Spicy Chicken Kokum Masala Curry is inspired by the “Kundapura Chicken Curry” , from the Kundapur region of Karnataka. I have tried to recreate this dish using whole spices like bay leaf, cardamom pods, cloves, black peppercorns and cinnamon and homemade tandoori masala powder for that extra spice. Flavors of Bunt Chilli Powder, the tanginess added by the Kokum extract, the freshness of the curry leafs and the onion-tomato gravy make this chicken curry delightful , aromatic and tasty, succulence par excellence.
To learn more about Kokum and Bunt Chilli Powder, see my post – Mangalore Fish Curry.
India is known for its love for food and spices, wide range of food preparation styles,cooking techniques and culinary presentation. In this post, we try to go depth into the advent of non-veg cuisine in India. According to K.T. Achaya in “The Historical Dictionary of Indian Food”, the people of pre-Aryan times had no reservation in eating the karugu or kozhi(chicken), as reflected in the Sangam Literature.
Non-Vegetarian food has been enormously cooked, eaten and relished in every corner of India, since ancient times. The Kashmiri cuisine is laced with saffron and other aromatic herbs such as aniseed, fenugreek, ginger, asafoetida, red chillies, almonds, walnuts, sultanas,and poppy seeds. The royal chefs used these ingredients to create delicious dishes like yakhani gosht( meat cooked in herbs), abgosht(meat cooked in thick milk with spices), rogan josh( richly spiced meat, cooked in curd, and coloured with the petals of coxcomb flower), to name a few. Lamb was the main meat used in Kashmiri cuisine.
The Awadh cuisine flourished under the rule of the Nawabs of Awadh, specifically under Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah. He is known in history as a great connoisseur of food and in his rein, several culinary skills such as Dum style cooking and the preparation of kushtas were developed. Dumpukht cooking involves marinating the meat in curd along with spices, herbs and dry fruit, sealing it in pots and cooking it over low flame. In this way, all the subtle flavors and aromas of the spices and herbs were trapped in the food, thus makes it delicious and aromatic.
Delicacies like murgh korma and kaju murgh with their white gravies of milk and almonds or curd and nuts, were created to match the ambience of the Taj Mahal for Emperor Shah Jahan.
The Hyderabad Cuisine under the Nizam of Hyderabad, saw the creation of great delicacies like shikampuri or stuffed kabab, nawabi murgh, korma or curries and the heavenly khurbani ka meetha made of pureed apricots.
In Bengal, PanchPhoron- a mixture of five spices: onion seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and fenugreek lends aroma to delicious and spicy preparation of fish, meat and even vegetarian dishes.Such is the beautilful preparation of Bengali food, that runs from a bitter start to a sweet finish, that even the Brahmins were allowed to eat meat, except on religious days.
In the north, Himachal Pradesh, untouched by any invaders, has a food culture that is reminiscent of the Indus Valley Civilization. The royal cooks created exotic meat and chicken dishes like madra murgh, khatta gosht, chhach gosht, using curd, milk, ghee and dry fruits as other ingredients.
In the west, Rajasthan the land of desserts is known for its meat preparations like sunthakhas-barbecued meat, chaklikhas- roasted seasoned pork, kavachandi- lamb fried with gram and spices, Khad Murgh, Lal Murgh, suffaid murgh and makkai murgh.
Towards the south, different communities follow differnt techniques today. For instance the Goans from the north grind their masala and coconut separately, while those in the south prefer to grind them together and then straining through a muslin cloth.While the Christians use vinegar, the Hindus prefer Kokum , a sour Indian plum, to provide tang to their dishes(as used in this recipe). Though fish is popular with all Goans, the Hindus prefer lamb and chicken, and the Christians prefer pork.
The South Indian Cuisine use a periperi masala of mild red chillies and a cafreal masala of green chillies. The coconut milk finds a special mention in the South Indian cuisine. Vinegar, tamarind, dried kokum, feni, spices, garlic and ginger are liberally used in fish, meat and chicken preparations. Meat is generally cooked in spices, and mellowed with coconut milk.
- 2 chicken thighs or breasts cut into cubes(skin removed)
- 2.5 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves for chicken marinade ( smashed, peeled and finely chopped or ground)
- 4 garlic cloves for chicken kokum masala( smashed, peeled and finely chopped or ground)
- half a knob of ginger smashed, peeled and finely chopped or ground
- 1 green chilli
- 1 small onion
- 1 medium tomato, pureed in a mixer
- 1 tsp of lemon juice
- salt as needed
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoon bunt chilli powder(roasted blended spice powder of byadgi chilli, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns, fenugreek seeds, turmeric and dried garlic)
- 2 teaspoon tandoori masala powder(or any curry masala powder)
- 1 sprig curry leaf
- 4 Kokum ( presoaked in water for atleast 20 minutes)
- ¼ teaspoon of dry kasuri methi
- 1 tablespoon fresh coriander(cilantro) leafs roughly chopped
- For Tempering :
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 green cardamom pod
- 2 cloves
- 8 black peppercorns( freshly ground)
- 1 inch cinnamom stick
- ½ teasponn cumin seeds
- dash of hing or asafoetida
- Wash and soak dry kokum in about ¼ cup water for atleast 20 minutes. Squeeze the kokum in presoaked water, extract its water and discard the kokum residue. This is the kokum extract which when added to food imparts a pink to purple color and sour taste. Keep it aside.
- Marinade the chicken with ginger, garlic, lemon juice, salt, turmeric powder, bunt chilli powder and a tablespoon of oil. Keep it aside.
- Roughly chop the onions and puree it in a mixer along with green chilli. Keep it aside.
- Heat a pan and add the remaining oil into it. When the oil is hot, add bay leaf, cardamom pods, cloves, black pepper, cinnamom, cumin seeds and asafoetida. Saute at low heat for 5 minutes till you feel the aroma of the spices.
- Add the pureed onion along with garlic, curry leafs and cook, stirring constantly, until they turn light brown, soft, translucent(about 10-12 minutes) and the curry leaf turns crispy.
- Add the pureed tomato along with the kokum extract. Add tandoori masala powder and salt as needed. Cook till the tomatoes become soft and mushy. Stir and mix frequently till the oil begins to surface.
- Add the marinaded chicken. Cook on medium high heat for 5 minutes till the pinkness is gone.
- Then lower the heat. Add about a cup of water. Cover and cook on low medium heat for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.
- Remove the cover and add the kasuri methi. Stir and mix. Simmer on low heat.
- Turn off the heat. Serve the Chicken Kokum Masala Curry in a bowl. Garnish with chopped coriander. Serve it hot with steamed rice.