Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Posto Murgi or Chicken in Poppy Seed Paste


A Recipe is just a story with a Good Meal at the end -- Pat Conroy

I have been reading Hidden Kitchen from NPR's the Kitchen Sisters lately. I do not read cookbooks for recipes. Most of the stuff I cook is what I have memories of, hand-me-downs from my Ma or Dida, pass me along kind of recipes from friends, blogs, neighbors, impromptu concoctions whipped up to please the palate, but very rarely from glossy beautiful cook books. I love cook books with stories and am afraid of tomes with teeming recipes.

When I saw this book at the library I picked it because it said NPR and I have liked it a lot since then.Who glues your community together through food ? Who is cooking on your corner ? What traditions are vanishing from your neighborhood, your family, the planet ? The authors ask these questions and more and as I read about the farmer in Indiana who sells raw cow milk or the Italian forager in San Francisco who cooks beautiful meals of his finds I am more and more intrigued.

The Kitchen sisters say "People are telling us that home cooking and the family table are on the endangered species list --- small farmers and producers are too -- and these age old practices and ways of life, cornerstone of our civilization will become extinct if we don't stop and take notice and protect and preserve them"

Home cooking is not easy and can get stressful as I sometimes find, juggling home, a job and two kids, but then again it is the most healthy and joyful alternative. And I don't say that just because it sounds nice and haloed and I am destined to do it in "servantless US of A". It does brings along a sense of peace on an otherwise bustling day.

And honestly home cooking is not so difficult as to become extinct. Much easier than fixing an Ikea book shelf and IKEA is actually doing pretty good.So what is it that makes home cooking endangered ? I often hear my cousins in India say they hardly cook and their cook does it all or if they are a young couple they just order a dabba. And when they do say that, their is a hint of pride for being able to afford a cook and an undertone of disdain for the very job of home cooking.

I am thinking is this is a slowly catching on global phenomenon, you don't want to chop, stir, cook because you either have cheap labor to do the job or you get your sandwich from the Burger baron or because you think it is a job not worth doing.

So you think the times you spend in the kitchen with the family, stirring and chopping together, explaining number lines to the 5 year old while you peel a cucumber, tasting and smelling and creating memories is just overly hyped .Maybe it is. You might bond better and have happier kids, downing shots of tequila than sweating it out in the kitchen.

But there is something wholesome and warm about this whole cooking thing which the tequila does not bring.It need not be an elaborate meal always, it need not necessarily be an everyday cooking chore, and you need not do it all by yourself, get help but whip up a hot meal and pass on your traditions.

Why do you cook dear reader and here I would urge non-bloggers to please step up ? What cooking traditions do you feel are vanishing from your neighborhood, your family, the planet that you would want to preserve ? Do you think delegating home cooking to an outside help makes a difference ? Come on tell me and share your thoughts.


With that said, I have Posto Murgi or Chicken in Poppy seed paste just like my Ma makes it only not quiet. Some of the flavors in my creation has been influenced by Indosungod's Chicken Curry. I loved her use of fennel seeds and also adding garlic to the Poppy seed paste, so those are the small changes that I made to this old recipe of my Mom's. I love Posto (Poppy Seed) in any form so little doubt that this is a much loved dish. But we had guests and they loved it too so in spite of my bias this indeed is a delicious preparation


Posto Murgi/Chicken in Poppy Seed Paste

Wash and clean about 5 lbs of chicken cut into small pieces. Marinade with 1 tbsp of lime juice, 2 tsp of ginger paste , 2 tsp garlic paste, salt, 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder and 1 tsp of mustard Oil(optional) for 1-3 hours. Note: I usually buy whole chicken skinned. So when I say 5lb chicken I mean the weight of the chicken with bones et al

Soak 4 tbsp of Poppy Seed(Posto) in water and then make a paste of soaked posto + 6 cloves of fat garlic + 1" peeled ginger + 6-8 green chilli (heat alert adjust accordingly!)

