Chilli Chicken

img_4286

Indo-Chineese cuisine, food that has my heart and is the source of some of the fondest memories of family dinning growing up. Story goes that I was a problem child and the one bribe that worked like a charm was a weekend meal of my favorites – Chicken Corn soup, Prawn Pakora followed by Chilli Chicken with oodles of noodles at my favorite restaurant, Alex’s Kitchen. Always a Foodie. According to my mom I also preferred dining out because I loved the ambience of the restaurant. Yes that word became part of my vocabulary very early in life. Food is a sensory experience and the right ambience enhances that experience immensely, just like the mingled fragrance of chilli, garlic, ginger, scallion and soy at the restaurant.

The restaurant had a pretty big menu and the friendly host, Robert was always full of helpful and delicious recommendations. While we tried something new every now and then, Chilli Chicken was always part of our order. And I continue craving it every now and then. This recipe is probably not the real deal, but it is a recreation of the memory I cherish so much. Hopefully it will lead to some of your own.

Time for Prep: 20 mins     Time to Cook: 30 mins     Yield: 6 servings     Level: Medium

Ingredients:

  • For the Chicken:
    • 2 lbs Boneless Chicken, cut in 1 inch cubes
    • 3 tbsp corn starch
    • 1 tbsp rice flour
    • 1 inch ginger, grated (or 1.5 tbsp ginger powder)
    • 1 tsp rice vinegar
    • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 3 tsp black pepper powder
    • 1 tsp white pepper powder
    • 1 tsp red chilli powder
    • 1 tsp tomato sauce
    • 1 egg
  • For the Gravy:
    • 4 tbsp soy sauce
    • 2 tbsp tomato sauce or ketchup
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 1 tsp rice vinegar
    • 1 tsp brown sugar
    • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 onion, cut in squares
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut in squares
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut in squares
  • 2-3 thai chilli pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • Oil
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
  • salt to taste

Process:

  1. Make a paste with the ginger, garlic, white pepper powder, tomato sauce, red chilli powder, rice vinegar, corn starch, rice flour and egg. Marinate the chicken pieces in this paste for 3-4 hours.
  2. Heat oil for deep frying in a heavy bottomed vessel.
  3. Carefully fry the marinated chicken. Do not crowd the vessel. Reduce flame and deep fry till cooked and is golden brown. Remove onto absorbent paper and keep aside.
  4. Heat oil in a large wok add half of the soy sauce and sugar.
  5. Add the whites of scallions and sauté for a few seconds. Add the chilli pepper and ginger and stir fry on high for a few seconds.
  6. Add the fried chicken pieces, chopped bell peppers and onion and stir fry on high for 2-3 mins, constantly tossing them.
  7. Reduce to medium heat and add rest of the soy sauce, tomato ketchup and vinegar. Mix well and cook for 2-3 mins.
  8. Toss on high flame for 1-2 mins
  9. Mix a tbsp of cornflour in a little water, make a thin paste and keep aside.
  10. Add the chicken stock  and bring to a boil.
  11. Add the cornflour water slowly and keep stirring till it takes a thick gravy like consistency. Cook for 1-2 mts. Turn off heat.
  12.  Garnish with chopped spring onion greens and/or coriander leaves and serve.
Advertisements

Kumror (Pumpkin) Chokka

img_6127

Fall is my favorite time of the year the slight nip in the air, the smell of pine, festivities everywhere and fall vegetables, I love every one of them! Chokka in bangla means a spiced dish of vegetables cooked almost dry. Kumror Chokka is a traditional bengali dish that is made using Pumpkins, potatoes and chickpeas.While traditionally this dish is made during the summer months, I make this in fall, with fresh Pie Pumpkin or Butternut Squash from the local farmers market. Serve it with Porotha or Puri and its just perfect of cold evenings.

This dish was very popular in my maternal grandparents house. Story goes that when ever my grandparents argued about something, my granddad would step out and comeback home with a Pumpkin as peace offering. And my grandmother would make this, their favorite dish and they would laugh about their disagreements over a meal. Love Birds!

This and a few other bengali recipes will call for Paanch Phoron for tempering. It is a combination of Cumin Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds, Fennel Seeds and Nigella Seeds in equal proportion. 

