Coriander & Red Chilli Chicken Fry
Do you take recipes at their face value? Or are you curious about their provenance, their history and the paths they’ve taken to reach you? Me, I belong in the second camp. I find it fascinating how recipes travel, moving either vertically through generations (usually downwards but sometimes upwards too) or laterally through the same generation. Each time I add a recipe to my notebook, I try to write down as much about it as possible, crediting the source and/or how I stumbled upon it. I do this mostly for my own benefit but also partly to preserve a bit of social history.
The recipe that I share today has been in my Mum’s side of the family for years. If you asked me to describe it, I would probably say that it is the fusion (Indian spicing) of a fusion (Indo Chinese). Like a mischievous little baby chimp, this recipe has hopped from one branch of the family tree to the other. None of us know where it comes from – which does bother the aforementioned social historian in me – but what we do know is that every time any of us makes it, someone asks for the recipe. There is no higher compliment one can pay a recipe than want it so.
Mum originally got this from her sister-in-law and put her own spin on it. And now, as you will see in a moment, I have tweaked it to suit my needs. After all, that’s what recipes ultimately are : dynamic entities which evolve at the hands of the cook.
My children and I both associate it with the many happy times spent at my parents’ home, where Mum would make this first and follow it with what makes her the happiest: whipping up puffy phulkas (rotis) straight off the hob onto the waiting plates of her family. And I have to say, rotis or chapatis are the best accompaniment to this chicken fry.
The original recipe calls for the roasting and grinding of spices. Much as I love going this route occasionally, I also wanted a simpler, quicker version so that my children could make it on their own without much trouble. And I was pleasantly surprised at how little the difference is between the two versions, considering that in cooking, shortcuts do often result in a compromise in taste. So here is the recipe then, with the hope that you too will want to adopt this sweet little chimp onto the branches of your family tree.
i) Vegetarian version: I have never tried it but I imagine paneer will work very well here.
ii) Even though this is called a Chilli Chicken, it doesn’t have to be hot. How much chilli powder it needs depends on your tolerance and the strength of it. The Kashmiri Chilli powder specified in the marinade ingredients is much milder than regular chilli powder and adds colour more than heat, so do not substitute with like for like quantities of the latter. Sweet paprika is a better alternative.
iii) You could perhaps also add some mild red chillies or red pepper for additional flavour.
Coriander & Red Chilli Chicken
- 500 g chicken breasts see note i) above
- 2 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder see note ii) above
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 2 tsp kasuri methi crushed
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- 4 tbsp tomato puree
- 4 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 1 tbsp oil
Rest of the Ingredients:
- 2 tbsp oil
- 250 g onions sliced
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp chilli powder optional, see note ii) above
- ½ cup chopped coriander leaves
- Cut the chicken breasts into 1" cubes and transfer to a medium bowl.
Make the Marinade:
- In a small bowl, combine the Kashmiri chilli powder, coriander powder, kasuri methi, turmeric, tomato puree, ketchup, 1 tsp salt & the 1 tbsp oil to a smooth paste.
- Add this to the chicken, mix well and set aside for an hour or longer in the fridge.
- Make sure to take the chicken out well before you start to make the dish.
Rest of the Method:
- In a large frying pan, heat the two tablespoons of oil, then add the sliced onions. Fry over medium heat until they start to brown.
- Now add the soy sauce, stir and fry for a few seconds, then add the chicken and all its marinade with half the coriander leaves.
- Fry, uncovered over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through and all liquid evaporates.
- Serve garnished with the remaining coriander leaves. Chapatis/rotis/phulkas make the best accompaniment.