Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chicken 65 -- near perrfect

Chicken 65 Recipe

Chicken 65

Chicken 65 has lately become a very popular appetizer across almost all  Indian restaurants. We had first had it only in restaurants in southern part of India, mainly the ones specializing in spicy Andhra food. There are several funny trivia stories about the naming of this dish, which may or may not be true. My recipe of Chicken 65 is  about 10+ years old and is still one of our favorites. The last step in the recipe gives it a kick and makes it moist even when using low oil. Try it.

While there was much furor going over nothing and people were discussing gender issues and such, I had a very basic question to ask.

Why paint a child's nail ? Kohl rimmed eyes and kala tikka, I can understand. They are not makeup. There is scientific evidence that they ward off evil eyes.Or, maybe not. But neon pink nail paint ? What the good will it do ?

I have chipped nail polish on my toe nails from six months ago. The last time I managed to go to a nail salon, there was a 7 year old sitting besides me getting a pedicure. I cringed. Not because my toes could scar a 7 year old (ok, that is a possibility) but the fresh beautiful feet of a seven year old does not need pedicure.Period.

My 7 year old has had nail paint on her toes twice. Once she was at some friend's place and beyond my control, the second time she begged that I let her put on the only shade of nail paint I have. I let her because I had to finish some very important work and I knew if I let her do it she won't ask again. The nail paint has almost dried out and she has never asked since.

If anyone has to make a statement why nail paint, I say.


Before we delve into the recipe for Chicken 65 let me tell you Chicken 65 is NOT my birthright. My Ma never made it, nor did her mother or her mother's mother. Ok you get the drift, right ? My Ma-in-law never made it either. No one in my family has ever made Chicken 65 unless I go back five generations ago, at which point I have no clue. But by the theory of extrapolation I can safely say, even they did not make Chicken 65.

Heck, I did not even taste Chicken 65 until I moved to Bengaluru in my twenties. My first Chicken 65 was at this place called Krishna Chinnai in Koramangala. They had red plastic tables, blue or white or maybe even red plastic chairs, potted palms whose fronds bristled your bare arms resting on the greasy red tables in anticipation of the food.. We always went there for dinner, after dark, so beyond this I did not see. The food as I remember was hot, spicy searing hot andhra biryani, fiery hot chicken 65 and everything else with loads of kari patta and chili. That inspired us to go back there more often.

Here in the east coast of US, in the suburbs of NYC, where the assimilation of all Indian cultures is much more than I have ever seen in a single Indian state, Chicken 65 is always on the menu of an Andhra restaurant and on the charts in most Indian restaurants. The chicken looks red, as if the gulal from last Holi hasn't rubbed off them. I feel queasy. Sometimes they are double or triple fried in the stale hot oil of the fryer and I have second thoughts on my order. And yet I cannot get over those spicy hot morsels of Chicken.

Chicken 65 Recipe

Theory no.1:The story goes that an English traveller visiting Kerala in 1965 asked a chef to make this dish. The traveller expressed his contentment at the result and left, whereupon the bar staff tried the remainders, having never seen anything like it before. The result certainly was good and Chicken 65 was born, there being no other name for it.

Theory no.2:As legend has it, in all the country liquor bars, the favourite ‘food fight’ is: who can eat the maximum number of chillies? It is a symbol of machismo to be able to eat the most chilies. An enterprising hotelier capitalised on this and cooked up the dish Chicken 65, denoting that 65 chillies were used for every kilogram of chicken. Some chefs believe it is called so because of the 65 ingredients used in making it.

Theory no.3:It was the 65th. item on the menu of a restaurant at Palghat

4 years back inspired by fellow bloggers I made my first chicken 65. It was delicious. Over the years though I have refurbished my Chicken 65 recipe, bits from here, a little from there and slowly the dish started coming out as I expected it to. I shunned the red food color and the MSG(ajina moto), I adjusted the chilli when the kids wanted their share. Finally I can say I have a Chicken 65 that is almost perfect. People like it, the kids love their version, we love it. What more can I ask for ?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Shubho Nabo Borsho -- Happy Bengali New Year


Wishing all of you a very Happy New Year
I have not cooked anything special for New Year tomorrow. We celebrated today by ordering Thai Take Out. Tomorrow we will go to the nearby Guruvayoor temple and eat tamarind rice, if they have any that is. No wonder they say the earth is flat.


The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring. ~Bern Williams

The flip-flops finally get their chance in the Sun


You can't see Canada across lake Erie, but you know it's there. It's the same with spring. You have to have faith, especially in Cleveland. ~Paul Fleischman

And I am not even in Cleveland


Yesterday the twig was brown and bare;
To-day the glint of green is there;
Tomorrow will be leaflets spare;
I know no thing so wondrous fair,
No miracle so strangely rare.
I wonder what will next be there!
~L.H. Bailey

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Methi Dal -- simple rants


**This is my pet rant. Brings out the dying, old feminist in me. While nouveau feminists have more important matters to deal with, me, I love this one. Solves my purpose **

Why is it that we women, educated and enlightened like a Sylvania Laxman 100watt bulb, tell the woman, whose husband loads the dishwasher every night, "You are so very lucky".Can someone please come up and ascribe some luck to the male too.

