If you, like me, have been uninitiated to this gem until now, I suggest you change the situation ASAP. Because I have to tell you, you’re missing out on morsels of deliciousness. Having said that, Chilli Chicken doesn’t really have anything to do with the Chinese; neither does Hakka Noodle or Manchurian for that matter, but we still classify those as ‘Chinese’.
Chilli Chicken (please put emphasis on the double L), is an invention of the Kolkata-based Chinese community that settled in a sleepy little part of the city, and has been since hailed as Chinatown. Chilli Chicken is a purely Indianized version of a Chinese dish that might have been….alas, the only thing Chinese about this, is perhaps the use of Soy Sauce 😀
Getting back to the part where I mentioned about being uninitiated to the dish, I must once again emphasize that I’m a ‘Probashi Bangali’, aka a Bengal who has grown up outside Bengal. So while we don’t lose touch with our roots, the experience of a true Kolkatan is often missing. For instance, restaurants in Mumbai seldom serve Tangra-style Chilli Chicken, or the Kathi Roll, and for many years, the Kolkata Biryani was an obscure dish craved by Bongs forever.
I have had this version of Chilli Chicken only twice, at a family gathering and once at a restaurant. And while that experience was..ahem….explosive, it didn’t deter me from making my own, albeit a very mildly spicy version. You see, this dish is known for its liberal use of the hot green chilli. It can be paired with Fried Rice, or Hakka Noodle or even plain rice if you’re in a rush, though personally I love having the dry version as a snack. This one, we had with Mom’s special Egg Hakka Noodles, a couple of weeks back when we were entertaining guests.
The recipe reads quite easy and doesn’t require too much time to cook either. Oh another little nugget of info I wanted to share with you guys…did you know there’s a special ‘Chilli Chicken Cut’, that is used by the butchers in Kolkata? I didn’t! Dad told me one fine day that a patron was specifically asking for the same.. 😀 Turns out, they cut the chicken on the bone, into cubes, almost inch-sized pieces, that makes it perfect for cooking this dish. So that’s what I did, and asked Dad to get a kilo of the same cut.. 🙂
Kolkata Style Chilli Chicken
For the Marinade:
- Garlic paste – 2 tsp
- Ginger paste – 1/2 tsp (optional)
- Green chili paste – a pinch (use more if you like it hot)
- Dark Soy Sauce – 1 tbsp
- White Vinegar – 1 tsp
- Salt – to taste
- Egg – 1, beaten
- Cornflour – 1 tbsp
- Chicken (on-the-bone/boneless) – cut into 1″ pieces
- White oil – for deep frying
For the Gravy:
- Garlic – 8 to 10 cloves, diced fine
- Capsicum/Bell Pepper – 2, cubed
- Onions – 2 or 3 medium, cubed (separate the petals)
- Dark Soy Sauce – 2 tbsp
- Chili Sauce – 1 tsp
- Tomato Sauce – 1 tsp
- White oil – 2 tbsp
- Salt – to taste
- Sugar – 1/4 tsp (optional)
- Black pepper powder – 1 tbsp
- Cornflour slurry – 1 tbsp, mixed in warm water
- Marinate the chicken with the ingredients listed under ‘marinade’ and keep aside for an hour or minimum 30 mins.
- Heat oil in a deep-bottomed pan, and fry the chicken in batches, until golden and crisp.
- Keep aside on a plate lined with absorbent paper to drain excess oil.
- In a separate pan, add 2 tbsp of the oil used to fry the chicken.
- When hot, add the garlic and let them turn golden. Don’t let it burn!
- Add the onion and saute for 2 mins, and add the capsicum.
- Toss well, and add a lid for 2 mins, allowing the onions and capsicum to sweat slightly.
- Remove lid, and add the sauces; keep an eye out for sputters!!!
- Season with salt, but be careful as you have added salt to the chicken, and soy sauce to the gravy.
- Also add sugar and black pepper powder now.
- Add the cornflour slurry, a cup of water, and mix well.
- When the gravy starts bubbling sluggishly, add the fried chicken, and mix.
- Keeping flame on low, add a lid and simmer the chicken in the gravy for 2-3 mins.
- After 2-3 mins, remove lid, give a final mix, and switch off heat.
- Ladle into serving bowl and enjoy with noodles or rice!
- Add spring onions if you want, I didn’t have any and had to skip.
- Add more cornflour to the marinade if you like the chicken to have a thicker coating.
- You can use boneless chicken if you wish.
- Add hot green chilies to the gravy for a spicier version.