Heat Oil in a Kadhai/Frying Pan

Chaunce/Temper the oil with 4 Clove/Laung, 4 Cardamom/ Elaichi, 1" stick of cinnamon/dalchini, 1 tsp of Fennel seeds/Mouri/Saunf

When the spices start bristling add 2 cups of finely chopped red onion. Fry the onion with a sprinkle of sugar till it takes on a nice shade of brownish pink

Add 1 large juicy tomato finely chopped and fry till the tomato is mushed up and there is no raw smell

Add the poppy seed paste, 1 tsp of Red Chilli powder, 1/2 tsp of Garam Masala powder. Fry the masala till the masala looks cooked

Add the chicken pieces and saute them till they loose their pink color and becomes a light yellow. You can add about 1/4 tsp or less of Turmeric powder at this point

Add salt, paprika for color and about 1/2 cup of water. Adjust the quantity of water according to your needs.

Cover and cook till chicken is done. The way I make this dish there is little gravy but the result is not dry either. I would say the gravy is mostly clinging on to the chicken and it is very moist

Garnish with fresh chopped coriander leaves


  1. Sandeepa you've swirled every reader's heart by these questions. Ys we do have a cook but she does the chopping and cleaning and the making the dishes are either mine or my mom's responsibility. We make sure that one of us cook and hence maintain the taste of the dishes how we tasted from my grandma's hands. I am sure we are doing justice to the traditions but also want to add this is a luxury whom not all my friends would mind to have. I love poppy seeds (have ever tried munching on a spoon full? lovely creamy it would be) and chicken with poppy seeds is exotic.

  2. Oh most definitely! Back home though I had the tastiest of food morning, noon and night I craved for cooking in my own kitchen.
    Like everything else consciously preserving cooking techniques is also essential. Maybe blogs are doing that to an extent?

    Chicken looks delicious and I am looking for the book.

  3. Hi Sandeepa,

    Thanks for asking non-bloggers' comment on the homecooking issue. Yes, some things have definitely changed. but i am not sure, i would want to preserve anything. traditions are lost, but new traditions are created at the same time. when i look around and see families eating dabba dinner sitting in front of the TV and babies eating pizza at pujo pandals, because they "cannot" eat khichuri, yes, I feel sad and also angry sometimes, for no reason at all. I like to think that they are missing a great deal..............maa er shari te holud er daag, phoron dewar chhy(n)ak-chho(n)k.......bhaat photar togbog shobdo, robibaar er dupure r mangsho bhaat.....but may be they are not. just like, we did not miss the smell of kaath-koyla r unoon, or for thar matter, sitting and eating with 15 cousins........

    but, for myself, I would always love to go back to the night of dol......when the whole para would come and sit on the floor to eat khichuri and dimbhaja, to those wedding ceremonies, where you did not have to manage the heavy silk saari and a plate full of jalfrezi and fish harra just choose a chair closer to the pedestal fan, and happily eat radhabollovi and alur dom, bhetki paturi and plastic chaatni......and of course, third helping of that laal mishti doi....

    well, thats not going to happen anytime soon. actually, i know it will never happen again. may be that is why, i treasure those traditons so much.

  4. There are many reasons to why I have insisted on home cooked meals over the years. As my kids grew so did their appreciation for foods. First it was just playing with dough, then it was learning about math through measuring ingredients, chemical and physical properties of basic kitchen staples such as baking soda and vinegar, oil and water etc. When they were old enough they planted and cooked the veggies they grew in the garden. One year my husband took our then 3 year old son to the farm to pick and have a goat slaughtered for meat, we wanted our children to understand that food didn't come in a package. Then ofcourse with both of us working, evening meals were where we connected encouraging our children to talk about their day and anything that was on their mind. When I cooked something that my mom was good at, the dish was evaluated and then discussion was how or why it was different. They understood that meals one cooks for themselves or for loved ones are made with love and care and not to be wasted. Now both my kids are in university, away from home, but they both cook their meals, and can actually look into a fridge and make a dish with whatever they have at hand. They are both very active individuals and have come to realize that home cooked meals are far healthier than store bought. As for me, it gives me pleasure to see my childrens' friends from all over the world ask them to make rice, dal and aloo posto that they learned from their didu.

