LIP SMACKING KADAI CHICKEN DHABA STYLE

Kadai Chicken Dhaba Style is spicy, and flavourful. It is ubiquitous on almost every Indian restaurant menu. I bring you an easy step by step recipe that you can prepare easily at home. This Kadai Chicken Dhaba Style is finger-licking good and can be scooped up with bits of naan, roti or laccha paratha like I did.

What is a Kadai?  It is just an Indian wok made of either iron, steel or aluminium. It mostly has two curved handles but is available without too. A Kadai is a basic cooking pan found in every Indian household.

The basic recipe is spicy but you can reduce or use paprika or Kashmiri lal mirch instead of red chilli powder. What makes this recipe stand apart from other chicken recipes is the freshly ground Kadahi Masala. Just dry roast the spices and coarsely grind them. Of course you can use store bought masala but the result would not be the same.

There is something so fresh and so aromatic of the dry roasted and coarsely ground fresh home-made Kadai Masala that’s crucial for the original taste of this dish.

Karahi Masala: if you are looking for the authentic flavors home-made Kadai Masala is the go to secret. With this secret spice mix you’ll make yourself a Chicken Karahi that can better the taste of any restaurant. I make it a point to grind it in my small mortar and pestle instead of making it into a smooth powder in the mixer.

Ingredients for Kadai Masala

2 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp black peppercorns

4 dried whole red chili

2 black cardamoms

4 green cardamoms

8 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

2 anise flower

2 bay leaves

Heat a griddle and add all the ingredients and dry roast over medium heat until lightly roasted and giving off an aroma. Turn off the heat and allow the roasted spices to warm. Coarsely grind them in a mixer grinder or a traditional mortar and pestle like I do. You can increase the quantity and store in an air tight jar.

This chicken is best cooked with the bones but if you really want to go for boneless you can. I used shallots in the recipe. They are easily available here as tiny sambar onions or pearls. Tomatoes add the base for a tangy gravy while the bell peppers provide the requisite pop of colour and crunch to the dish. I added fresh red hot peppers from my garden which added fire to the recipe.

Ingredients:

For Marinating the Chicken

1 kg Chicken with bones

1 tsp red chili powder

1/2 tsp crushed black pepper

2 tsp lime juice or lemon juice

Rock salt according to taste

For the Kadai Masala

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp shajeera

2 Bay leaves

1 tsp red chili powder

2 tbsp Home-made karahi masala powder

3 large tomatoes roughly chopped

1cubed green and red bell pepper

1/2 cup small pearl onions

2 finely chopped onion

2 tbsp crushed dried fenugreek leaves (Kasturi Methi)

1 tbsp ginger juliennes

4 tbsp Oil

Salt to taste

Method

How to Marinate and fry the chicken

Coat the chicken pieces with kadai masala, red chilli powder, crushed black pepper, lemon juice and salt. Set aside while you chop the onions and bell peppers.

Heat a kadai and pour the oil. Fry the marinated chicken pieces until nice and golden.

When done transfer the fried chicken pieces into a bowl.

Method to make the Kadai Chicken Gravy

Use the same kadai and the same oil in which you fried the chicken pieces. Using the same kadai while cooking the rest of the recipe will enhance flavours. You can add some more oil if needed.

Once the kadai and oil is hot, throw in the cumin and shajeera and the bay leaves. Allow them to splutter for a few seconds.

Add the chopped onions and fry until golden brown. Add salt at this stage, as it will get the onions roasting fast and will deglaze the kadai as well.

Next, add the chopped tomatoes and saute until they become soft and mushy.

Add the spices; red chili powder and kadai masala and ginger juliennes. Sauté until the raw smell disappears, the masala becomes a smooth blend, fragrant and oil begins to ooze out at the sides.

It is time to add the fried chicken pieces and sauté well in the masala. In Punjabi we call it bhun na and all the magic of the recipe lies in the bhun na of the masala or else it gives a very raw smell.

Toss in the chopped bell peppers and the shallots and mix. You don’t need to sauté much if you love crunchy capsicums and pearl onions in the gravy like I do. The bell peppers will get cooked in the heat of the chicken and gravy.

Garnish with crushed kasuri methi or dry fenugreek leaves, sprinkle some more kadai masala powder and add some ginger juliennes. Transfer to a serving dish and add some fresh coriander leaves and lemon wedges to the kadai chicken.

Serve piping hot with roti naan or laccha parathas. Tear a piece of the Laccha paratha, soak up the masala and scoop it into your mouth. The burst of flavours will have you reaching out for more.

Notes

Marinate the chicken for at least an hour or prep it the previous day and keep in the fridge.

You may skip adding the shallots and add chunks of pink onions.

– Harjeet Kaur

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