Not just another chilli chicken


Perfect for a comforting meal with some fried rice


Chilli chicken isn’t just any other dish, at least not for me, this Chinese favourite is bursting with memories and happy moments. As a kid, I remember polishing off some of the most delicious chilli chicken at the Presidency Club. Then it was at Dynasty, Chin Chin, Ming’s in Bombay and several other restaurants. But the most delicious chilli chicken that I’ve had didn’t come from a restaurant kitchen.
It was the summer of 1992 (at least I think it was), we were visiting my aunt and her family in Mysore for the summer vacations. A trip to Brindavan gardens was on the cards for that day and we were warned to fuel up with enough breakfast that would see us through the seemingly long walk. So off we went to marvel at the wonders of this famous garden. My dad and a cousin, who had exams (poor thing!), stayed back at home. Dad was supposed to ‘watch over’ my cousin as he studies, apparently. As we were driving home from our fun outing we were debating over what to do for dinner – should we order in or go out? All of us were dead tired and there was no energy to rustle up a meal, even a quick simple one.
We stepped into the house and this really fragrant aroma of food hit us, so much so that it had my cousin sis and me already drooling. A little later we discovered that my dad had been up to some cooking and we had a piping hot dinner of fried rice and chilli chicken waiting for us. Wait, that’s not all, there were the works – chili vinegar, garlic in soya sauce and the likes, and in the early 90s this was a big deal. Till today I remember the flavours of this chilli chicken and I don’t think any star restaurant can match up to what my dad made for us that day.
I’ve tried making several versions of the chilli chicken and they’ve all turned out well, I know this because there haven’t been any leftovers! Here’s a recent one I tried from a recipe I got on food.com. The lemongrass and galangal add a nice kick to this avatar of the Thai chilli chicken.
Thai chilli chicken
Ingredients
For the chicken
1.2 kg of chicken, boneless – cut into cubes
1 tsp of soya sauce
1 tsp of white vinegar
3 tbsp of rice flour
A pinch of pepper powder
Salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients, except the chicken, into a smooth paste to form the marinade. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Add the chicken to this and mix thoroughly until all the chicken is coated with this paste. Allow it to marinate for 3-4 hours or overnight, if you have the time.
Now, you can either deep-fry the pieces of this chicken or you can grill in the oven for about 20 minutes until they are done and have turned a deep brown. 
I grilled the chicken in the oven for 25 minutes
For the gravy
1 large onion, chopped
4-5 stalks of sping onions, chop and keep the whites & greens separately
1 stalk of lemongrass
1 big piece of galangal, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 green chillies, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 ½ tsp of soya sauce
1 tsp of fish sauce
2 cups of chicken stock
1 green capsicum, chopped
1 tsp of cornflour mixed with ½ cup water into a smooth paste
Salt & pepper to taste
Oil
Using a mortar and pestle slightly bruise the galangal, garlic and lemongrass. If you don’t have one then you can briefly pulse them in the mixie for about 20 seconds. Crush the green chillies and add to this, keep this aside for a while. 
Fresh spices take this dish to another level
Heat some oil in a wok/pan and add the spice paste to this and sauté until it releases all the raw flavours. Add the onions and the spring onion whites to this and turn up the heat a little, fry them until they’ve turned a nice golden brown. Next, add the soya and fish sauces to this and give it a quick stir. Pour in the chicken stock and stir well. When the mixture begins to bubble, gently add the cornflour mixture to this and stir well. Lower the flame and let the sauce simmer for a while until it has thickened to the desired consistency. Adjust the seasoning of this and add the chicken pieces and let it cook for a minute or two. Be careful not to overcook. 
The aroma of this dish is just heavenly
Turn off the flame and add the spring onion greens and capsicum, give the dish a quick stir and serve hot. I served it with some of the fired rice I made, you can find that recipe here.
Served hot: With rice or even noodles
  • If you don’t have galangal, use fresh ginger the young variety is the best.
  • Throw in some shredded basil leaves in the end for a heady aroma and even better flavour.
  • If you don’t have chicken stock you can use vegetable stock too. And if you don’t have that either, mix 1 tbsp of any instant chicken/vegetable soup powder in 1 cup of warm water and proceed with the recipe.

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