  5. I love to cook daily meals for my family despite holding a job in the "Servant-less" USA. Yes part of it is to preserve the traditional foods (some have already been lost from what I hear from my grandmother). Another part is to prepare fresh, healthy and well rounded nutritive dishes, which processed foods like pizzas, sandwiches,etc lack. My kids prefer Desi food anytime over "western foods" and even don't mind having it in their lunch boxes. I give them Western names so that they will be able to explain to their friends who question them. I hope my kids learn to carry on Indian traditions just like the Italian, Chinese, German immigrants have carried through theirs. BTW I also serve western foods on "Fun Fridays", but that too is homemade. I agree with Bulbul that my kids learnt fractions, measurements, etc through food. I also kind of agree with Kuntala that new traditions are born (like the Mango cheesecakes,etc), but it doesn't mean we should give up the past to embrace the future. What we need to focus is a more healthy and grass roots approach to food rather than the one dished out by large corporations. Thank you for providing "Food for thought" and most of all thank you for introducing to Bengali food. Your blog showed that there is more to Bengali cuisine than the world famous sweets.

  6. Home cooked meals are definitley more nutritious and that by itself is a good reason to cook at home.And tradition hah!How sad is it that many kids don't even recognise what some traditional foods are?I have friends whose kids go to India and create a big fuss because they cannot survive on avial and pulisseri(yep me mallu)for a few days.New traditions are made no doubt but does not mean we have to let old ones die out if we can help it.I think we as parents have a responsibility to keep this going and encourage the younger ones to appreciate home cooked food.Highly unlikely we will succeed though seeing my neices looking at me with PITY for cooking and showing such an abiding interest in it!

  7. Forgot to add that I loved your post and the chicken looks yum.Something to cook for the weekend!Thanks.

  8. My dear Sandeepa, I have not jumped into your blog for a while. Now I am back! :)

    Home-cooking for us is essential. We cook at home most days when I just cook from memories, too...

    Love this chicken. I will try it out and let you know how it turns out!

  9. I don't think i could live without cooking. & I do not like help around the kitchen when i cook, i need to do everything by myself (other than washing dishes of course).Ic annot imagine anyone else reproducing taste of my ma or dida.. i have to do it:-) hands down. with both of them, i miss a lot.. esp. when i feel like asking something & can't.. we do need to hold on to the traditions. things have changed so much back in india too.. i still feel that i am the one staying away & trying to hold on to the past.

    Ami kono din posto diye chicken korini, bookmarking this.. dekhe i haath chat te ichey hochey.

  10. I love to cook. But I would have have LOVED to have some help with the chopping, cleaning etc.. And for folks who don't enjoy cooking and can afford help to take care of that, that's great too. To each his own.

    That curry looks great. And that sari is gorgeous, San! The border looks unusual and beautiful!

  11. i have kept aside a poppy seed dish to cook very soon, with potatoes :)

  12. I learnt cooking out of compulsion. I had to work in deep forest for my profession. Soon it became a pleasure and nesha.
    Ami randhi annodr joneye aar bhalo lekhar jonneye. Lekha amar aar ekta nesha.
    Murgi posto khub bhalo laage kintu aami otte garam masala di na. Postor flavour mone hoi nosto hoye jai. Absyo eta amar nijer baper. Thank you for your post.

  13. I'm an enthusiastic cook, but only when I'm doing it for pleasure and not for sustenance. At one time, I would like complicated and long recipes because cooking was, is, therapy.

