Indian Chicken Tikka Masala, succulently tender chicken, radiantly rich and colorful, and laden with a melody of spices. These are the thoughts that come to mind, when i think of Chicken Tikka Masala.
If i’m asked what my “go to cuisine” is, I would definitely say Indian. I have all the spices in my kitchen to make a “one pot meal” of any type of Indian dish. I even have my own “Garam Masala,” which i dry toast in a pan and grind a batch, about every 3-6 months.
However, if this same question was asked of me years ago, the answer would have been completely different. I probably would have said, “pasta.” Simply put and easily made, pasta.
My Indian cooking culinary skills have definitely expanded exponentially, since visiting India and living in Korea (more on that another time).
One of my intentions for visiting India (and most countries- i’m led by my stomach I cannot stray), was to learn how to cook Indian food properly. As my past experience cooking Indian food had been “epic failures,” made even worse, by inviting friends over to dinner, to eat some of my disastrous Indian cooking experiments. So, after so many failures, i was on a mission to become proficient in at least one Indian dish before my departure from India.
My mission started in Delhi, India, the first city i visited during my travels throughout this extremely populated, expansive, vibrant, LOUD and eye evoking country. Everyday, I would wake up and mentally prepared myself for the “adventure” that awaited me outside. In order for me to get to my cooking class, i would have to take a rickshaw, which was a challenge in patience. Patience is something one must have or acquire when visiting India.
So, this is how it went everyday to get to the location of my cooking class, which incidentally was about twenty minutes away. I would flag down a rickshaw driver, I would tell him where i needed to go and i would explicitly say, “do you know” where it is, and OF COURSE he would say, “yes.” So, given the “yes” i would hop in the rickshaw and be on my way….so i thought. In my experience, yes, is ALWAYS the answer, even when it is not.
For the duration of my commute, my rickshaw driver would stop about every five minutes to ask another rickshaw driver how to get to my intended destination. This would go on for about thirty to forty minutes, until finally, i would arrive at my cooking class (about an hour later). After about the fourth day, i could basically tell the rickshaw driver how to get there, which reduced my journey time by half.
Chicken Tikka Masala – For vocabulary, “Murgh” means chicken and “Masalas” are spices. Most dishes that require the meat to be marinaded, will most likely use yogurt. Yogurt will tenderize the meat and the spices (masalas) will give it flavor. Marinate the chicken in yogurt, ginger, garlic and spices, at least a hour.
I believe the most import part of Indian cooking are the onions. Most Indian dishes that have a “gravy,” start off with thinly sliced or chopped onions fried on medium high heat, in about 1/4 cup of oil. The photo above was not altered in anyway, the onions are almost “caramelized” until dark brown, the color of dark caramel. This step takes the longest, about twenty minutes, but gives depth and flavor to the dish.
After the onions have turned to a dark carmel color, add the ginger, garlic and fry until fragrant, add the spices and cook until the oil separates from the spices. Next, proceed to making the “gravy.”
“Gravy,” in a Indian dish is the combination of the onions, spices and tomatoes. This is where some Indian dishes get their “reddish” color. I cook the “gravy” for about ten minutes, until it thickens and then I add the meat. Cook the meat until tender and completely cooked through. Turn off the burner and add freshly chopped cilantro.
I sometimes make “roti” a Indian flat bread, which I fry on the stove top in ghee (clarified butter) – which is pictured above. However, you can serve it with Basmati rice or any type of rice you have in your kitchen.
For me the best part of making this dish, are the leftovers. I feel Indian food tastes best the day after. I enjoy this dish for about two days!
- 3- 4 chicken breasts (or bone in chicken pieces)
- ¼ cup greek yogurt
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon coriander
- ¼ cup of oil (I use grapeseed oil - it has a high smoking point or canola)
- 2-3 cups thinly sliced onions
- 4 garlic cloves - peeled and minced
- 2 inch piece of ginger -peeled and chopped minced
- ½ cinnamon stick
- 2 whole black cardamom pods or 4 green cardamom
- ½ tablespoon turmeric
- 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
- For the Chicken Marinade: Cut chicken into cubes and put in to a bowl. Mix yogurt, cumin, coriander and half of the chopped ginger and garlic with the chicken. Marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.
- While the chicken is marinating, heat the oil over medium high heat and add the sliced onions. Cook onions for 20 minutes until caramel color. Watch carefully and stir when necessary. Turn heat to medium and add the remaining ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant.
- Break the cardamom pods with the back of the knife, to open them a little. This will "release" the flavor during the cooking process. Add cardamom, turmeric and cinnamon. Cook until the oil separates from the spices, about five minutes.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, ½ cup of water. Cook until "gravy" thickens, about 10 minutes.
- Add chicken marinade, remaining ½ cup of water and cook chicken until tender, about 15 minutes.
- Turn off heat and fold in freshly chopped cilantro. Serve with roti or rice.