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Chicken cooked Bengali style


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I did not see any chichen dishes. I wanted to know if Kalia and Qormas are from the region and what is unique there about how these dishes are prepared

look under "meat"--there's a recipe or 4.

kalias (not the "tera kya hoga" kind) are indeed from bengal but they refer more to a preparation of fish in oil, not so much, as far as i know, to meat/chicken dishes. in a fish kalia usually you'll have mustard oil, some spices and the fish--no tomatoes.

qormas/kormas have bengali variants--but i'm not sure what the genealogy of these dishes is. similarly there's a bengali-muslim biryani (usually made with goat) which is excellent but very different from the biryanis found elsewhere in the subcontinent.

a classic bengali chicken dish is the "chicken roast"--which is rarely roasted in an oven. then there's a "stewish" preparation with carrots, potatoes and lots of thin gravy. in my opinion, east-bengalis (bangals) and now bangladeshis have the superior meat cuisine of the two bengals. bong and episure may disagree.

my chicken and meat recipes (inherited from my mother) have probably been irretrievably mixed with styles from across the country (due to our air-force life)--it is a different story with fish, however, since that's an essential part of west bengali identity. i do know that my aunts' chicken dishes taste different than mine. but i'll post a recipe later and you can tell me what you think.

where is gautam these days, by the way? he's probably our best resource (along with bong) for this sort of information.

mongo

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Besides what Mongo mentioned, I know of Murghi Posto-Chicken with White Poppy Seeds and Shorshe Murgh-Chicken with Mustard Gravy. There are recipes for those in a couple of cookbooks. My friend Pinaki's family also makes them. I think the Bengalis also claim their own version of Do Piaza, no?

There is also the Bengali-Muslim Rezala, which can be made with meat or chicken. It is a type of korma. There is also a sweet and sour version.

Edited by Edward (log)

Edward Hamann

Cooking Teacher

Indian Cooking

edhamann@hotmail.com

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sorry about the late reply.

The day-to-day home style preparation of Chicken is very similar to the way you cook goat meat as well. One of the ways the Bengalis prepare meat differently from folks in other parts of the country is they hardly use any spices at all ... except for turmeric powder, and perhaps a pinch of Bengali Garam Masala at the very end.

Here is a "recipe" for "Murgi-r Jhol" (Chicken Stew). This is one of the most basic preparations of all meat dishes, and one we regularly eat at our house.

As usual, I am typing this recipe from memory, so the quantities mentioned below are only to be used a rough guide.

"Murgi-r Jhol" (Chicken Stew), Bengali Style

Ingeredients:

  • 2 lbs Chicken (bone-in for traditional), skin removed, but with bones (see note below)
  • 1tsp Turmeric powder
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1-2 tsp Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Red Chile powder (aka "Cayenne" powder)
  • 2-3 Dried Red Chiles
  • 2 lbs potatoes (optional), peeled
  • 3-4 small tomatoes (optional and if not using yogurt), chopped up
  • 0.5-1 cup yogurt (only if not using tomatoes)
  • Cooking oil. Traditionally mustard oil is used, but you can use any vegetable oil.
  • 1-2 medium sized onion. Half pureed and half cut into thin strips.
  • A "pinch" (1/2 teaspoon) of Bengali Garam Masala (optional). Bengali Garam Masala is equal parts Cinnamon, Cardamom and Cloves, all ground up.

Steps:

