I wish I could have said I was born into this recipe. But sorry to disappoint. Many of you have been born into it for sure as you have been with recipes of creme brulee and chocolate gateau. But nope. Not me. Darn, my Ma.
In fact for a large part of my childhood, the chaanp and biriyani, the Mughlai influence on Bengali cuisine eluded me. You see we were probashi bangalis, the clan of Bengalis that live and breathe oxygen outside the state of West Bengal or rather Calcutta. In the town steeped in history that we lived, chaap or chaaNp was not a much known affair. At least wasn't in the years when I was a 8-9 year old. When we ate out, it was largely Naan and chicken curry, dosa and sambhar, even chowmein and chilli chicken. But never a "Chicken ChaaNp".
In our annual pilgrimage to Calcutta, the heart of Bengal, during the winter vacation, the "chaaNp" and "biriyani" should have showed up frequently. But surprisingly it didn't with that much regularity. My maternal grandparents lived in North Calcutta, a more traditional neighborhood where sweet stores like "Kalika Mistanno Bhandar" selling karapak sandesh and mishti doi in earthen pots and small telebhaja stores selling beguni and chop, dotted the streets. Moghlai Parota and fish kabiraji were still to be found, but in those years, restaurants like Rahmania and Aminia had not stretched their franchise hand to the Northern paras with rezalas and nawabi biriyanis.
The Mughlai restaurants like Nizam, Shiraz, Sabir, Aminia and others were all concentrated around Park Circus and Park Street areas where clientele were much more varied and there was a larger Muslim and anglo-Indian population. You must remember I am talking about the fag end of 70s and early 80s here. So we rarely tasted a"Chicken chaaNp" or a "rezala", those being earmarked for the one day we would traipse down New Market. On all other days of the vacation I was happy to eat Dida's koraishutir kochuri, puffed and filled with sweet paste of sweet green winter peas and a soupy magur maacher jhol and rice.
So you see my childhood memories were not inundated by the rich and exquisite Mughlai cuisine that has seeped into Kolkata's restaurant culture
"The influence was reinforced in the Raj era, when Kolkata became the place of refuge for many prominent exiled Nawabs, especially the family of Tipu Sultan from Mysore and Wajid Ali Shah, the ousted Nawab of Awadh. The exiles brought with them hundreds of cooks and masalchis (spice mixers), and as their royal patronage and wealth diminished, they interspersed into the local population. These highly accomplished cooks came with the knowledge of a very wide range of spices (most notably jafran saffron and mace), the extensive use of ghee as a method of cooking, and special ways of marinating meats. In Bangladesh, this food has over time become the staple food of the populace.
In West Bengal, however, this has remained more than the other categories, the food of professional chefs; the best examples are still available at restaurants. " - Source Wiki
It was only in the early 90's when being in college and traveling more on my own and with friends in Calcutta, that I became familiar with the "chaaNp" or "chaap". This was also the time, rezala from Sabir's and Biriyani from Shiraz became food that I came to adore. I was smitten by the Mughlai cuisine that Bengal had adapted.
However I did not try to learn to cook it. It was always available and in the 90's pretty easily. Also I rarely cooked then.
The Chicken ChaaNp that I am going to write about today is a recipe that has built itself over days. The base came from a friend, on that I added bits of experience and flavors of my own Garam masala, the idea of charmagaz(melon seeds) and rose water came from Sayantani's post which I adapted and replaced with poppy seed-cashew paste, the lust for it came from Indrani's chicken chaap and Preeoccupied's Kosha Mutton ChaaNp.
Though Mutton Chaap is made with usually ribs, the chicken chaaNp I have had were always made with leg quarters in a thick but not clingy gravy with a fine layer of oil floating on top. The key to the recipe is marinating the meat in a onion-ginger-garlic-garam masala-kewra water paste and then cooking in ghee over slow heat on a pan with a flatter surface. I however have used only very little ghee. The slow cooking anyway releases a lot of oil at the end so I feel the amount I use is fine. You are welcome to use more ghee for a richer version.