Time for Prep: 20 mins     Time to Cook: 15-20 mins    Yield: 6 servings    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 Pie Pumpkin or Butternut Squash, cut into cubes
  • 1 medium sized potato, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 3-4 green chile pepper
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 1/2 tbsp Paanch Phoron
  • 1-2 dried red chilli pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil (preferably mustard oil)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped for garnishing
  • 1 tsp ghee (optional)
  • 1 tsp garam masala

Process:

  1. Heat oil in a Wok on medium heat, add paanch phoron and dried red chilli pepper. Sauté till aromatic.
  2. In the mean time muddle together ginger, garlic and fresh green chile pepper with a pestle
  3. Add the potatoes, muddle spices, turmeric and salt to the now aromatic temper. Sauté for 4-5 mins.
  4. Add butternut squash/pumpkin and chickpeas, mix them in. Cover and cook till vegetables are done (tender) around 10-12 mins.
  5. Let the vegetables char a little at the bottom.
  6. Remove from heat, fold in the thin charred crust.
  7. Garnish with ghee, garam masala and chopped cilantro.

 

Aloo Pyager Chorchuri (Potato-Onions Stir-Fry)

IMG_2088

Chorchuri is a char flavored bengali style stir fry, Chorchori being the noun and the vegetable used to make it, the adjectives. As a child I had asked my mom why this dish was called Chorchori, she said it is because when the vegetables are getting charred, they make a sizzling sound that sounds like ‘chor’ which is also an indicator that the dish is almost done. I am not sure if that’s accurate or not, but thats the story I go with.

Any number of vegetables can be used to make this, but in the Aloo loving Mukherjee household, potatoes have always been the main ingredient with others making a guest appearance or not. This particular dish was a breakfast favorite served with Luchi or Bashi Porotha (Stale Parathas made the night before). There is something about warm porotha, potatoes along with the smell and taste of mustard oil that makes it one of the most comforting dish for lazy mornings.

The charred part is the best part of the dish and my sister and I always called dibs on who gets to clean up (read lick) the wok, mom won most times, go figure!

fries-how-to-cut

I like to cut the potatoes and onions in wedges, because thats how my mom did it, but its not a rule.

This and a few other bengali recipes will call for Paanch Phoron for tempering. It is a combination of Cumin Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds, Fennel Seeds and Nigella Seeds in equal proportion. 

 

Time for Prep: 20 mins     Time to Cook: 20-30 mins    Yield: 6 servings    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 medium size potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 medium sized onion, cut into wedges
  • 3-4 green chile pepper, slit
  • 1 tbsp Paanch Phoron
  • 1 tbsp oil (preferably mustard oil)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped for garnishing

Process:

  1. Heat oil in a Wok on medium heat, add paanch phoron. Sauté till aromatic.
  2. Add the potatoes, onions, green chili pepper,  turmeric and salt. Sauté, cover and cook till vegetables are done (tender) around 12-15 mins.
  3. Let the vegetables char a little at the bottom.
  4. Remove from heat, fold in the thin charred crust.
  5. Garnish and serve.

Note:

  • If you want to add some protein in to it, shrimp or scallops is the way to go.

Bangali Tikona Porotha (Triangle Paratha)

IMG_4089

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” – James Beard 

This statement holds true for any kind of bread there is, especially Parathas. There is something deliciously satisfying about hot fresh off the griddle parathas on cold wintry evenings. All I need with it is some salt, a couple fresh green chile and fresh butter, Yum! Short-Cut Ranna (Cooking) in our house on lazy cold evenings usually meant Aloor Pyager Chorchori and Porotha, a few extra would always be made for my dads favorite breakfast of Baashi Porotha and Lonka (One day old paratha with fresh green chilli) the next morning. A ritual every time we were T-few hours away from a family vacations.

Parathas are very popular in India and pretty much every region has a version or two of it. I am calling this Bangali, because so far I have only eaten this shape of paratha in bengali households. Tikona in Bangla means triangle.

Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 15-20 mins    Yield: 10 parathas    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cup whole wheat flour + more for dusting
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour (optional)
  • 1 tbsp ghee or oil as shortening + more for cooking
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Warm water as needed to make dough

Process:

  1. Making the dough:
    • In a wide mouth bowl/ food processor mix in the flour and ghee/oil.
    • Then gradually add in the warm water and work the flour to make dough.
    • Knead till the dough is soft, smooth, pliable and does not stick to your hands.
    • Cover with damp cloth/paper towel and let sit for 20-30 mins.
  2. Rolling the Paratha:
    • Take a golf ball size portion of the dough and roll it into a ball.
    • Dust it with flour and flatten it using your fingers to form a disc.
    • Place the disc on a flat surface and roll it out into a circle around 1/8 inch thick.
    • Brush the surface with a little bit of oil/ghee. This is just to make the parathas flaky, don’t use too much oil, just a drop or two and spread it out.
    • Fold into half to make a semi-circle
    • Brush surface with a little bit oil/ghee
    • Fold again to make a quarter of a circle.
    • Dust it with a little flour and roll it into a triangle shape (roughly) around 1/8 inch thick.
  3. Cooking the Paratha:
    • Heat griddle to medium-high heat (I usually test by waving my palm over the griddle to feel if its hot enough). If your using one of the electric griddle with temperature control, heat griddle to 375-400F.
    • Toss one of the rolled paratha on a heated griddle.
    • Flip when it begins to puff a little.
    • Press down the sides with a spatula to ensure they get cooked too. It will ballon up a little at this stage.
    • Brush a little oil/ghee and flip.
    • Again press down to ensure corners are cooked.
    • When you see a few dark spots forming here and there, on both sides, take it off the heat.

