This recipe is basically the byproduct of having made my friends Anjali and Pradnya’s recipes for bharli vangi a number of times this summer. It also owes something to the baghare baingan recipe from the The Essential Andhra Cookbook that I’d posted late last year. I really enjoy the mix of sweet, sour and spicy in all those dishes and the richness that comes from the use of peanuts and/or sesame seeds. In this recipe I use both peanuts and sesame seeds (though no coconut) and instead of tamarind I use sweet black vinegar. The heat comes mostly from black pepper—the byadgi chilies are used mostly for colour and for a light smoky flavour. If you don’t have byadgi chillies you could substitute Kashmiri or even ancho chiles. If the latter strikes you as too fusiony a choice keep in mind that this recipe—in addition to Chinkiang vinegar—also uses Sichuan peppercorn. I never have its southwestern Indian cousin tirphal on hand and it’s a more than plausible substitute. But it’s best not to think too much about these things and just roll with it. The results, I can promise you, are delicious.
- 1 large chicken cut into 8-10 pieces
- 1 tspn freshly pounded garlic
- 1 tspn freshly pounded ginger
- The following whole garam masala: 1 large piece cinnamon/cassia bark; 5-7 pods green cardamom; 5-7 cloves
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- 1 large red onion, cut in half and sliced
- For the masala, dry roast the following on medium-low heat on a cast iron pan till just fragrant, cool, grind to a coarse powder:
- 6 tblspns peanuts
- 1 tblspn sesame seeds
- 1 tblspn black peppercorn
- 1 tblspn cumin seeds
- 1 tblspn coriander seeds
- 1 tspn methi/fenugreek seeds
- 1 tspn Sichuan peppercorn
- 1/2 tblspn saunf/fennel seeds
- 3-5 Byadgi chillies
- 2 tblspns black vinegar (or other sweet vinegar of choice)
- 1 tblspn jaggery or brown sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2-3 tblspns of oil
- Salt to taste
- 1-2 tblspns chopped dhania/cilantro for garnish
- Rub the chicken pieces all over with the crushed ginger and garlic and a big pinch of salt and set in the fridge for at least a couple of hours. Bring to a room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan and add the whole garam masala.
- As soon as they become fragrant add the curry leaves.
- As soon as the curry leaves become glossy add the onion, lower the heat to medium-low and saute till the onions are softened and browned.
- Raise the heat to medium, add the chicken with all its marinade and the salt, mix thoroughly and saute stirring often till the chicken gives up all its moisture and the oil begins to separate.
- Add the ground masala, mix in thoroughly and continue sauteing for 5-7 minutes, taking care that the masala does not stick at the bottom of the pan.
- Add the vinegar and jaggery and mix in.
- Add the water, bring everything to a high simmer, lower the heat to medium-low, cover and cook till the chicken is done.
- Garnish with the dhania and serve with steamed rice or pulao or parathas.
- The masalas are added after the chicken as with the high peanut and sesame content there is a higher than average chance of their scorching if you add them to a drier pan and then saute the chicken for a long time after that.
- Nonetheless, even when simmering the chicken at the end it is a good idea to uncover the pan from time to time and stir to make sure no sticking is happening. If it is, add more water off the boil and go on.
- The final consistency of the gravy should be thick and just barely pourable. That said, it’s still going to taste good if you want to make it thinner: double the water and adjust the salt accordingly.