Sunday, January 1, 2012

Calcutta-style Chili Chicken

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Calcutta (officially Kolkata) is known for a special style of Chinese food that blends Hakka Chinese cuisine with Indian cuisine. Chinese immigrants who lived in the Tangra neighborhood (Kolkata’s Chinatown) created this unique cuisine that is now popular all over India. I learned this chili chicken recipe from my mother-in-law, who lives in Kolkata, and my husband asks me to make it frequently (which I don't mind because it is so simple and quick!).

Chili Chicken


Here is what you'll need:
  • 1 to 1.25 lbs of chicken thighs, (skinned and deboned), cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 green chilies, finely chopped (I use green chilies from the Indian store that are a South Asian variety, but you can also substitute Serrano peppers. If you use Serrano peppers, only use 2, maybe 3, because they are larger. Also don't use Thai chilies - they are too hot!)
  • 2 Tbs white vinegar
  • ½ cup flour + ¼ cup corn starch
  • ½ red onion, chopped
  • 2.5 tsp garlic paste and 2 tsp ginger paste (Chopped garlic & ginger does not work in this dish – you need a paste. If you grate fresh ginger into a paste, only use 1 tsp since it will be stronger.)
  • 4 Tbs vegetable oil, preferably extra light olive oil (make sure it's extra light, NOT extra virgin, which  has a strong taste that will not suit this dish!)
  • 1 Tbs Sambal Oelek (see photo below)
  • 4 Tbs soy sauce (no low-sodium - it does not taste as good in this dish)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup water
  • Chinese egg noodles or rice
  • A few chopped green onions (This is optional, for the garnish)

Sambal Oelek - available at most grocery stores on the Asian foods aisle, or at Asian grocery stores

This is the variety of Indian green chilies I use. Serrano peppers are the best substitute.

Pasted/crushed garlic and ginger

Chinese egg noodles are available on the Asian food aisle of most grocery stores
Instructions:

  1. Mix the flour and corn starch in a large bowl. Roll the chicken pieces in the flour mixture. (Note – do not salt the chicken. The soy sauce and Sambal Oelek add a lot of salt!)
  2. Place the finely chopped green chilies in a bowl with the vinegar and let them soak.
  3. Heat 1 Tb of the oil on medium heat in a non-stick skillet (stainless steel will cause the chicken to stick badly). Add the chopped red onions to the skillet and stir fry until the onions are soft.
  4. Remove the onions and set aside. Put the other 3 Tbs of oil in the pan and stir in the garlic and ginger paste. When it starts to sizzle, add the chicken. If it is looking dry, add more oil. I recommend using extra light olive oil because this dish is necessarily a bit oily (it's fried chicken, after all). However, studies show that eating foods fried in olive oil are in no way detrimental to health :)!
  5. Fry the chicken until it begins to lose its pinkness and starts to turn golden on both sides. Again, if it looks like it's sticking and getting dry, add a touch more oil. That flour absorbs a lot!
Here you can see the chicken is starting to change to a golden color, but is not yet fully cooked. This is when you'll add in the soy sauce and sambal oelek!

       6. Stir in the Sambal Oelek, soy sauce and red onions. Let it simmer about one minute. Add
           a little water (about ¼ to 1/3 a cup) and stir. Let simmer for about three minutes.
       7. Pour in the vinegar and chopped green chilies. Stir well and let cook another four 
           or five minutes. The gravy should be thick and the chicken should be cooked through. If it's 
           really dry, you can add a touch more water. Not much though - it should be a thick gravy.

Top with the sliced green onions (this is optional). This dish tastes great over hot rice or Chinese egg noodles! Keep the soy sauce out - it's delicious to drizzle a little more on as you eat :).



**Cook's Notes**
- My favorite garlic paste is available at Trader Joe's, and my favorite ginger pastes are from Whole Foods (Ginger People or Christopher Ranch). I love these because they do not have preservatives - only citric acid. I avoid ones that have sodium benzoate or other icky preservatives.

 




5 comments:

  1. sounds fantastic! definitely one of my favourite dishes too.. actually, I decide how good a restaurant is by the chilli chicken they make..
    note- through most of india its called "chicken chilli"! - Shumayou Dutta

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  2. That's good to know- I only thought it was chili chicken because that's what I heard in Calcutta - it's different in other regions? thanks for the comment! ;-)

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  3. This looks awesome. I love your notes and the photos really help a girl out. I'm always lost when it comes to Asian ingrediants.
    -Jennifer Harkins

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  4. Thanks, Jennifer! Let me know if you need help finding anything :)

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  5. wow. sounds amazing. will be sure to try it out. the pictures are just too tempting.

    ReplyDelete

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