The foodie inside me craved to recreate it at home but when I started searching for a recipe, my head started spinning with confusion. It seemed there were as many versions of the curry as there were cooks. The worst part was that most recipes were so confusing and unnecessarily lengthy that I gave up my search soon. Instead I started reading about the back ground on the recipe.
Most sources claim that this gem of a recipe from Rajasthan was originally made with hunted meat for the royal family but many others negate these claims. They say it was originally made with mutton because best quality of mutton always came from Rajasthan.
Moreover the deep, fiery red colour of the curry does not result from the use of food colour or tomatoes, as some restaurants misleadingly use, but from the gorgeous Mathania red chillies from the region. The closest I could find to match the fire and red colour were a mix of locally available hot laal mirch and the Kashmiri red chillies that are rich in colour but low on the scale of heat.
All the recipes went for a yogurt and chillies based marinade and suggested generous use of garlic, so with a few basic guidelines I decided to recreate the dish I so admired.
Some recipes strongly advocate infusing the finished dish with smoke. I know according to modern research it’s not considered very healthy but still I prefer to smoke my curry because ,believe me, it takes the final product to a whole different level of deep taste and mesmerising aroma, not to mention the excitement of smoke curls rising from the curry. Since we eat it only once in a while, a lot less than charred and heavily smoked BBQs, I allow myself this little transgression. You can totally skip the smoking part if you are not comfortable with the idea because the curry will still be finger licking good.
And of course I’m using chicken instead of the traditional mutton because I want my kids to enjoy this too who refuse to eat mutton in any possible form. Please adjust the heat to your tolerance level, this recipe is hot!
1+1/2 cup yogurt
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon garlic paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Kashmiri red chilli powder
For Red Curry:
8-10 dry red chillies
6-8 cloves garlic
2 black cardamoms
Seeds from 4-5 green cardamoms
1 stick cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 heaped teaspoon coriander powder
1 heaped teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
4 tablespoons ghee ( clarified butter) or sunflower oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Optional, 1 onion peel
A tiny piece of burning coal
This Is What You Do:
Heat oil in a deep pan on medium heat. Fry onions till nicely caramelised. Scoop them out of oil. Add onions, red chillies and garlic to a blender and make a smooth paste.
Add chicken pieces to the oil and save the marinade. Fry the chicken till golden on outside. Add all the whole and powdered spices. Fry another 2-3 minutes. Add the onion chilli garlic paste. Continue to sauté for another 2 minutes.
Add the yogurt marinade to the pan and cook till the liquids are reduced and masala separates from the oil. Add 2 cups of water and salt, cover the pan and reduce heat to low.
Allow the curry to simmer for half an hour or till masala is thick and chicken is tender.
Turn the heat off, keep the curry covered. Heat oil for tempering in a small frying pan. Add chopped garlic to it, fry till the garlic is golden. Pour over the curry right before serving. Garnish with coriander leaves.
Optional: To infuse the smoke in the curry, heat a tiny piece of coal on the stove burner till it’s completely burnt and glowing. Place an onion peel, a cabbage leaf or a tiny ceramic bowl in the centre of the curry. Pick up the burning coal with a pair of tongs and place in the onion peel. Trickle a few drops of ghee over it and immediately cover with a tight fitting lid for 2-3 minutes. Remove the coal before serving.
Serve hot with flat bread of your choice or pulao.