Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Indian Chicken curry with freshly ground Garam masala spices in combination with Chinese Sichuan peppercorns.

Chicken curries cooked on week days are generally based on  routine recipes but this time my instincts landed on using few unusual exotic garam masala spices and adding Chinese sichuan peppers to Garam masala blend. Recently I got whole sichuan peppercorns from local Asian grocery store. In shape and fragrance they are  similar to  Indian  spice called Tirphal. Have you ever tried chewing single raw sichuan pepper ? It is very unusual sensational experience that lasts for 15 minutes. I dropped one single sichuan pepper in my mouth, took first bite and instantly it kicked off strong tickling and numbing  sensation. It  made me very uncomfortable,  also stimulated vomiting sensation. It is  not spicy at all but it strongly affects tongue with weird multiple sensations. In order to calm down effect I ate teaspoon full ghee and coconut milk, drank cold water but no effect. It lasted around 15 minutes then slowly I felt better. This made me more curious about using Szechuan  peppers in Indian cooking. Surprisingly when used in curries they change complete chemistry and bring addictive taste. (Read Note) I used mild dose so no deep tongue numbing effect but curry was aromatic. Now Sichuan peppercorns  are part of my Garam masala pantry.
Note: Curry cooked on 10th, Feb..published on 12th April.

Ingredients :
  • 2 lb - Chicken breasts cut into 1 inch cubes (whole chicken with bone in pieces is much better.)
  • 2 large onions - finely chopped (3 heaped cups yield)
  • 2 inch - Ginger piece crushed to coarse texture
  • 7-8 Garlic cloves - crushed to coarse texture
  • 1/2 cup - Fresh chopped cilantro
  • 2 Tb.spoon cooking oil
  • 2 inch long - Cinnamon
  • 2 inch long - Bay leaf
  • 1 Tb.spoon - Kashmiri or good red colored chili powder or grind 5-6 byadgi chillies with below given spice blend.
Spices for Home ground Garam Masala spice blend :
  • 1 heaped T.spoon - corriander seeds
  • 1 heaped T.spoon - fennel seeds
  • 1 T.spoon - Cumin
  • 8 cloves
  • 1/2 star anise - 3-4 petals
  • 5-6 Kabab chini
  • 5-6 Nagkeshar
  • 12-15 whole sichuan peppercorns (you can add few more for  strong kick)
Combine all above spices and grind into a fine powder.
[T.spoon = teaspoon]

Outer ring - Fennel seeds, corraider seeds, cumin seeds
Inner ring - Nagkeshar, Kabab chini, Star anise, cloves.
Center-from top - Sichuan peppers, bay leaf, cinnamon stick.

Method for preparing Curry :
  1. Marinate chicken lightly with salt. Cover and keep it aside.
  2. Combine ginger and garlic - grind  to dry coarse texture.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a thick bottomed pot ( 3-4 quart size ) Drop in cinnamon stick and bay leaf, sizzle for 15-20 seconds. Add finely chopped onions in the pot, saute over medium heat until they get transparent and soft, about  8-9 minutes.
  4. Now add dry coarse mixture of  fresh ginger and garlic. Saute for 2 minutes over  medium low heat.
  5. Then add home ground  Garam masala spice blend. (save 1 tsp for later stage) Mix well, saute for 2-3 minutes over medium low heat.
  6. Partly puree onion-spice mixture by using immersion blender, before blending move  cinnamon stick and bay leaf to one side of the pot. In absence of immersion blender scoop out half onion-spice mixture and grind to fine paste, add it back to the pot.
  7. Now add salt marinated chicken pieces, red chilli powder, salt. Combine well, turn the  heat to medium low, cover with lid and allow to cook for 8-9 minutes. Make sure pot has enough steam water generated and meat is  not sticking to the bottom, stir occasionally.
  8. Sprinkle in  reserved one tsp spice blend mixture, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves. Taste and adjust salt level. I kept thick gravy but if you wish to have more gravy then at this point add 1 cup water. Cover with lid and continue to simmer over medium heat for another 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  9. Lower down heat to low, remove lid, continue simmering for 7-8 minutes. Shut off the heat. Add remaining chopped cilantro.  Let curry rest for few hours before serving warm with rice or roti.

Note :  I used sichuan peppers for the first time so added only 15 peppercorns. It brought mild aroma and taste. You can add 10-12 more for deeper effect that means you will be getting after taste sensation mostly on the tip of your tongue for few hours. You may not like to eat raw sichuan peppers  but relishing sichuan pepper infused curries is very different experience. Peppercorns  are powdered and roasted while cooking also combination of onion+Garam masala further reduces intensity of szechuan peppers. In my observation when they are used in Chinese cooking with lot of whole red chilies and chili oil, intensity is felt stronger. Sichuan pepper infused chinese curries are  very tasty and addictive. 

This curry will taste better if you cook with whole chicken or  red chicken meat pieces. You can  expand your imaginations to cook various vegetarian and non-veg curries with sichuan peppers. I have  cooked  sweet and sour Baingan/Vangi/Eggplant subji, it was super delicious.

Images of Whole sichuan peppercorns, clusters and seeds of sichuan peppercorns.

Indian Chicken curry infused with chinese szechuan peppers.


Sonia said...

Thanks for dropping a comment on my blog:) Your blog is too delicious:) Loved it.. Keep sharing *hugs*

Mak said...

Looks so delicious Usha. Next time you visit India, ensure you invite me :)
Mouth watering dishes :)

Kumar said...


Usha said...

Sonia, Thanks.Nice to get in connection with you.Stay in touch.

@Mak, See if you can get sichuan peppers in Bangalore, cook some curry with it..I am sure you will like it. You are most welcome to enjoy my cooked food when I visit India. :)

@Kumar, thanks.