Can chicken chaap with mutton biryani be compared with the opening spell of bowling by Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis? I have seen Imran Khan and Wasim Akram in 1987 (the time is important, as with age the fast bowlers mellow down a little bit), Courtney Walsh and Curtley Ambrose of West Indies and Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock of South Africa. However, the first one was the deadliest pair! They complemented each other just like the Chicken Chaap does when presented with Mutton Biryani.
I often wondered what makes that a deadly combination. The generally oily/ ghee laden yet non sticky rice of the Biryani with the moist mutton (bone or boneless) on one hand and the leg piece with the gravy which has been prepared on purpose with gram flour ( some grated coconut at few places too) to give it a slight texture, is like a jugalbandi where the music compliments each other with no one trying to out perform the other.
Chicken Chaap has its origin in the Awadhi cuisine and just like Biryani happened to Kolkata (or Kolkata happened to Biryani?), chicken chaap also happened to Kolkata. The Muslim run restaurants made it a regular in their menu and in no less time, the dish became popular. Which place serves the best Chicken chaap in Kolkata ? Almost all the Mughlai joints deserve a shoutout but this is a recipe from Royal India Hotel, which is more than 105 years old and one of the pioneers in Biryani and chaap. However most of the joints have their own version and equally likable chaap like at Arsalan or Nizam or Shiraz or India Hotel.
I reframe this. Chicken chaap and Mutton Biryani is not Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. In my era, one of the deadliest combinations was Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. Two different styles and different genres but when played together in a match ,they have sent shivers down the spine of the opposition and made Australia win many a match. After all, its no mean feat to feature amongst the top 5 International wicket takers in Test Matches from the same team during the same era. Imagine what the opponents would have gone through. In case you are a ‘2 W’ fan, then smile. Wasim and Waqar are the 2nd and 3rd all time highest wicket takers in One day Internationals.
Honestly, I have never been as much a fan of Chicken chaap as I am of Kosha Mangsho. Nothing against this great Awadhi awesomeness but as most of the preferences change over time, with age and circumstances this was also not different. It is like one of those innumerable unfortunate opening batsmen who`could never survive long enough from the wrath of Glenn McGrath to finally face the magician named Shane Warne. I always had a tendency to dominate the Biryani just like most batsmen would have foolishly tried to dominate Pigeon (as the giant McGrath was known as) and most often, would get deceived by the quantity of food in 1 plate of Biryani and got out. Now with age, as the eating style has is now of a consolidator, I wait to get over the temptation of finishing the Biryani and look forward to the mind games with the chicken chaap just as one would do with Shane Warne.
Here is how Madhushree prepared the chicken chaap. During one of the many visits that we make to Royal Indian Hotel since it has opened in Ballygunge, we were waiting for our parcel (the takeaway as its called in hotel lingo) . The bawarchi who was manning the front counter where the chicken chaap was being fried in a humungous tawa filled with ghee seemed to recognise me as a regular at the Chitpur outlet. As we started chatting an outline of the recipe with some details ( no bawarchi shares secret recipe of chaap or kebab) was obtained. This is an effort to get the complete layout of the recipe.
- 1 Whole Chicken
- 2 1/2 Tbsp Garlic Paste
- 1 Tbsp Red Chili Powder
- 1 1/2 pinch Saffron
- 1/2 Tsp Meetha Atar optional
- 1/2 Cup Yogurt
- 2 Tbsp Ginger Paste
- 1 1/2 Tsp Garam Masala Powder
- 1/2 Tbsp Kewra Water
- 3 Tbsp Bengal Gram Flour
- 1/2 Cup Ghee
- Salt To Taste
- Soak the saffron strands in ¼ cup of water for about ½ hour or till it releases a beautiful colour.
- Ask your butcher to cut the chicken in large pieces (basically quarters of chicken), so that you have 2 leg- thigh pieces and two breast pieces with the wings. The balance you can use it up for a curry or for making stock.
- Prick the chicken pieces with a fork in several places and then marinate with all the ingredients except ghee. Keep it for 6 hours or more. If you are keeping in the refrigerator, remember to bring it to room temperature before cooking.
- In a frying pan, add ghee and when it heats, add the chicken pieces after shaking off most of the marination.
- Over high heat, fry the chicken to give some colour and seal the moisture inside.
- Once you have browned it a bit, add the rest of the marinated juices and turn the heat to medium.
- Then from medium to low heat, let the chicken cook. First cover it for 5 – 7 minutes and then you will notice the chicken releasing a lot of water.
- Remove the cover and slowly cook the chicken on low to medium flame.
- Do not add any water and let the chicken cook in its own juices. If you feel that the spices are drying up, only then sprinkle some warm water and cover and cook.
- It requires some patience and a watchful eye so that the spices don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Check the seasoning and add more if required.
- The gravy will slowly change colour from a bright yellow to a dark brown.
- In about 25 to 30 minutes (sometimes more depending on the size of the chicken pieces), the chicken should be cooked.
- Finally add a bit of kewra water. You can leave this out if you do not like the fragrance of kewra water. Increase or decrease the heat depending upon the consistency of the gravy that you desire.
- Serve with some naan or hot rice.