The poppy seed-cashew paste gives a thicker texture to the gravy, the kind I remember and the kewra water gives it the Mughlai scent.
The dish actually is pretty easy to make. Do not get intimidated by the Steps under Prep. They are all very simple. So if you are all set for a Nawabi evening go ahead and indulge yourself. Serve this dish with some biriyani but I would say store-bought Naan does most justice to the dish and also cuts your effort in half.
Make Garam Masala powder according to my recipe. My Garam masala has cardamom, clove, cinnamon, little javetri(mace) and dry red chillies. It is really aromatic and will add more flavor to the dish. We will use about 1 tbsp of this Garam Masala
This is my favorite step.
Instead of chopping onions in fine thin slices ,I will just chop
2 medium sized onion in large chunks.
Chop, chop done
Now boil the onions till just soft but not mushy
Note: I use boiled onion for two reasons. Raw onion paste tends to get bitter at times. It also takes longer to cook raw onion paste. If you want, go ahead and use raw onion paste but remember to cook it for a longer time.
Make ginger-garlic paste with
8 fat clove of garlic
1 heaped tbsp of chopped ginger
splash of water
Almost 2-3 tbsp of ginger-garlic paste in all
In a blender jar add
the boiled onion
1/2 cup of thick hung yogurt/greek yogurt
and make a paste
In a bowl add
the onion + yogurt paste you just made
the ginger-garlic paste
1/2 tbsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Red Chilli Powder
2 tsp Turmeric powder
few drops of Kewra water
few drops of Rose water
We will use half of this as marinade and rest half in gravy. So store half of this paste in a separate container to be used later.
In a large-is tray put the washed pieces of chicken.
I had 4 leg pieces. Total weight 2.5lb(~1kg)
Make slit in the chicken pieces and rub with salt and about 1/2 tbsp of Garam Masala powder.
Next add half of the marinade to the chicken pieces and mix well. Leave it overnight for the flavor to seep into the chicken. If not overnight at least 3-4 hours is recommended,
In a pan with a flat bottom heat
2 tbsp oil
+ 1 tsp ghee
Note: I try to cook most of my food low in oil and ghee and so my oil and ghee proportions are much less than what you might see in other recipes. I am perfectly ok with this as we are not too much into oily food. But if you want to make the dish richer do increase the ghee a little
Temper the oil with a 2" stick of cinnamon and a Tejpata
Now add a tsp of sugar to the oil and brown the oil by swirling the pan.
Next lower the heat and add in the onion-yogurt-ginger-garlic-spices paste you had prepared and stored. Fry this paste for about 5-6 minutes at low medium heat.
Shake off excess marinade from the chicken pieces and add them to the pan. Do not overcrowd them and the pieces should lie side by side. Cook/Fry the chicken pieces till their raw coloring is gone and they have taken on a light yellow coloring. Do not deep fry the chicken and they should not turn brown.
Now add a wet paste of
1 tbsp poppy seeds
+ 1 tbsp cashew
Note: Soak poppy seeds and cashew for 10 mins and then make the paste
Also add the remaining chicken marinade and some salt to taste. Gently mix and cook for 6-8 minutes.
Cover the pan now and at low-medium heat let the chicken cook. Usually the chicken will release water and will get cooked in its own juice. No need to add any extra water. However if it is getting too dry, add little water judiciously. It will take around 30-40 minutes for the chicken to get fully cooked.
Once the chicken is done and a thin layer of oil has surfaced, taste the gravy and adjust for seasonings. At this point if you wish, you can also dry off the gravy a little. Add few more drops of kewra water at this point if you wish.
Serve with Biriyani or Naan. I have seen the gravy and chicken tastes much better when had the next day. So give some time for the flavors to mingle before you serve.
More such recipes around blogs:
Sukanya's Mutton Chaap