Notes:

  • My mom says that cooking the rolled side (top part touching the rolling pin) first results in better parathas.

Badhakopir Ghonto (Cabbage Ghonto)

IMG_4045Health benefits of Cabbage are endless and its a vegetable for which we should make space in our plates on a regular basis. I cook cabbage often and in various ways, but I have noticed that this is one preparation that has converted even cabbage haters to cabbage likers. Its a favorite among my Non-Bengali and Non-Indian friends. Every single time I have served this, it has been a hit. To me its special because it brings back memories of school days and sharing lunch boxes, especially one of my best friend who always claimed rights on this.

A few days after our wedding H and I were grocery shopping, I reached for the cabbage and immediately heard him say “I don’t like cabbage baby”. I just responded with ‘But I do’ and bought it nonetheless. Same evening I cooked this. He tasted some and since then he likes cabbage. I like eating it with rice/quinoa and Bhaja Moonger Dal with a squeeze  of lemon juice, H likes it with paratha. IMG_4057

Time for Prep: 20 mins     Time to Cook: 20-25 mins    Yield: 4-6 servings    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized cabbage, shredded
  • 1 large potato, cubed
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen green peas
  • 4-5 fresh green chile pepper, slit
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 inch ginger, grated
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne or red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp ghee + 1 tsp for garnish
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp sugar (optional)
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped for garnish

Process:

  1. In a heavy bottom pan, heat the ghee over medium heat. Add bay leaf, cumin and caraway seeds.
  2. When the tempering starts spluttering and you can get the aroma, add the potatoes. Saute for 2-3 mins, till they get a little fried.
  3. Add cabbage, mix it in, then add ginger, cayenne, coriander powder, turmeric and salt. Mix everything in, sauté for 3-4 mins.
  4. Add tomatoes and the green peas, fold them in. Cover and cook, stirring on regular intervals. Cabbage and tomatoes leave enough water to cook the vegetables, but if you think its not enough add a bit of water. Remember this is a dry dish, so if you add too much water, you will need cook longer.
  5. Check for doneness by cutting one of the pieces of potatoes. If the potatoes are fully cooked, turn of the heat. Add the ghee, garam masala and sugar. Mix it in. Garnish with Cilantro.

Serve with rice and dal or chapatis.

Bhaja Moonger Dal (Moong Dal)

 

IMG_4053

Bhaja in bangla means fried. Moong dal is first roasted with the tempering giving it a nutty aroma and its characteristic flavor and then cooked till mushy. Every Bengali household has their own version of this dish, this was how my Dida (maternal grandma) cooked it. Growing up we called it Didar dal to differentiate it from my Thama’s (paternal grandma) version. This was usually cooked on days in the year where the menu had to be Niramish (Vegetarian) and served with rice and Badhakopir Ghonto (Cabbage Ghonto).

IMG_4056

Moong Dal is one of the healthiest lentils with high content of fiber, minerals, proteins and Vitamin C, and a very low calorie count. Essentially its a dieters best friend! Its also light and easy to digest making it really good recovery food. Now add in some ginger, turmeric, flavors from the tempering of spices, carrots and green peas, and you have a wholesome and delicious lentil stew that you can enjoy as is or with some rice or quinoa. This is one of my go-to recipes for those days when I have long working hours and limited time to cook and need something light to eat.

Time for Prep: 5 mins     Time to Cook: 20-25 mins    Yield: 4-6 servings    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup yellow mung dal
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup carrots, grated
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1 inch ginger, grated
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4-5 green cardamom
  • 7-8 cloves
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp ghee/ oil
  • 1/4 tsp sugar (optional)
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped for garnish
  • 1 tbsp grated coconut for garnish (Optional)

Process:

  1. In a soup pan, heat ghee over medium heat. Add bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and caraway seeds.
  2. When the tempering starts spluttering and you can get the aroma, add the moong dal. Saute for 2-3 mins, till they get a little fried.
  3. Add carrots, mix it in, then add ginger, turmeric and salt. Mix everything in, sauté for 3-4 mins.
  4. Add the green peas, fold them in. Add water, cover and cook, stirring occasionally till the dal is mushy. Add more water if needed, depending on whether you like dal to be runny or thick.
  5. Turn of the heat and sugar. Mix it in. Garnish with Cilantro.