Why do we assume that just because the husband makes the occasional Sunday breakfast, the wife is a lazy slob who polishes her nails while all other house work gets done magically.

Why do we keep on insisting that the woman whose husband does a fantastic "dal tadka" should actually prostrate and worship the ground her husband walks on ?

Why do we think that it is perfectly natural for the wife to work outside the home, cook, clean, take care of kids and tell her it is really easy for her because her husband can change diapers ?

Why do we think that in the secret of their home the wife surely paints her face and dons a Nazi suit, how else can we explain the husband to remember buying "organic brown eggs" when there is "organic brown eggs" written on the grocery list ?

Why do we women think husbands helping around the house is an anomaly rather than the norm ?

I mean what happened to all that feminism thing and demand for equal work and pay and all that hogwash.

Hey, if we keep applauding and going "awwww" for every guy(in the capacity of a spouse and not your offspring) who manages to bake a cake at home aren't we lowering the standards or something? Where is the motivation if he sees his basic skill set is held at the pinnacle of excellence and he would be the best fit for any lucky woman with an open requisition for husband position ?

Do we even understand that this pulls down the global standard for men helping with housework and there could be serious consequences if we all live beyond 2012 ?

Disclaimer: Any resemblance to characters in real life is purely unintentional. As if.


My Methi Dal is just my regular Dal made magical with Methi Greens(Fenugreek Greens). For more of a star kind of Methi Dal, check this.


My Methi Dal
Step 1: Wash part Masoor, part yellow Moong Dal in several changes of water --> put in Pressure Cooker with a pinch of turmeric, a roughly chopped tomato and enough water(water should not overwhelm the dal, very important, copyright Sra) --> cook till dal is done --> roughly mash the dal

Step 2: While Dal is cooking, wash and chop methi greens. I just go snip, snip with my scissors. That is as much patience I can muster.

Step 3: Heat Oil or ghee in a deep, thick bottomed cooking pot. Temper the oil with few cumin seeds, 1 clove of garlic minced and thinly sliced onions. When the onion starts browning, I said browning and NOT burning, so take care. Anyway when it starts getting brown or whatever color deemed fit, add the chopped methi leaves. Saute for a minute and those leaves will start wilting.

Step 4: Add the cooked dal and saute for couple of minutes. Add salt and sugar to adjust. Add some slit green chili if you are that kind. Now add the dal water or if no dal water regular water.

Step 5: Bring to a boil and adjust the consistency. Squeeze lime juice to finish off.

Step 6: Serve with rice, ghee and aloo methi.

Step 7: Experience Bliss.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Red Goan Chicken -- from Anjum's New Indian


In the last couple of weeks, I have been in deep s*** where time and work is concerned. There is loads of work and very less of time. I don't know how I got myself into this situation but I really want to go and live in Venus with its longer days.

On top of all this the husband will have to move to a work location, beyond everyday commutable distance and so he intends to do a Mon-Thur which essentially leaves me in sole charge of two tiny human beings and their music/taekwondo/swimming/studies/tantrums/fun-moments/life for whole 72 hours and some.

Yeah, yeah M Didi is still around but really not of much help in the evenings. She is not one of those enthu, proactive people you hate at work. She believes in taking things slow, real slow and relaxing a lot which is a mighty good work ethic I must say.


In between all this I have been doing my usual cooking because I feel one of the many purpose that God had in mind while putting me on earth involves offering healthy home-cooked meal to my kids. Yeah, I am a believer that way. But since I have very very little time I cannot go into the details.

Also due to lack of good ol' time, I cannot tell you how embarrassed I am that I did not do a review of Anjum's New Indian(author Anjum Anand) which I received 2 months back. Or say that how beautiful her book is with lush pictures of food. Or how gorgeous, calm and composed she looks hovering over the big pot, very unlike my harried, sweating self over similar pots. Or how her book has nice simple recipes plucked from all around India and then tweaked for the New Indian, whoever he is.


Only thing I can tell you is this Red Goan Chicken Curry from her book is fabulous. The kind that would make you say "De la grandi mephistopheles", like Tenida. I will put down her exact recipe here and then in the Notes I will tell you what all changes I made. Yes, I can never ever leave a recipe unchanged, what can I say ?


