Lunchbreak: Sri’s signature chicken

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Sri Rao

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Sri’s Signature Chicken

2 Tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 bay leaves
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons garlic paste (or minced garlic)
1 heaping Tablespoon ginger paste (or minced ginger)
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon Indian red chili powder (or cayenne)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup coconut powder
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
Lemon wedges, for garnish
Onion slices, for garnish
cooked rice (any type), for serving

Heat 1 Tablespoon of the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. Season the chicken pieces with the turmeric. In multiple batches (to prevent crowding the pan), lightly brown the chicken on all sides. Remove to a plate. Heat the remaining 1 Tablespoon oil in the pan and add the bay leaves, allowing them to begin infusing the oil for 15 seconds. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until golden brown, reducing the heat if necessary to prevent burning, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger pastes and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Then add the salt, red chili powder, cinnamon, and cloves. Stir the spices into the onion, allowing them to bloom for another minute. Return the chicken to the pan. Stir well to coat all the pieces evenly with the spice paste. Decrease the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally while scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, for 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the cilantro, coconut powder, and coriander. If you’re making the dish a day ahead, turn off the heat at this point. Cool before refrigerating and then finish cooking before you serve. Decrease the heat to the lowest setting, cover, and continue cooking for another 15 minutes. Stir well. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Turn off the heat and allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes. Garnish with the lemon wedges and slices of onion. Serve with rice.

String Beans with Peanuts

1 pound green beans, washed and trimmed
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 or 3 Indian dried red chilies, broken in half
7 to 10 curry leaves
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon tamarind paste

Cut the beans into uniform pieces of any size (or leave them whole if you prefer). Heat the oil in a large saute pan or wok. Once the oil is shimmering hot, add the mustard seeds and then the dried red chilies and curry leaves. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the onion and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic powder, ginger, cumin, salt, and turmeric and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add the beans and peanuts. Cook, stirring frequently, over high heat, coating the beans with the spices, for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the coriander. Dissolve the tamarind paste in 2 Tablespoons warm water and pour into the pan. Decrease the heat, cover tightly, and finish cooking the beans, 5 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the cut. Adjust the seasoning, serve, and warn your guests not to eat the chilies.

Cucumber Raita

1 medium cucumber
16 ounces plain Greek yogurt (2% or whole)
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, plus more for serving
1/4 teaspoon Indian red chili powder (or cayenne), plus more for serving

Peel the cucumber, slice it lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds using a small spoon. Grate the cucumber and place it in a mixing bowl. Add the yogurt and onion and stir well. Add the salt, cumin, and red chili powder and stir, adding a tablespoon or two of water to thin the mixture. Cover and store in the refrigerator for a few hours (ideally) to allow the flavors to combine. Prior to serving, adjust the seasonings to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle some additional ground cumin and chili powder on top to garnish (in a pattern, if you desire, or simply dusted). Raita can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week.

Recipes used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.


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