Making the Weekday Special with Chilli Chicken

Aayush has decided that he likes to bite into things and chew his food rather than having it mashed and gulping it down. Finally! I almost had visions of feeding him mashed food into old age.

“Kha re, deva. Hoddu jatalo!!”.. “Eat it, my lord. Make you a big boy!” .

Amazing how he can set his tooth grinders on when he is eating a chakuli (murruku) or tukdi or even potato chips. But, a roti or rice, god forbid if he would chew through them. After a lot of explaining, showing him how dad (and all ‘big boys’) eat, trying to enforce the rule by refusing to mash his food and finally, breaking down and just praying to god for salvation, the bugger decides to eat like a grown up. So what pushes him to do it ? Not peer pressure, not shame, not wanting to be a ‘big boy’ nor any of my culinary creations. Oh no!! It was the blasted Chick-Fil-A Chicken Nuggets. Not that I have anything against them. Rather them than the ones at MacDonalds, I say. It is the sheer perverse-ness of it that frustrates me. After going through a lot of struggle to avoid getting him on the fast food bandwagon (struggle, not only because of the sheer amount of outlets and Ads , but because we have had to avoid it, too), the one food that drives him to take that next very important step in his development comes straight out of a fast food chain. Ugggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!

Thats kids for you. So, how does the a two year old with parents trying hard not to expose him to fast food, come across a Chick-Fil-A Chicken nugget? Ah, see , thats a whole other can of worms. Of late, there have been discontent in the family about the food that coming out my kitchen during week days. Discontent that they were just not as exciting as before. Discontent that began erupting with mild comments, mild comments that turned into mutterings when food was served, mutterings that turned into snide comments, and snide comments that finally became loud complaints. When even those didn’t have the desired effect, they decided to hit it where it really hurts! The ego. Oh yes, the hubby coming home with one of the drive-thru specials was becoming a regular feature and signs of a full blown mutiny were apparent. I was not ready to give in, though, and a full blown war was about to start, when Aayush decided, he liked fast food.

And, peace was sketched out between the waring factions (read, the parents) in the interest of the innocent people (read, the kids) whose life was blown apart by the silent war (though I am sure, Aayush doesn’t look at it that way). It was decided that something “exciting” (in terms of food!) will be made mid-week, the day hubby comes home at the same time as me, and that he would help in any way he can, begining with staying out of the kitchen and making sure the kids stay away, too. He was very happy with that suggestion. Poor guy, has no idea the tornado that is going to hit him in the form of two kids who have missed their parents the whole day. *snicker, snicker*

So, the good news is, Aayush likes chicken and that means a quick route to good proteins for him and another reason for us ( S and me) to gorge on chickens and hubby takes care of the kids for one WHOLE evening. Not a bad deal. I began the healing process with some darn good, Indo-Chinese concoction that I guess would be known as fast-food in India, but since I make it at home, is alright ;).


Cube into bite size pieces

3 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast

Make a paste of the following and marinate the chicken in it for about an hour.

1 tbsp Red Chilli Powder
1 tbsp Soya Sauce (Dark or lite, I prefer the dark)
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tbsp Cornflour

In a large frying pan, heat up

a couple tbsp of Peanut Oil

Shallow-fry the chicken cubes in the oil. If you have used a large enough pan, you will be able to do this in two rounds. Follow the usual rules. Don’t over crowd the pan, don’t try moving the chicken around for a couple minutes until a shake to the pan has it dancing in the pan. Usually, with chicken pieces this small, you know you are ready to turn them when the side on top if white with small pink center on top. Drain on paper towels when cooked through. Cool. This part you can do ahead of time. I have to warn you though that the family might think they are chicken pakoda and finish them off.

Raise the heat on the remaining oil (there should be about 2 tbsp oil, if there isn’t add more), add

2 whole dried red chillies (optional)
1/2 cup sliced Green Onions
(usually a bunch. only the white part, save the green for garnish)
1 tbsp chopped Garlic
4-5 chillies slit length-wise

Stir fry for 2 minutes. Add

2 tbsp Soya Sauce
2 tbsp Chilli-Garlic Sauce (you get these in most grocery stores)

Add salt, depending on taste. Usually, with that amount of soya sauce, its not necessary. Mix to coat all the chicken with the sauce. Stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Remove from flame and top with

chopped greens from the green onions
(That sounds very knowledgeable,doesn’t it?)

I served this with dal and rice. But, it works as an excellent finger-food,too.

