In Pakistan, I was introduced to the concept of a heart-attack guest. Okay, so nobody else calls them that except for me, but a heart-attack guest is basically someone who drops in unexpectedly around a meal time. I used to panic over whether or not I’ve made enough food, and whether or not the food is good enough to serve to guests and that is from whence the “heart-attack” comes.
Unexpected mealtime guests are so common in Pakistani homes, that most women (like my mother and late mother-in-law) barely bat an eyelash. Within moments, the current food is converted into something more presentable, or they will pull out the pressure cooker and cook something delicious and wonderful in minutes. It is truly a thing to behold, but sadly, a skill that does not come innately to me. I’m still a “green” girl, and there’s a bit of a learning curve in this Desi Cooking Magic.
I’ve learned the ropes a bit, and now I have a few emergency dinner recipes in my arsenal that I can use. I decide what to make based on what I have on hand, and how much time I have before the guest arrives. Some guests give a bit of a warning, calling you just before they leave the house. Others will call while they are en route, and for still others, the only advanced notice you get is the doorbell.
Recently, a close friend of mine called me just as I was putting the finishing touches on dinner. It turned out she was in the area, and wanted to drop by.
“Don’t do anything special for me, okay? I’ll just have whatever you’re having,” she said.
Yeah. Right. That is so not happening.
“Don’t worry about it, just get over here,” I replied, avoiding having to agree to anything.
What my beloved friend forgets is that, even though I’m an American, I was raised by a Pakistani mother. And anyone with a Pakistani mom knows that when company comes over, there must be meat on the table. This is a given. Anything less is horribly bad manners. Thankfully, my friend had no idea that we were originally planning a super simple dinner of Tahari (Rice and Potatoes).
I quickly took out a portion of chicken from the freezer, fired up the pressure cooker, and just like that, this authentic chicken curry dinner was served. (Okay, so in reality, it took me a bit more time to do it that day because my kiddos were not cooperating, but still! Dinner was served relatively on time.)
As for the Desi chicken part of this authentic chicken curry recipe, let me explain. Lately, in Pakistan, there has been so much controversy surrounding broiler chicken and the feed given to the chicken, a well as possible health risks related to eating commercially grown chicken. Because of the health conditions of certain members of our family, we can’t cut chicken out of our diet. What we have done instead is attempt to find the most authentic Desi (domestically raised) chicken we can find in our area. I know that many will argue that a lot of farmers give so-called “Desi” chicken the same feed. Obviously, we can’t control every variable, but we try to buy from farmers we trust and places where we can see that the chickens are being kept in healthy conditions. As the Prophet (PBUH) very wisely said:
“Tie your camel, and trust in Allah” (Hasan) [Jami At-Tirmidhi]
So we do what we can, and leave the rest to Allah, you feel me?
Authentic Chicken Curry: Technique
Coming back to this bit of loveliness. This authentic chicken curry recipe uses ingredients you most likely already have in your kitchen. You do not have to use Desi chicken if you want to follow this recipe. If you are using regular broiler chicken, skip the first step in which the chicken is boiled, or if you do it, do it for a VERY short amount of time. Broiler chicken gets tender VERY fast, so avoid cooking it for too long, or else the meat will fall right off of the bones, and it will kill the presentation of your dish. The cooking time depends on what kind of chicken you are using, but you can use a pressure cooker if you want to speed things up. Just make sure you know your cooker, and don’t over cook the meat!
I hope you try out this authentic chicken curry recipe and that you guys like it, whether you make it for company, or just for your own family. It’s a great curry in that it’s simple enough for regular home cooking, but with just that little bit of extra flavor that makes it a great dish to serve to your guests. Good food with good company, a girl can’t ask for more, right?
When I have unexpected company nowadays, I tend not to panic as much, now that I have a bit more cooking experience. Still, I’m thinking about putting up this poster in my kitchen, what do you guys think?
This authentic chicken curry recipe uses domestic chicken for a traditional, home-cooked chicken curry, perfect for family dinners or for unexpected guests.
- 850 g Desi Chicken (roughly 1 chicken, Karahi cut)
- 370 g (3 medium) onions finely chopped
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp oil divided
- 2 tbsp ginger paste
- 2 tbsp garlic paste (divided)
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 3 whole cloves
- 9 whole black peppercorns
- 1 black cardamom bruised
- 1 inch cinnamon stick broken
- 3/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 3/4 tsp red chili powder (or to taste)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 1/4 tsp coriander powder
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg (crushed)
- pinch black caraway seeds (kalonji)
- green coriander (optional, for garnishing)
- green chilies whole or sliced (optional, for garnishing)
Put Desi chicken pieces in a pot with 6 cups water and 1/2 tbsp garlic. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Take out the chicken and set aside the stock.
Heat up 1/3 cup of oil. Add chopped onions and fry till light golden brown.
Add ginger and garlic paste and fry until the raw smell goes away and the mixture turns golden brown and the oil separates.
Add tomatoes and fry until they are soft.
Empty this mixture into a blender, try to leave behind as much oil as you can in the pot. Blend until the mixture is of uniform consistency.
In empty pot, add 2 tbsp oil and heat the oil.
Add cloves, peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon stick and cumin seeds. Wait for the cumin seeds to start crackling.
Add the salt, red chili powder and turmeric powder. Fry until the raw smell of the turmeric goes away. Don't let the spices burn while you do this. Add more oil if necessary, but NOT water.
Add coriander powder, nutmeg and black caraway seeds. Fry for a bit until the spices are well incorporated into the mixture.
Add the mixture from the blender. Fry until oil separates.
Add the chicken pieces. Stir fry for about 5-10 minutes.
Add the chicken stock. Stir to incorporate completely. Cover and bring to a boil, then let simmer until the chicken is tender OR transfer to pressure cooker and cook until chicken is done.
Boil down to desired consistency. This comes down to personal preference. For a thicker gravy, boil on high flame so that the water evaporates quickly without overcooking your chicken.
Taste for salt and spices, adjust if necessary.
Garnish with green coriander and green chilies (optional).
You do not need to use a Desi (domestic) chicken for this recipe. If you are using a regular, broiler chicken, do not boil it in the beginning, as this will overcook the chicken. If you are using a domestic chicken, don't skip this step! This will bring out the natural flavor of the chicken, and you will really be able to taste the difference between a broiler chicken and a Desi chicken.