    Now cooking in a smaller kitchen and without much help, it has become a chore for the most part - so it's nicer when I prepare ahead for a recipe and it all comes together. I often think I need to cut down on after-work Internet, reading, DVD etc and prepare the vegs for the next day's meal, but I need my unwinding, and chopping vegetables just doesn't seem like an unwinding activity.

    I had a cook for a brief two years, thought I would enjoy it if someone else cooks for me, however mediocre. It was okay, but the leftovers piled up and I was glad when she left for her own reasons. And yes, it did help that I didn't have to do the cooking within a certain time frame - she did it, and she did it far better than me. Cooking for pleasure was easier with her help.

  14. Wow. It looks amazing and yummy. Good recipe. Looks delicious. I am surely gonna try it. Poppy seed is rich in B-complex. It is also very useful for health, for those who have sensitive skin, dandruff, hair-loss, it aids in mental alertness. Those who suffer from vertigo feels relief, it relieves skin dryness etc.

  15. Hi Sandeepa,
    I have been married for almost 2 years now and am not a parent, yet. I do have a demanding job. I stay in India where we have the luxury of outsourcing so many chores, and yet I donot have a cook. I always think - maybe later when the family is larger or when my in-laws stay with me.
    I prefer home cooked food any day and try to preserve the cooking I have learnt from my mother and now my MIL.
    But yes, even in India, traditions have changed and so have the habits. Our generation prefers quick, uncomplicated meals and many of my friends have a cook to help in the basic cooking. Even when I have guests, the question always is - will you prepare a meal for 10 people or will you order it from the nearby food joint? (Though I always cook at home if the guests arrive on weekends)
    I would say the change comes from lifestyle changes, and the availablity of variety of processed foods which were not available in India when I was young. Breakfast now is instant cereal and toast, and not the wonderful parathas which my Mom made, and still does back home.

    As for the chicken - it looks great. My MIL recently made Matar Paneer with Poppy seeds (since we are primarily vegetarians).

  16. Thanks everyone for the lovely Comments

    Given that all of you read food blogs or are bloggers I am not really surprised that you think home cooking has its own merits

    I would also like to re-iterate that personally like Vani & Sra I love to have help with chopping and cleaning up and prefer cooking over those chores.

    I would rather cook with help and some off the shelf products than not serve a home cooked meal at all.

    Some of the stories in the book that really touched a chord were one of a little school girl who said they NEVER have home cooked meals and their food is ALWAYS from a Deli

    I do agree that we cannot stick to all traditions as Kuntala says and need to adapt with changing lifestyle.
    And yet with all those adaptations it is not necessary to think of Home Cooking as a disdainful task best done by lesser mortals, or something so hard as not to be done at all.

    I don't see any problems with quick-fix meals or meals with canned products or anything that makes life easy. As I said it need not be an elaborate meal always, but whatever comes from your stove top with the family involved would help

    Nirmala when I talk about Indian families with cooks some families have cooks as a part of their family and they know the traditions much better than anyone else. I am sure our Moms working with the Cooks create a tradition by themselves. When the family does not get involved with the cooking at all it is then I feel that situations get bad

  17. Bulbul and Lurker

    Thanks for the insights and your thoughts on how to involve kids in the cooking project :)

  18. Thanks for that very thought provoking post. I have been very possessive of my kitchen ever since I had one of my own. Never let my Mom inside (well maybe that was because of other issues! :)) and always always wanted to cook everything myself when I had people over never letting the "important" things for potluck.
    I resisted long and hard when people suggested I get a cook after I fell sick some years back - but finally when I was hospitalised I had to give in and get a cook and later a full time help.
    I have now resigned myself to sharing the kitchen with a full time maid because I just dont have the stamina - with my weight so low,its either energy for my 4 year old or energy for the kitchen.
    I have made my peace now because I know we have a better family environment and I'm no longer tired and crabby all the time. Plus we have home cooked meals for every single meal of the week.

