salt for seasoning

Ground white pepper

Oil for searing

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. In an oven-safe rondeau (or Dutch oven) or large shallow pot at medium heat, heat the oil and sear chicken skin down until fat is almost rendered and skin is crispy. Turn over and sear the flash side for 2 minutes. Take out of the pan and set aside.

Spice mixture

4 candle nuts (optional)

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1/2 cinnamon stick

1/2 tsp mace

1/2 tsp white peppercorns

6 shallots roughly chopped

4 garlic cloves

6 long red chilli (optional if you want it spicy)

2 stalks of lemongrass, white part only, finely chopped

3 tbsp chopped galangal

2 tbsp chopped turmeric

1 tbsp chopped ginger

1 tbsp palm sugar

A note on galangal: It is part of the rhizome family, as is ginger and turmeric. It is also known as Thai or Siamese ginger, but its sharp and citrusy flavour differs quite a bit from that of traditional ginger. The skin of galangal is smoother and paler and its flesh is much harder, making it better for slicing but does not lend itself well to being grated. 


Put all the ingredients for the spice mixture in a mortar and pestle and pound to a smooth paste. Alternatively, use a food processor and pulse until smooth paste. Might need to add a tbsp or 2 of water to help it purée. Add spice mixture to the rondeau/pot where you seared your chicken, and fry spice mixture on med to low heat for 5-10 minutes until fragrant and shallots are soft.

Then add:

3 kaffir lime leaves

2 salem leaves (Indonesian bay leaf, optional)

250 ml coconut milk

250 ml chicken stock

1 tbsp of tamarind pulp


Bring everything to a simmer and simmer for 10-15 minutes on medium to low heat. Add the chicken thighs, arrange them so they are not overlapping . Make sure the sauce doesn’t cover the skin. If so, take out some sauce for later use. Place rondeau with chicken and sauce in a preheated oven @ 375F without lid and braise in oven for 30-45 minutes. Take chicken out and place on a platter. Take the out sauce and see if it has the right thin consistency, if not reduce a little bit or add some stock. Pour the sauce around the chicken.