Serve with rice or chapatis.

Notes:

  • You can use a pressure cooker instead of a soup pot. Just remember that moong dal cooks very quickly.

 

Mast-Mast Chorchori or Shaager Chorchori (Bengali Vegetable Stir-fry)

IMG_4035Bengali cuisine is known for its spread of confectionaries and sweet delight, but is not limited to it. According to Wikipedia it is the only cuisine in the Indian-Subcontinent which has been traditionally developed as a multi-course meal, quiet similar to the modern structure of continental food. I am not sure about the ‘only’ part, but it sure is a multi course meal. A typical meal is geared towards a balanced meal and incorporates a lot of vegetables. It starts with a dish made of something bitter to serve as a palette cleanser, followed by a Shaag (leafy green vegetables), then comes the Dal accompanied with a Bhaja (fried vegetable) or Chorchori (stir fry) or both, then Macher Jhol (Fish), chatney, Doi (yogurt) and finally a dessert. Served with rice. And within this nutrition packed diet lies the secret behind the good skin and good hair bengali women are famous for.

IMG_1164

I grew up in a nucleus family with two working parents, so every day meal was not this elaborate. However, a non-elaborate meal still included Dal, Shaag, Bhaja or Chorchori, Maacher Jhol and Doi. When I got married, my South-Indian husband thought (Still thinks) I was crazy to cook so much for a single meal. I changed my habits a little and now cook a minimalistic meal of Dal, Rice, Shaag and a side of vegetables. Yes, that is minimalistic in my book!

Making this takes care of my serving of vegetables and Leafy greens in one dish! Plus it is delicious. This is one of my very favorite side dishes and my entire life I have called it ‘Mast Mast Chorchori’. Traditionally Eggplant (Brinjal) is one of the main ingredients in this dish and if your not allergic to it (Like I am!) I recommend adding some, apparently it tastes better.

This and a few other bengali recipes will call for Paanch Phoron for tempering. It is a combination of Cumin Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds, Fennel Seeds and Nigella Seeds in equal proportion. 

Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 15-20 mins    Yield: 4 servings    Level: Easy

One important thing to keep in mind before you start prepping, this dish is a medley of hard and soft vegetables all cooked together, while chopping keep that in mind and adjust size accordingly. Also the green is added right at the end. 

Ingredients:

  • The vegetables
    • 1 medium size potato, chopped
    • 1 bunch red radish (10-12), chopped (keep the greens)
    • 1 medium sized carrot, chopped
    •  1/2 butternut squash chopped (traditionally pumpkin is used)
    • 1/2 acorn squash, chopped (optional)
    • 1 yellow beet, chopped (optional)
    • 1 cup cauliflower, chopped
  • 3-4 green chile pepper, slit
  • 2-3 cups of mixed greens, roughly chopped

IMG_4029

The picture above shows approximate quantity of greens, its a dinner plate heaped with greens. I used a combination of the greens from the radish, baby spinach, baby kale, collard greens and broccoli rabe. Traditionally only spinach  is used.

  • 1 tbsp Paanch Phoron
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • 1 tbsp oil (preferably mustard oil)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ghee (optional)
  • salt to taste

Process:

  1. Heat oil in a Wok on medium heat, add paanch phoron and celery seeds. Sauté till aromatic.
  2. Add all vegetables (except the greens), turmeric and salt. Sauté, cover and cook till vegetables are done (tender) around 12-15 mins.
  3. Add the green and mix slightly. Cook till the greens wilt. Don’t overcook the greens, this dish is suppose to be dry, overcooking the green will make them release too much water. (Also its healthier)
  4. Remove from heat and add a spoon of ghee at this point if your using it.
  5. Serve with rice or enjoy it as is.

Note:

  • If you want to add some protein in to it, shrimp or scallops is the way to go. Cook the them separately and mix it in before you add the greens.
  • The biggest chunk of effort for this dish is the chopping. To save time use frozen chopped vegetables. I buy my produce from the local farmers market on Sunday Mornings (benefits of living in California). Once I am back I spend a couple hours chopping, bagging and freezing. I have high quality ziplock bags labelled that i rinse and re-use. That way during the week when I actually cook, it’s easy and I don’t have to clean up everyday.