I have to admit, ever since, I have matured in my knowledge of cooking techniques and spices, I have loved being an alchemist in my kitchen. Having various spices in my spice cabinet, dabbling with them makes me feel like working in a lab, experimenting and testing and creating elixirs. If you really think about it, every cuisine has it’s fundamental spices that lay the foundation of a good dish and me personally get a thrill out of integrating those fundamental spices with various oil blends, zests and extracts, different herbs and spices from different cuisines, amalgamating flavours that fraternize and infuse harmoniously, hence, creating gloriously fragrant elixirs. With time I have learned certain spices are favourites in every cuisine e.g. Middle-eastern spices are incomplete with cinnamon, cumin and cloves and their favourite herb is parsley; Mediterranean cuisine adores Sumak, red chilli and cumin and their favourite herb is also parsley; the English cuisine is more prone towards salt and black pepper seasoning with various herbs like dill, fresh thyme, oregano etc. as their go-to flavours; Persian cuisine is lonely without saffaron and if you towards the far West to America, well they just love their fast food and Ketchup. These are just a few I have mentioned, point being, once you learn what makes each cuisine unique and distinct, you learn to work with every kind of spice and herb in existence, which in turn, makes you evolve as a cook, hence making you a spice alchemist.
Similarly, East Asian cuisine is an abode of earthy flavours and is incomplete without it, like, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, red chilli and turmeric are spices that warm to the core and are extremely loveable to the palate. East Asia is as diverse in flavours as it is in culture. The spices are the same throughout the region but every area uses those fundamental spices to create exceptionally fragrant and utterly distinctive taste from one other, creating rich and comforting balance of flavours.
Bihar is a state in East India, bordering Nepal. Bihar cuisine is abundant in spiced flavours which is further enhanced with tempering of most of the meat and vegetable recipes found in their food culture. Tempering is a process whereby, certain spices like cumin, curry leaves, whole red chillies, onions, musturd seeds and at times garlic and ginger are fried in a little oil to be poured over a prepared vegetable or meat dish to give it’s flavour more depth. They fry their meat and vegetables in light oil in their own juices to extract maximum flavour. Their speciality is “smoked food” wherein they use smoked Red Chilli to infuse a strong smoky fragrance in their food and mustard oil, that creates an earthy flavour. What is also fascinating about the food of Bihar, is that, if you add tomatoes to their curry, they will get upset, because the Bihar cuisine seldom uses tomatoes for their gravy. It’s just not a part of their cooking.
Coming from the food table of Bihar, this smoky yet subtle flavoured chicken curry will make your dinner a treat. The chicken is cooked in marinated spices and milk infused with roasted spices and the perfect partnership of fenugreek and coriander. The addition of milk and cream cuts the heat from the spices making it mild in flavour and extremely scrumptious. This chicken curry is extremely warm and smoky is flavour. The spices are mild and perfectly balanced and the addition of milk cuts down the heat from the chillies. The punch of the flavour however, comes from the black pepper powder. It gives an edge to the spice flavour in the dish. The recipe is made in three steps, first, the chicken is marinated in yogurt with spices and left to marinate for atleast an hour to let the spices penetrate to the very core of the meat. Second, the spices are dry roasted to enhance the flavour and third, the onion is caramelized and added to the curry to create an earthy sharpness that is juxtaposed with a hint of sweetness. The onion not only thickens the curry sauce but also blends to create a dark amber colour of the sauce.
Also, this require to be smoked but it’s optional as I love the flavours of the curry without the intimidating smoky taste. Having said that, to smoke the curry is entirely upto individual preference. Either way, it is delicious. Serve this with Naan Bread or Pita Bread and a red onion salad and you’ve got a perfect combination of an ambrosial feast.
This will definitely be a big hit at your dinner table. I make this at my dinner parties and my friends just can’t get enough of it. It is quick and easy, yet puts forth the impression as if you’ve slaved away over making it. Trust me when I say, your guests will always remember you as profuse in hospitality, all thanks to recipes like these. To quote Louise Fresco, “Food, in the end, in our own tradition, is something holy. It’s not about nutrients and calories. It’s about sharing. It’s about honesty. It’s about identity”.
How succulently gorgeous is that.
1. Chicken on the bone — 1kg
2. Naan Bread – as required
1. Cumin powder — 1 tsp
2. Coriander powder — 1 tsp
3. Fenugreek Leaves. — 2 tsp
4. Shredded Coconut — 2 tsp
5. All spice powder — 1 tsp
6. Turmeric — ½ tsp
7. Red chilli flakes — 1 tsp
8. Green chillies chopped — 3
9. Mustard Powder — 1 tsp
10. Yogurt — 1 cup`
11. Ginger Garlic Paste — 1 tsp
Whole Spices ~
1. Bay leaf — 1
2. Dry Red Chilli — 2-3
3. Cumin seed — 1 tsp
4. Cloves — 3-4
5. Milk — 1 cup
6. Onions — 2
7. Coriander — To garnish
8. Black Pepper — To sprinkle on top
9. Coal (optional) — To smoke
10. Cream — to drizzle as garnish
11. Oil — 4 tbsp
1. Prepare the spices ~
a. Dry roast, cumin powder, coriander powder, fenugreek leaves and shredded coconut on a fry pan for 3-4 minutes. Set aside.
2. Prepare the chicken ~
a. Add yogurt, salt, turmeric, mustard powder, all spice, chopped green chillies, red chilli flakes and the roasted spices.
b. Leave to marinate for at least 1 hour.
c. Fry the onion in oil until it becomes golden brown.
d. Drain on paper towel and leave aside.
e. In a cooking pot, heat oil and add the whole spices, bay leaf, cumin and whole red chillies. Fry for a minute and add the marinated chicken.
f. Cook the chicken for 10 minutes on medium high heat until the oil separates from the yogurt.
g. Crush the fried onions and add to the yogurt.
h. Add milk, cover and cook the chicken until it’s done.
i. If the curry is too thick, add water to make it to your desired consistency.
j. Smoke the chicken (optional)
k. Garnish with coriander and sprinkle black pepper powder on top. Serve with Naan and red onion rings.
Happy Foodieating ~