By its very nature, chicken is a tasty beast.
Chicken has many merits; it’s endlessly versatile, economic, and a real crowd-pleaser. It’s probably on your menu at least a few times a week. But how often do you do something different when there’s chicken in your kitchen?
It’s easy to fall into a pattern of always preparing the same meals, particularly when time is short and budget is tight. The routine is fine for a while, but not even the most relish-worthy recipe remains flavour of the month forever.
Ever wondered why you crave chicken? The meat scores highly on the ‘umami’ front, meaning it contains lots of naturally-occurring highly savoury ‘glutamates’ that leave you wanting more. By its very nature, chicken is a tasty beast.
But feast your eyes on the five Desi chicken dishes described below, and you won’t have a single scrap left on the table – indeed, your guests will be scrapping over every last moreish morsel
South India – Chicken 65
If you like crunchy-fried chicken, you’ll love Tamil Nadu’s chicken 65. The deep-fried delicacy is often served as a bar snack or canapé.
The savoury flavour of curry leaves is key to a good chicken 65, as is the crispness of the spice-infused cornflour coating.
Theories as to the origins of that numerical name range from the date the dish appeared on the menu at Chennai’s Buhari Hotel; to the length of preparation; to the chicken’s age; to the number of chillies. No matter what you believe, it’s lip-licking!
Nepal – Chicken Choila
This cold dish comes from Nepal’s Newari community.
The dressing uses copious qualities of spicy golden mustard oil and fenugreek seeds cooked until they almost blacken; lending a delicious ‘meaty’ flavour that’s far less bitter than you’d expect.
Sichuan pepper contributes a beguiling tingly-numbing quality to this popular bar Nepalese bar snack. Making Choila is a simple case of grilling chicken then mixing with that spicy dressing. It has excellent keeping qualities, so make in bulk and savour at leisure.
North India – Tandoori Chicken
The tandoor came to the country from Iran, travelling with the Arabs. Over centuries, India’s chefs created a whole cuisine built around the clay oven; including, of course, Nehru’s beloved tandoori chicken invented at Delhi’s Moti Mahal.
Cook In A Curry Maunika Gowardhan likes to serve tandoori chicken sprinkled with chaat masala alongside raita and salad.
She obtains a vibrant hue with paprika and chilli powders rather than food colour.
Keeping the chicken chunky a la Bukhara’s Manjit Gill is one of the tricks to triumphing with tandoori meat, enabling the outside to char and the centre to stay succulent whether cooking in a tandoor, on a barbecue, or under a screaming-hot grill.
A yogurt marinade carries spice and tenderises, whilst adding a little grated cheese helps the spicy paste stick.
West India – Chicken Farcha
Farcha is a Parsi preparation commonly munched in Maharastra. It’s best described as Colonel Sander’s ultimate dish – once you’ve tried it, KFC holds a little less allure.
Served with spicy ketchup, it’s the Desi version of one of America’s favourite fast foods. Farcha features in Mr Todiwala’s Bombay – a cookbook by UK-based Parsi chef Cyrus Todiwala.
Love the thought of a crisp crust giving way to juicy, flavoursome meat? Farcha is a must-fry. Like many Parsi dishes, it has Persian origins.
The chicken meats a masala including coriander, cumin, chilli, garlic and ginger and is deep fried, then dipped into seasoned flour and plenty of beaten egg before a final fry which yields that crunchy casing.
North India – Murgh makhni/Butter chicken
Moti Mahal’s famous butter chicken is a close cousin of the best-loved ‘Brindian’ curry – the chicken tikka masala.
It’s not a dish for the calorie conscious; laden with enough of its namesake fat to give the healthiest foodie a heart attack – a lethal combination when coupled with its heart-stopping deliciousness!
Butter chicken begins with marinated, grilled meat; much like its Brindian curryhouse counterpart. The cream-enriched, velvety sauce owes its savoury depth to the use of kasturi methi. A pat of white butter dolloped atop the dish is butter chicken’s crowning glory.
Rajiv Kc’s Nepalese Chicken Choila
This dish an appetiser at Rajiv’s London supperclub, Rajiv’s Kitchen; Serves 4 +
For the chicken:
- 500g chicken breast
- 1 tbsp red chilli powder
- Salt, to taste
- ½ tsp ground Sichuan pepper
- 1 green chilli, roughly chopped
- 1 inch fresh ginger, finely sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- 1 medium red onion, finely sliced
- 2 medium tomatoes, boiled, skinned and chopped
- Handful fresh coriander, chopped
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 small spring onions, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp mustard oil
- 1 ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 2 green chillies, halved lengthways
For the chicken:
- Preheat the grill to high.
- Briefly boil the chicken breast. Cut into long slices and place under the grill until cooked and charred.
- Tear into bite-sized pieces and put in a bowl.
- Add chilli powder, Sichuan pepper, chilli, ginger, garlic and onion, and mix.
For the tempering:
- Heat mustard oil in a pan over high heat.
- Add fenugreek seeds and cook until they blacken.
- Add green chillies and fry a few seconds more.
- Remove from heat and add the turmeric powder.
- Pour mixture over the chicken.
- Add tomatoes and coriander.
- Toss well, check the seasoning, and serve!
Which dish do you find the most tempting; and what are your own creative suggestions for cooking with chicken?