The catering people and the cook ( called Nai) would arrive in the morning, block the street at both ends, so that the traffic wouldn’t disturb their cooking activities, and would set up huge, heavy metal cauldrons or degs for cooking the feast over open fire.
One of the close relatives, an experienced uncle or cousin, would supervise the cooking because it was a matter of family pride that food came out perfect and every guest went back home with a full belly.
It was a time when banquet halls and expensive hotels hadn’t taken over the wedding scene yet. Nobody in the neighbourhood seemed to mind the disturbance back then. In fact people looked forward to a wedding to enjoy the food and a week long festivities. The aroma of that food spread far and wide, actually guiding the guests to the location of the wedding.
One of the traditional dishes on the menu used to be Degi Chicken Steam Roast. The name given, of course, due to the big cauldron or degs these whole chickens or big pieces were cooked into for hundreds of guests. The chicken slow simmered in the steam created by its own juices and the marinade till fall-off-the-bones tender.
Served with dried plum chutney and naan, it used to be a dish to die for! When wedding parties moved to fancy places, good old Degi Chicken Steam Roast was replaced by fine dinning too. The experts who cooked it, then started selling it as a popular street food as it makes perfect meal-on-the-go with a piece of chicken and some salad wrapped in a flatbread.
At our place it’s a favourite weekend treat. Not only it’s possible to create the same nostalgic taste at home on stove top but is also very easy and hassle free to do. The best thing is it’s low in calories with almost no added fat, other than a little oil used to grease the pan.
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
2 teaspoons red chilli powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons Cumin powder
4 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 stick cinnamon
8 cloves Garlic
1 inch piece Ginger
4 tablespoons plain Yogurt
1/4 cup white Vinegar
1 tablespoon olive or sunflower oil
This Is What You Do:
Add this paste to yogurt and mix thoroughly. Make slanting cuts in the fattest parts of the chicken with a sharp knife. If using whole chicken, rub some of the marinade inside the cavity and pour the rest over the chicken. If using four pieces, thoroughly rub the marinade all over them, specially inside the slits.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Or you can do it overnight to save time.
Take a deep pan with heavy bottom. Grease the pan lightly with oil. Place the chicken in the centre, pour the marinade over it. Seal the mouth of the pan completely with a sheet of foil paper. Cover with a lid so that no steam escapes at all. Cook on low heat for 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the size and weight of the bird.
Remove the lid and foil sheet carefully because there will be hot droplets gathered over the foil sheet and very hot steam inside. Poke the fattest part of the leg to check if the juices run clear.
If there is still liquid in the pan, increase the heat to medium high and let the liquid dry out while basting the chicken with it 2-3 times.
Serve hot with fresh salad, your favourite chutney and naan or pulao.