    BUT, I have made sure that atleast one meal a day is cooked by me - usually breakfast or the lunch dabba since I am raring to go in the mornings. I plan every meal for the week on the weekend itself, so that I know that we are having a good mix of proteins, carbs, vitamins - a high fibre diet for hubby and a low fibre diet for me, nutritious tiffins for my daughter. I buy all the veggies and fruits myself and do most of the cooking on the weekends, especially with my daughter by my side. Three evenings a week, I ask my maid to help me with the chopping and cooking so that I can cook the evening meal. And of course the blog is so that all the recipes - traditional and other wise - and their stories get recorded so my daughter has a connection when she grows up.

    I have heard`these stories too from my friends - about how it is so much more convenient to "outsource" the cooking. I think that a lot of it is also to do with the Indian male's reluctance to take on household chores - one doesn't need to know how to cook , but just helping with the chopping, cleaning or even veggie shopping seems unthinkable for most men. In such a situation it then becomes the responsibility of the woman to "take care" of the kitchen and getting three meals a day on the table. Or some men flaunt their liberated tag by saying that they never ask their wives to cook, they just tell her to hire a cook or eat out. "Im not fussy you see". Yeah right!

  19. Nirmala is right on the money about our hearts and these questions. Sounds like an excellent book.

    Will be in touch soon by email.

  20. honestly, i was happiest when i paid a lady in india to come over and cook for me. she made awesome gujju food.

    homecooking is fine for those who enjoy it, but i'd rather read a book or ride a bike. plus, i suspect most of the nostalgia about homecooking tends to ignore how much more disproportionate the burden is upon the woman rather than the man.

    i mean why is there not equal nostalgia about collecting firewood to light the fire? wasn't that supposed to be a family activity too?

    i understand how some people enjoy cooking at home and it enriches their lives. i enjoy it too if someone cleans up after me and does the prep work before i start cooking. but, i'd rather be doing other things and just as you talk about people
    those who think homecooking is infra dig, there are those who look down upon those (esp. women) who don't think homecooking is necessary.

  21. Hi Sandeepa,

    I don't cook chicken often but when I do, it's almost always one of ISG's recipes. Yours is going to tempt me next, I am sure.

    I don't come from a 'neighborhood of home cooking' or even a home of much home cooking -- my mom's dishes were small in number as she was always a working nurse, and my dad, well nevermind about what he would throw together. Sometimes we have to create our own traditions, yes?

    To that end, I will say that just today, my senior-in-college son is home for the first time all summer, and Mr. Independent called me at work to ask when I'd be home -- this because he wanted to know what to do about dinner (ie, would I be there to make it!). Made me smile, as your post did :)

  22. I began cooking just before i got married. I was very proud of the fact that we used to cook every night. This continued for six years. Then I weakened as I moved from the late twenties to the mid thirties and was convinced to hand over the reins of the kitchen to our maid.

    She is my Pygmalion and I've taught her how to cook.

    I now cook on weekends or when guests come. Plan to grill some chicken tonight though.

    My wife used to make posto chicken. Your post was a refresher and am tempted to try it

  23. honestly i can't think of tasting anything cooked by an outsider in my kitchen. First of all there's this hygiene issue and secondly i am used to my mom's cooking. Although I am a complete conservative when it comes to food and have this partiality about my bengali food the prob is that i Can't cook (no matter how much i try)n i fear that because of people like me the next gen will be deprived of all the wonderful delicacies

  24. Hi Sandeepa, a quick note to let you know I tried this recipe over the weekend and it came out very very good. Thanks.

  25. Posto chicken dekhte darun lagche .. konodin try korini. Ekhane pujote stall gulote pawa jaye. Tobe barite banale beshi bhalo lagbe mone hocche. :-)

  26. Home Cooking is any day better. I realised this after I started staying alone. I so longed for the food prepared by my mom and then gradually realised that if at all I want similar tastes in my daily meals, I better cook myself.
    I have a full time help for the daily chores but I still prefer cooking the main dish myself.