  • Cut chicken up into small (2-inch) pieces. With bone and all. If you are doing a western style meal where folks are eating with forks, you may want to remove the bones. Also, remove the skins. Traditional bengali cooking does not use the skin.
  • Mix the chicken with some salt, some turmeric powder and some red chile powder. Go easy on the turmeric -- no more than 1 tsp.
    Let the chicken sit for about 15 minutes.
  • [optional] Cut up some peeled potatoes into 2-3 inch size pieces, bigger in size than the chicken pieces. Shallow fry the potatoes in oil so they are browned on the outside. Remove potatoes from pan and set aside
  • In a big pan, add some oil (3-4 table spoons per 2lbs of chicken), heat it to fairly high. I using mustard oil, let it come to smoking point.
  • Add 1-2 tsp of sugar. Immediately add a couple of dried red chiles. Be careful here as the sugar might burn if the oil is too hot. You want the sugar to turn brown, but not to burn.
  • Add some chopped up onion. Again, the amount here is to your taste. By varying the amount of onion, you can vary the final consistency of the dish. The more onions you add, the more "rich" the final stew will be. Also, when I add the onions, I use the food processor to puree some of it. I usually use half pureed onions, and half cut up into thin slices. Quantity of onions would be perhaps 1-2 medium sized per 2lbs of chicken.
  • After about 2-3 minutes, add some garlic, either minced or as paste.
  • Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking the onions and garlic until the onions turn golden brown. About 1-2 tablespoon of garlic.
  • [optional] Add this point, you can add chopped up tomatoes., about 3-4 small tomatoes worth.
  • If using tomatoes, stir the tomatoes around until it becomes almost like a paste.
  • Add some grated ginger, about 1-2 table spoon.
  • Stir around for 2-3 minutes.
  • Raise heat to high add the chicken.
  • After 2-3 minutes, lower heat back to medium
  • Keep stirring the chicken once in a while so it doesnt stick or burn.
    Depending on what you do at this stage, you will produce different variations:
    * If you keep stirring and the water level stays low, this will result in a spicier and "thicker" stew.
    * If you cover than pan and set the heat to low, this will result in a watery stew.
    Both are good variations.
    Depending on how watery you want your stew, you may need to add water.
  • If you are not using tomatoes, you can use yogurt as your souring agent.
    Using about 1/2cup-1cup full fat yogurt. Stir the yougurt into a paste. Add some water to it so its easier to make it into a paste.
    Now reduce the heat of the chicken in the pan, and then slowly add the yogurt in, while stirring continuosly.
    Be careful here as it is easy to curdle the yogurt otherwise.
  • Continue with stirring as described before. Or if you prefer the hands-off approach,
    cover it and reduce heat to low.
  • The chicken should take about 30 minutes to get cooked. About 10-15 minutes into the cooking, add in the potatoes. (if you are using them)
  • Taste the chicken for done-ness. It should be done to the point where it is tender and moist but not quite falling off the bone. Make sure you have enough salt.
  • Just before removing the chicken from the heat, add a pinch of Bengali Garam Masala. (optional).
    Go easy on this, as a little of the Garam Masala goes a long way.

Variations:

  • If I want a fast chicken, I dont bother with all the steps above. I just heat
    some oil, and just dump all the ingredients together into the pan and let it cook, covered, for 30-45 minutes.
  • While doing the above variation, you normally wouldn't need to add too much water as lots of water comes out of the chicken itself. However, if you want to make a "watery" variation, almost like a soup, you can add some more water.
  • Sometimes, I might add some deep fried onion slices towards the end. They impart a nice taste to the dish. This usually goes well with the "drier" version of the stew, and can be had with rotis or chapatis or bread.
  • You can brown the chicken first in oil and then use it in the recipe.

To be served over rice.

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Variations:

[*] If I want a fast chicken, I dont bother with all the steps above. I just heat

some oil, and just dump all the ingredients together into the pan and let it cook, covered, for 30-45 minutes.

bong,

as usual your recipe is very close to mine. just want to add in response to your "quick" version, that my mother has overcome my scepticism about her even quicker version (she didn't used to do it this way when we were growing up, but as she gets older she's less concerned about doing things the "right" way):

take everything (plus some carrots) dump it into a pressure cooker and let it do its thing till the chicken is cooked. comes out really good. sometimes if she's feeling extra diligent she puts everything but the chicken (and the carrots and potatoes) into a blender and purees them first.

in our houses (my parents' and mine) we don't cut the chicken into small pieces though--always 8-10 big pieces.

mongo

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Bong - thanks very much. I am going to prepare this over the weekend and will let you know how it turns out. It certainly sounds delicious.

Can you tell us a bit more about the other types of chicken curries that are served in Bengal? Edward has mentioned a few.. any details would be greatly appreciated.

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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