Here at the My Annoying Opinions haveli we eat a lot of chicken curry. To broaden the kids’ horizons past their favourite “red curry chicken“, and to keep things interesting for the missus and myself as well, I am constantly tinkering with spice blends and souring agents. I improvised this version in early July and as the missus deemed it worthy of addition to the rotation, I wrote down what I did. Accordingly, I am able to present it to you as well to try.
I use Kashmiri chillies here for colour, black peppercorns for the heat and Sichuan peppercorn to accentuate the black peppercorn’s bite. Star anise adds a nice brightness as well around the edges. In place of tomatoes or tamarind I use Chinkiang black vinegar as the souring agent (if you don’t have any you can use balsamic or sherry vinegar). Give it a go: you might like it a lot as well.
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- A 4 lb(ish) chicken cut up into 8-10 pieces or equivalent in drumsticks, thighs and breasts
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- A large red onion, thickly sliced
- 1 heaped tspn freshly crushed garlic
- 1 heaped tspn freshly crushed ginger
- The following lightly toasted in a cast iron skillet over low heat, cooled and powdered: 3 star anise; 2 Kashmiri or other mild chilli; 1 hot dried red chilli; 2 tspns black peppercorn; 1 tspn Sichuan peppercorn; 1 tspn zeera/cumin seed; 1 tspn dnania/coriander seeds; 3/4 tspn methi/fenugreek seeds
- 2 tblspns Chinkiang vinegar or other sweet , dark vinegar
- 1/2 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
- 1 tblspn jaggery or brown sugar
- 2 cups water, off the boil from a kettle
- 2 tblspns chopped dhania/cilantro for garnish
- Heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium heat for a few minutes and add the curry leaves.
- As soon as the curry leaves become glossy (very soon) add the onions and saute, stirring often till beginning to brown.
- While the onions are browning add the vinegar to the toasted and powdered spices and mix with your fingers to a coarse, granular texture
- Add the crushed garlic and ginger to the onions and saute for another 1-2 minutes or till till the raw aroma is gone.
- Add the haldi and the vinegar-spice mixture, stir in and saute for another few minutes.
- Add the chicken and the salt, mix in fully and saute, stirring often till the chicken gives up its moisture and oil begins to separate.
- Add the jaggery and water, mix in, bring to a simmer, cover and cook till the chicken is tender.
- Garnish with the dhania and serve with steamed rice.
- You should end up with an easily pourable but not too thin gravy. If it seems to be reducing too much while the chicken cooks, add some more hot water along the way and reduce uncovered at the end if necessary.
- You could if you like make this hotter by using more hot dried chillies but, as said above, the point of this variation on chicken curry is to let the black and Sichuan pepper drive the heat of the dish. That said, 2-3 slit Thai chillies added towards the end would not be amiss.
- For a further variation you could add a cup of coconut milk when the chicken is almost done and see what you think of that.
- I like to make this with a cut-up whole chicken with the backs, wings and neck in there for extra flavour. You don’t need have to do that but do use bone-in chicken.
- This is very good on the first day and even better on the second.