And All was as should should be and peace reigned the kingdom again. With the mutiny squashed, the queen was joyous. The king was happy with the time he was getting with the kids and the prince and the princess were just happy with the attention. The chicken nuggets got to stay in the outlets where the bad grown ups (us) can go and pig out without the kids knowing about it. Everyone gobbled down on the ‘exciting’ home-made food, and they lived happily ever after

…………………………………………………………….until the next meal.


Chicken 65 or 66 or whatever…

I am always looking for recipes that serve as good finger food at dinner parties. The kind of dinner parties I host are mostly impromptu ones .Ones that  do not leave me with much time for menu planning and shopping, much less going through long winded ingredient lists.Thats why, recipes that use few ingredients and stuff that are almost always part of my pantry, rate high on my list of preferred dishes. Also important, is not just how easy it is to make but also how easy it is to remember . Last minute entertainment does not allow for constant double checking of a recipe.

 It is rarely that one comes across something that satisfies all the above criteria. But when one does, you etch it into your brain.This is an amazing dish that requires just 5 ingredients (well 6 if you count the salt) , no 8 hour marination jhanjat and is a jiff to make. Its called Chicken 65.

Why 65 you say? Apparently , it was number 65 on some trucker's dhaba's Menu list in madras.  That also explains why this recipe uses Sambhar Powder instead of the usual Garam Masala. Sambhar Masala and Chicken…..huh…never tried that before.I found it in the depths of eGullet Forums. The fact that this was a chicken dish was what attracted me to it in the first place. (Dear S loves chicken!!). Given the small ingredient list, and the fact that it does not drown the chicken in all the spices that one can think of,I couldn't get it out of my mind. This weekend ,I decided to give it a try. Alas, No chicken at home.

ME : You know , I forgot to get some stuff when I went out grocery shopping yesterday

S:    hmmmmph….So Whats New?

ME : I was hoping you would go out and get some of it.

S:   <irritated>Can't you make something else?

Me : I actually wanted to try out this fab chicken recipe that I got, you know, chicken 65.

S:    <salivating>Chicken 65???..Cant you skip that ingredient and still make it.

Me : <coughing>Its the chicken that I'm missing.

S : <muttering on the way to his car>You really should make a list. Your Inventory Management sucks!

Ten Minutes later………..

Armed with all the ingredients, I started putting it together.

Start with a cup of Yogurt.The recipe calls for hung thick yogurt. I didn't have the patience to do it, so just put in regular yogurt. In goes 2 tbsp of Sambhar Powder,2 tbsp Chili Powder, 2 tbsp ginger/garlic paste and salt.  Put in cubed skinless boneless chicken and Mix well. Keep aside for an hour. Just enough time to bathe the kids and make some veggie pulao for lunch…..

An hour later………

The marinade has become watery…must be why the recipe suggested hung thick yogurt. Note to Self :  Next time Use Hung Thick Yogurt!! :)) .Decanted the top watery portion of the marinade.Next, the recipe suggests heat 1/2 cup oil. Started with half the quantity.Heat the oil in a wok ,throw in chicken, marinade and all. Cook on high flame stirring every now and then.The marinade first becomes watery , and then starts cooking,giving out the most delicious aromas. S starts making rounds to the kitchen.

"Is it ready yet?"

"No Dear, 10 more mins".

10 mins later…..

The Yogurt mixture has cooked into a very aromatic dry sauce that is coating the chicken but not completely dry as to classify as finger food. At this point, I, of course, had to add my own touch to it and decided to add onion rings to the mixture. Keep cooking and stirring till it all dries out. At this point, the yogurt mixture has evaporated completely and become one entity with the chicken and the onions are nicely caramelised with the yogurt coating. Remove from Flame and empty into serving bowl. Add a tadka(seasoning) of black mustard seeds and curry leaves. Garnished with fresh chopped coriander leaves.

"Can I try some?"

"Sure, I am gonna take a look at what the kids are upto in the meantime"


2 mins later…..

"I saved a couple of pieces for you"

"But I made them for lunch"

"Hey, You were the one that said it was finger food"


"Finger food is always eaten before the main meal"


"So, What were the kids upto?"

Note to Self : Next time try it with Paneer or better yet Tofu..

The actual recipe….

500 gms boneless chicken cut into thick shreds(Approx 1 cm by 2 cm) 
Marinade :

1 cup hung thick yogurt(dahi),

2 tbsps sambar powder,

2 tbsps red chilli powder,

2 tbsps ginger garlic paste

and salt to taste.
Marinate Chicken for an hour.

Heat 1/2 cup of oil.Stir fry Chicken till the yogurt mixture dries up. remove from flame. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a small pan. Add 1/2 tsp Black mustard seeds. After they start popping, add curry leaves. Pour over cooked chicken.Serve hot garnished with coriander leaves.