Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Chicken Curry Made Simple : First Cook – Then Fry

CHICKEN CURRY MADE SIMPLE
First Cook (Boil) – Then Fry
Mouthwatering Vizag Memories
By
VIKRAM KARVE

I have learnt most of my cooking by observing dishes being cooked – especially in streetfood eateries 
– and – of course in Navy ship galleys.


I vividly remember the tastiest chicken curry I ever eaten and truly relished long back  more than 27 years ago  sometime in the late 1980s  at a rustic wayside dhaba on the highway near Visakhapatnam – or Vizag  as we knew it. 

The ramshackle place was called NSTL Dhaba (or Dhabha  if you prefer to spell it that way).


Why did it have that name...?

I do not know. 

Maybe 
 the place does not exist now. 

Or maybe  the rustic dhaba may have metamorphosed into the ubiquitous motel-type restaurants one sees on our highways. 


We reached there well past midnight  well fortified and primed with Rum  as one must be – when one goes to a dhaba.


We ordered the chicken curry  and – I watched it being cooked.

Half the joy of enjoying delicious food is in watching it being made – imbibing the aroma 
 and – enjoying the sheer pleasure of observing the cooking process. 


And  in this Dhaba  the food was made in front of you  in the open kitchen  which comprised an open air charcoal bhatti with a tandoor and two huge cauldrons embedded  and  a couple of smaller openings for a frying pan or vessel.


They say that the best way to make a fish curry is to catch the fish fresh and cook it immediately. 


Similarly  the best way to make a chicken curry is to cut a chicken fresh and cook it immediately with its juices intact. 


And remember  it is best to use country chicken or desi murgi or gavraan kombdi for authentic taste.

And that is what was done here in this dhaba. 

Let me describe the process of making the chicken curry.

The live chicken is cut after you place the order.

And then  the freshly cut, dressed and cleaned – the desi murgi is thrown whole into the huge cauldron full of luxuriantly thick yummy looking gravy simmering over the slow fire.

How do you cook your Indian Mutton or Chicken Curries...? 

Do you first fry the meat  and then add water and cook it...? 
(FRY and BOIL)

Or  – do you cook (boil) the meat first  and then fry it...? 
(BOIL and FRY) 

In this dhaba – the BOIL and FRY technique was used.

Here the chicken is cooked first in the gravy  on a slow fire  lovingly and unhurriedly  and  then stir fried later (like throwing in a tadka into a hot cauldron). 

Like I told you – in this dhaba – a gravy is simmering 24/7 in a huge cauldron – being topped up from time to time

Yes  first they cook (boil) the whole chicken in the gravy. 

Then  when done – they pull out the whole chicken from the gravy  cut the whole chicken into pieces  and – they throw the chicken pieces into hot oil – and  stir fry on full heat. 

Lastly – they throw in some gravy  stir vigorously  give a finishing touch  and garnish before serving.

This is a busy dhaba – so – at any point of time – there are a number of whole chickens floating in the gravy  and  the cook is keeping an eagle eye on each and every one of them – in order to pick the chicken out at the right time when it is ready for frying

From time to time – the cook gently nurtures the floating chickens  and this helps them absorb the flavor and juices of the gravy.

As the chickens absorb the gravy – they become heavier  and acquire an appetizing glaze. 

Once the cook feels a chicken is ready (30-40 minutes of gentle slow nurtured cooking)  he takes out the chicken  chops it up  and throws it into a red-hot wok pan to stir fry  basting the chicken with boiling oil. 

Then once the chicken is nicely fried  the cook ladles in a generous amount of gravy from the cauldron  and gives the chicken pieces a final fry. 

When ready  the chicken curry is garnished with crisp fried onion strips and coriander  and savored with hot tandoori roti. 

We have a bowl of dal (simmering in the other cauldron) duly “tadkofied” as a side dish. 

Yes – one cauldron has the simmering chicken gravy – and – the other cauldron has the simmering dal.

These are the only two dishes on the menu – chicken curry – and – dal. 

The chicken is delicious – and – the gravy tastes magnificent – as we dunk fresh hot tandoori rotis in the gravy and relish them.

Ambrosia...!!! 

We eat to our heart’s content – a well-filled stomach radiates happiness!

I still remember how delightfully delicious, flavorsome and nourishing every morsel tasted  and  – just thinking about the lip-smacking rustic chicken curry has made me so ravenously hungry that I am heading for one of those untried and “untasted” Dhabas/Eateries in my vicinity to sample their wares.

If you don’t find this type of 
Dhaba Chicken anywhere  just try and make this rustic chicken curry at home. 

Remember the cardinal rule for cooking meat (especially Chicken):

First Cook (Boil) – Then Fry 

It is easy to cook and tastes delicious –- you can take my word for it.

And – if anyone in Vizag is reading this – do let us know whether the Highway NSTL Dhaba still exists – or – has it vanished – or – like most yesteryear simple dhabas – has it metamorphosed into a fancy motel...? 

Happy Cooking – and  Happy Eating  

VIKRAM KARVE
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All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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This recipe was first posted online by me more than 12 years ago in my creative writing and food blogs at various urls like http://creative.sulekha.com/mouthwatering-memories-by-vikram-karve_186686_blog and http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2013/03/rustic-indian-chicken-curry.html  etc and the recipe also features in my Foodie Book APPETITE FOR A STROLL 

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