  27. just realised that I have posted as how did that happen!

  28. i love cooking but not the cleanup and most of my friends are good cooks...if my friends are gloating, its mostly abt the cleanup help they get!!

  29. Now that is a thoughtful post. Hmm... I never cooked before I got married, though I seemed to love to avoid studying and never really cooked anything 'not special.' :)

    Now, I love pottering around the kitchen with A. I don't cook and feel horrible to cook without him. To his credit, he cooks most of the time. That is probably why I enjoy it :P About things I think we've lost out on? The total randomness in trying out recipes. Everyday I want to eat something new. And suddenly I discover that I've not cooked the most basic of dals or rasams and I really crave for some.

    I think the Internet, the explosion of interest in food, organic produce and what not - has resulted in us cooking complicated food.

  30. Thanks Everyone for the input

    As I see there are many like me who don't like the cleaning up part, in fact I don't like the chopping part too much either. But see if we can get some help with these, the whole thing is NOT hard is it ?

    I knew it was you, somehow I guessed :) I think you do a great job and cooking at least one meal, come on how many more do you want to make ? Honestly having a cook or a help is a great advantage, it kind of also brings back the joy in cooking, doesn't it ? I have problems with people who have cooks and think "cooking" is not a fitting thing to be done by themselves

    It doesn't matter who cooks as long a someone is doing it at home. I don't cook complicated stuff much, maybe not at all and hardly cooked before I moved out of the parent's home.
    But accepting global food and infusing them with your flavor like you and A do is a lovely way to create new traditions

  31. Hello Ms Sandeepa. I am Deepti. I am a Telugu married to a Bengali n living in Canada. I started my own blog couple of months ago. I love to cook. i have been always looking for Bengali recipes but yesterday I fortunately found yours. I am amazed at your art work of blogging. I have been also following mahanadi. ms Indira is an inspiration.
    I already made your chicken posto today and it was great. Thanks. I was wondering whether i can post the link of your blog on my blog so that people get to see it. I dont have much visbilitry but my husband's bachelor friends may be profited by your cook book. my blog is email is will wait for your reply and advise. Shubho bijoya

  32. I tried your posto murgi this evening. i have been reading your blog for a while now (btw, it is delightful) but today was my first attempt at actually trying one of your recipes. i am not a very proficient cook but I must say - the dish turned out great. thanks.

  33. Hey, this is cool stuff, something worth my time. Good attempt. Quiet interesting way of narrating interesting stuff. I think you have spent a lot of time in researching as some of the facts were just so shocking and never heard of. I am speechless…

  34. I really feel the same thing about cooking, as you do, Bong mom. Cooking, creating new combination of recipes, the whole experience makes me cheerful and content. I would like somebody to clean and do the dishes after I am done, but I guess I am not that lucky. I have a 11 yr old son, who I try to involve when trying out new dishes, my 22 month old prefers sitting on the kitchen counter and wash me cook and chop. cooking is not just preparing a meal to curb your hunger, but its something to nourish your soul and your bonding tooo.

    I will try the chicken posto and let you know my family's take on it.

  35. i want to know that in chiken posto which oil do u use??? mustard or sunflower?

  36. i want to know that in chilen posto which oil you use? mustard or sunflower oil?

  37. Mustard oil is best but sunflower will also do

  38. thnk u so much for ur i am going to make this dish...

  39. Why "posto'r bora" link is not available in your blog? Please publish the recipe... Thanks

  40. Could you please tell me , how to make the paste of posto ? in a grinder or Sil-nora..?

  41. Made this recipe today was truly nice. I wanted to make a version of posto murgi for my blog but konodin agey radhini boley bujhtey parchhilam na exactly how to go about the recipe. I loved the fennel seeds er flavor although skipped the tomato. Brilliant recipe!! Thanks.


Thanks for your Comments. I hope you will be nice and not Spam.