Readers, are you a little bewildered at this vegetarian-for-a-year posting about chicken curries? Well first, this was not for me, it was for my extremely carnivorous maternal uncle, who thinks anything vegetarian put on his plate is meant for the pig farm (thats where the food waste in our apartment complex goes to, you see). So this morning he peeked into my apartment and asked if I could at least make the non vegetarian stuff even if I wasn’t eating it, in this bribe with God (the vegetarianism was a payoff for getting both sides of the R&r families to stop warring like maniacs about the wedding). When I assured him that I was cool to cook the chicken, he sauntered off to get the stuff.
And after weeks of cooking chickpea, paneer and greens, it was a welcome change to make this curry.
Have any of you felt that cooking delicious non vegetarian food is relatively easier than cooking tasty vegetarian fare? The meat absorbs all that flavour so easily and it’s pretty hard to go wrong with it, except of course ending up with really tough meat, which we will discuss in the next bit.
When I was thinking of what to make, I knew I wanted to make a light, spicy curry with minimum spices and lots of flavour. I had made this tea spiced curry some time back and it was delicious. But I was a little skeptical if my nadan kozhi curry loving uncle would like it or not, but it was a hit. And not just with him. My super critical cousin K too loved it.
Now before I delve into the recipe itself, I’m going to talk a little bit about tenderizing chicken for a curry. Don’t you just hate it when the sauce of the curry has the perfect balance of flavours, but your chicken meat is tough and stringy? I know I do. So I’m going to share a few tips on how to get your chicken meat to be nice and tender in a curry.
Try as much as possible to buy fresh chicken and not the frozen stuff you get in super markets. These tend to be harder to tenderise and will have that stringy quality which is not great. There are also bound to be loads to preservatives used in these and they tend to dry out the chicken, so it’s not juicy at all.
Use a mix of pieces in your curry
While the chicken breast is great to do a steak or salad, for a curry it’s best to choose a mix of all the pieces of the chicken, particularly the thighs and legs. With Indian cooking we tend to discard the skin of the chicken which is where a lot of fat is stored and hence is great for keeping the chicken tender when you are doing things like a roast. Since we discard the skin, it’s important for us to include some of the more gelatinous pieces like the legs and thighs. If you have to use just boneless pices, make sure they are cooked for a shorer time. Overcooking can make the chicken very tough.
Marinate the chicken
If you simply throw in chicken into a pot without any marination, chances are very high that it will be tough and not particularly flavourful. So make sure you marinate the chicken. The ideal marinade will include yoghurt. Coat your chicken pieces in a marinate and leave it in the fridge for around 4 hours. If you don’t have this kind of time, leave it marinated for at least 20 minutes while you get the remaining things going for the curry.
Cook the chicken in parts
If your sauce will take a long time to simmer, add the chicken pieces a little later. If they are cooked for longer than necessary they will become tough. If you want to brown your chicken, then brown your chicken first, take it out, cook the sauce in the same wok and then add the browned pieces, when the sauce is simmered enough, and cook on low heat till done. If you brown the chicken and then cook it in the sauce for the time that it takes to simmer, it will be tough.
Cook on a low flame, covered
When the sauce s simmering with the chicken pieces, make sure to cook on a low flame. Otherwise the chicken will overcook and become tough.
There! Aren’t those instructions easy to follow??
And now for the recipe!