Asian cuisine centers mostly on spices and herbs to make a dish more full-bodied and multi-dimensional. And in my opinion, that makes the region’s food distinct. There may be people who don’t like heavily-spiced food, but my palate welcomes it whole-heartedly (or shall I say, whole-tastebudly.)
As the spices evolve from a means of commerce to culinary magical fairy dust, cuisine of South Asia has never really deviated from the spiced way of cooking and that’s what a kind-of-purist cook like me, emphasis on kind-of, would want to do – preservation.
It may not be the national dish of India but it has been the dish that has occupied my brain, urging me to prepare this for an Indian-inspired Gourmet Sunday. I have watched Aarti Sequeira make this dish in her Food Network program and not to mention a lot of word of mouth going on about this dish. I think this has been the quintessential most talked-about dish I have ever come to face with. Who wouldn’t? Chicken Tikka Masala is so easy to the tongue. It is like velvet when you say it. Come on, say it with me. Chicken Tikka Masala. Beautiful right?
I prepared the recipe way before I had a well-stocked spice shelf so I carefully picked a recipe that would be easily cooked with easily available spices in the market, including the reviews. We had Beef Kurmah, a Malaysian Beef Curry, for dinner the day before and Chicken Tikka Masala for dinner the next day. You see, my mom is one of the people I mentioned in the first paragraph. She is not a fan of spiced food. I don’t know why. She used to cook really good chicken curry back then. Imagine the reaction she gave when she learned that we will be having India as the inspiration for the Gourmet Sunday. Yup, wide eyes and all. But as a spice-lover that I am, I assured her that it will be as good as I had imagined it to be. And I made it my personal mission to make her like, if not love this Indian Gourmet Sunday.
Paired with a cucumber and cilantro raita which I have prepared a few hours earlier and matar pulao, I have gathered all the spices required into my make-shift masala dabba. A saucer was just fine. I followed the recipe to the T and just like what I’ve experienced from making the beef kurmah the night before, the cooking of spices was not new to me. What made this cooking experience wonderful was the amazing bright orange color of the sauce once I added the cream to the pan. It was sun-kissed. Oh and the smell! Don’t make me start on the smell! It was incredible. The smell starts the same as to any curry but as you add the ingredients that were distinct to the dish, it changed 360 degrees.
As I finished cooking the chicken tikka masala and the matar pulao and have plated the raita to the table, I took quick snapshots for the blog and then I finally called the family and the anti-spice people to gather and have a taste of what is served. Imagine the reluctance of my mom taking a scoop of matar pulao and some chicken tikka masala. A little bit of each. I told her to eat the masala with the raita together with the rice so as to experience how the dishes are connected with each other. Individually, they taste great, but together, it was incredible! The richness of the chicken tikka masala makes the spices less in-your-face and gave it more of dimensional notes. The raita cuts the richness of the tikka masala, as well as a palate-cooler for those who still find it heavily-spiced. It was a refreshing side to a rich entrée. And then the matar pulao, or rice with peas, became the best backbone for its subtle spice combination of black cardamom, cinnamon and garlic. I was happy, and the carving was satisfied. And guess what, it was all wiped out. My mom was even the last one on the table, finishing the chicken with the raita. Mission accomplished!
As I write down this entry, I realized how fascinated I am with the food from this country, including the culture as well. I mean, they don’t veer far from each other. They are connected. I have made a dessert from the country and even wrote about it in my former blog. I guess my fascination with food does not end with certain tastes but is actually influenced by the culture of the place. Food without culture is like a person without a heart.
For the next Gourmet Sunday, check out the menu below:
The combination of the Chicken Tikka Masala with the Raita is a winner! Although I am still in the search for a better tikka masala recipe, this one is worth trying for beginners. The matar pulao’s subtle flavor made the main dish the center of attraction. Instead of using bite-size chicken breast, I used one whole chicken for a mix of white and dark meat.
Chicken Tikka Masala
From unrecalled source
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
14oz tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon sugar
4 chicken breasts, cut in bite-size pieces
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Saute the onion in butter, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic until fragrant. Stir in cumin, 1 teaspoon of salt, ground ginger, cayenne pepper, ground cinnamon and ground turmeric. Cook for a few minutes.
Stir in tomato sauce and bring to a boil then reduce the heat to lower. Simmer for 10 minutes then mix in the cream, paprika and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Bring the sauce to a simmer until thick, for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Stir the chicken in oil, and sprinkle with curry powder, and sear until browned. Transfer the chicken and the drippings to the sauce. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
From vburrito of allrecipes.com
2 cups plain yogurt
1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and diced
1 green chili pepper, minced
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
Stir the yogurt, cucumber, chile pepper, cilantro, and salt together in a bowl until evenly mixed. Set aside in refrigerator to allow the flavors to mix for 10 minutes before serving cold.
From FKhan of allrecipes.com
2 tablespoons oil
4 garlic cloves, whole
3 black cardamom seeds
6 whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons water
1 cup peas
2 cups uncooked rice, rinsed and drained
4 cups water
salt to taste
Heat the oil in a deep heavy skillet over low heat. Add the cloves, cardamom seeds, peppercorns and cinnamon sticks. Cook for a few minutes to bring out the aroma of the spices. Stir the garlic powder and 2 tablespoons of water together to make a paste; mix into the pan with the spices.
Add the green peas to the pan, cover and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the remaining 4 cups of water and rice to the pan. Season with a little salt. Bring to a boil, then cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, until the rice is tender and the water has been absorbed. Taste, and adjust the salt before serving.