Red Goan Chicken Curry

Make Goan Red Spice Paste

2 large, mild, fresh red chilies, desseded
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1&1/2tsp coriander seeds
3 cloves
6 black peppercorns
171/2" piece of cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground turmeric
9 large cloves of garlic peeled
1 tsp tamarind paste
3/4tsp sugar
3/4tsp salt
1/3 cup white vinegar

Note: I skipped the Tamarind. Used 2 dry red chili, did not deseed.

Make Red Goan Chicken

Note: I started off by marinating 1&1/2-2lb of chicken pieces in 1 tsp of ginger paste, 1 tsp garlic paste, salt and 1/4tsp of turmeric. This is not suggested in the book. Anything under Notes is not as per the book.

Heat 4 tbsp Oil in a large saucepan

Add 1 large onion sliced and cook until browned around 10 minutes.

Add 4tbsp of Goan Red Spice paste and cook for 2-3 minutes

Add 4 large tomatoes chopped, salt to taste and cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes have softened and reduced. Uncover the pan and cook the tomatoes further in their juice for 6-8 minutes, stirring in between till you see oil separating from the masala.
Note: I used only 1 large juicy red tomato

Add the chicken pieces(1&1/2lb chicken skinned) and stir well in the pan for a few minutes.
Note: I did this until the chicken pieces were lightly browned

Add 1 cup of water, bring to boil and cover. Cook covered till chicken is done.

Remove the cover, turn the heat up and boil off excess moisture in the pan, tossing the chicken in the reducing gravy all the time. Also check for salt and seasonings and adjust.

Note: This dish was pretty mild and perfect for us and the kids. I would increase heat up a notch by adding a little red chili powder otherwise. I also garnished the dish with some fresh chopped corriander.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Fried Shrimp with Plum Sauce and Sesame Seeds

I had a different post for this week. But then Wednesday happened.And tomorrow is happening, so I could not possibly post a recipe which was blah. And I am not even a cricket fanatic. I am the kinds who watch the last two overs if India has chance to win or lose as the case may be. It is the "chance" thing that gets my adrenaline rushing rather than the actual nittie-gritties of the match. It is like seeing God in action.

Other than the "blah" recipe, there was this shrimp sitting in my draft which was succulent and delicious with just the right balance of sweet and spicy and perfect for a finger licking celebratory snack. The shrimp however did not have a pretty picture to give it company. Actually it had no picture. But a picture or two or even the lack of it cannot really undermine the way a shrimp will taste. It is bound to taste beautiful. That is how it is meant to be.

So I thought this is the dish it is going to be, if you want a quick pick-me-upper during tomorrow's nerve wracking moment. I have decided to sleep and catch the last two overs wonly. Thank You.

This dish started out with a different objective in mind. Two or Three months ago, I found this recipe which was awesome and asked for sesame seeds and plum sauce and of course shrimp.

I did not have sesame seeds or plum sauce. Never do. currently I have none at all.

I bought them.

I proceeded to make the dish which comprised of a gravy of sesame seed paste, tomatoes, plum sauce and what not.It was for a party I was having the next day.

The gravy looked or tasted nothing like it was intended to be. At least what I had thought of as "intended to be". I am sure I had messed up somewhere and so I had this big bowl of reddish tomatoey gravy tasting nothing like it should.

The husband said it tasted like "Tomato Thokku" and he doesn't even know what a thokku tastes like.

I had two options:

1. Redo the same dish with fresh new ingredients -- Boring and hazy future
2. Create a new dish with shrimp, sesame seeds and plum sauce and let the current gravy sit in the refrigerator. -- Fried shrimp bound to be a crowd pleaser. So, yes.

The fried shrimp with sesame seeds and plum sauce turned out to be divine unlimited. It was served with a dip of the remaining shrimp joos and more plum sauce. The shrimps were gone as soon as they were served. No wonder, I eat my share of shrimp while cooking it.

Eat your shrimp and root for your team or if you say "What is Cricket?" just eat the shrimp.


Fried Shrmp with Plum Sauce and Sesame Seeds

All measurements eyeballed, go with your instinct.

Make a paste of
1 small onion
2" peeled and chopped ginger

Marinade 1 lb of cleaned & deveined shrimp in
onion + ginger paste
1 tbsp of Plum Sauce
salt to taste
1 tsp of lime juice
1/2 tsp of Kasmiri Mirch/Paprika
1/2 tsp of Pepper powder

for 30 minutes

Heat white Oil

Add 1 tsp of sesame seeds and 2-3 broken, crumbled red chili/chili pepper flakes

When the spices sizzle, add the chopped white bulbs of green onions

Follow with the shrimp. Add as many shrimp as can fit in a single layer.Saute the shrimp till they turn pinkish white. Add 1-2 tsp of Plum sauce and some more of the chopped green onion. Toss together. Remove to a serving plate. Do this for all of the shrimp

Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds and serve. Use the liquid in the fry pan, some more plum sauce and some hot sauce to make a dipping sauce.