Hyderabadi Chicken

6:55 AM

It was a quiet February morning when I reached Bangalore for the first time. A not so timid bride but sad in the heart for leaving family behind. The apartment that hubby rented beforehand had nothing but the basic amenities so The day and the next couple of weeks went in a blurr in shopping for the house and setting up our first home. 

Slowly it all took shape and soon I was house proud. But with that my enthusiasm and busy schedule slowly died down making an way for lonely afternoons and boredom. On one such lonely afternoon I heard sweet cackle of a toddler, I hurriedly peeped through the window and saw a sweet little boy running around in the common balcony with his mom chasing him with a bowl of food in hand. I was happy and shy all at the same time and was not sure as how to approach.  So I came out and babbled something asking about them and also telling them how happy I was to have someone near me. While speaking I could feel that I was not making any sense but being true to her name ‘Soujanya’ she smiled reassuringly.

That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Afternoons were not boring any more. It was filled with laughter, gossip, stories from our lives and definitely food. She helped me with local Kannada and I tought her how to use the internet.while her parents appreciated my décor skills my husband was a great patron of her cooking. We shared such good times together. Explored many parts of the city and shared many meals. She is an exceptional cook herself, especially chettinad cuisine. Sundays were the days when all the people in our apartment building just drooled at the amazing aroma emanating from her kitchen. I learnt many south Indian staple recipes from her. Late afternoon tea times were most enjoyable as we shared some traditional snacks from our home state with either filter coffee by her or masala chai by me. We became so close that when her kid was sick I provided food from my kitchen and the same happened when I was under the weather.

Our friendship came to an abrupt end when I had to go back home for some family crisis. When I came back after a couple of months she was gone. Her Husband got a good offer near to her hometown and they had to leave in a hurry. I have heard many people saying that its difficult to make new friends as we grow old but friendship with Soujanya made me believe that "Friendship is the golden thread that ties all hearts together".I still miss the bonding and the times that we shared.

This particular chicken dish is her specialty. I wanted to learn this in her kitchen but she mostly cooked on Sundays and with husbands at home it was difficult to do that. So I wrote down the recipe. Initially I was not able to cook it as I could not find out what gassagasa is. Later the blogosphere made me understand that gassagasa is nothing but our good old poppy seeds or posto. Strikingly this recipe does not have any curry leaves or coconut milk as is the case with most Southern chicken recipes. But its deliciously spicy and aromatic. Make and serve it and you will gain some serious admirers for sure.

Hyderabadi Chicken:

Chicken: ½ kg (preferably curry cut)
Onion: 2 big onions (Indian variety)
Tomato: 1 medium
Yogurt: 1/3 cup

For spice paste:
Ginger: 1” piece
Garlic: 6-7 fat cloves
Poppyseeds: 2 tsps
Green chillies: 2
Dry chillies: 3 as per your heat tolerance (soak in warm water for 10 minutes)

For Spice powder:
Cumin: ½ tsp
Coriander seeds: 11/2 tsp
Black pepper: ½ tsp
Green cardamom: 2 pieces
Cinnamon: 1” piece
Cloves: 4
Oil: ½ tsp

Chili powder: ½ tsp
Kashmiri mirch powder: 1 tsp optional; I used for this gorgeous red colour
Whole garam masala: 2 cloves, 5-6 peppercorns, little mace and ½” piece cinnamon
Oil: 4-5 tbsp

Wash and drain all the excess water from chicken. Add the yogurt, pinch of salt and the chili powder. Mix well. Cover and set aside till needed.

Take a kadhai or a pan and heat ½ tsp oil. Roast all the spices under spice powder on low heat till they are couple of shades darker. Take out and let it cool. Then grind to a fine powder. I used my small mortar and pestle for this. Cover and set aside.

Grind all the ingredients under spice paste and set aside.

Slice the onions finely or chop them in your chopper.

Heat the rest of the oil in a big wok or kadhai or pan. Slightly pound the whole garam masalas and add to the oil when it start to smoke. Keep the flame on medium and once they start to pop add the sliced onions. Add a pinch of salt and caramelize it on medium flame till they turn golden brown in colour. Approx. 5-6 minutes.

Now add the ginger-garlic spice paste, turmeric powder, kashmiri chili if using and cook it utill the raw smell is gone and oil start to appear on sides. Cut the tomato in chunks and add with ½ tsp more salt. Mix and cover let it get cooked for another 4-5 minutes till tomato is mushed up and again oil comes on the surface.

Add the chicken along with the marinade and start the caramelizing part. Cook it on medium flame by stirring and covering for another 10-12 minutes till you see every spice mixed up and turning a hue of brown. The best indicator again would be the oil surfacing on the top.

At this stage add 2 cups of warm water, crank the heat up, cover with a lid and pour little water on top of the lid. I like to see oil separated in my chicken curries and this process ensures that no flavour is lost. Also the water on the lid will get warm which you can add to the curry if needed. Try not to add cold water to curries.

Cook for another 4-5 minutes then add the spice powder. Mix. Check seasoning and take off the flame. Keep covered till you are ready to serve.

Tastes best with plain white rice or rotis. To make things regal you can also make some pulao or parathas.

A Homemaker's Notes:
Please adjust the amount of water as per the end gravy you need.

Also decrease the amount of chilies used in the recipe as per your heat quotient. Chettinad cuisine is quite hot and we like it this way.

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