Canteen is a restaurant or eating place provided by an organization like an educational institution (school, college, university), military camp etc. In India we refer to them as ‘canteen’, probably taking after the British who ruled the country for almost a century. In America, ‘canteens’ are better known as ‘cafeterias’. So what has it got to do with this recipe?
My K-12 school, college and university were equipped with canteens selling different things, but mostly Indian food. For example, we had chow mien but that too was made the spicy Indian way. During college, our canteen was ok but we really did not have too much to worry about since we had options galore once we stepped out of the premises of the college during lunch break. But Masters was a different story. The university building was (and still is) in a street or area (if I may say) which was secluded. By secluded I mean hardly any food places around and the university canteen itself had very limited options. At the end of two years (well, almost) the canteen lady happened to ask some of my friends and me, “Why don’t you all eat lunch here when you girls have very long days? We make lunch.” Lunch? Really? We were only familiar with little square sponge cakes, vegetable croquettes, fish fingers (at times, when we were Very lucky) and ghugni that she would keep in the cafeteria. So one day a few of our friends decided “Okay! Chicken curry and rice it is, for lunch!”. (In case some of you are wondering, an Indian lunch is usually a full fledged meal, similar to dinner.)
And that’s it. That chicken curry was the real deal. We kept ordering more plates and wondering “Why did we not discover this before? Why?!”
This is a fiery red curry, spicy and delicious, which goes splendidly with steamed rice. I had to recreate it at home. After making it a few times already and AB approving it with all his heart and appetite, I think I have come almost This close to the original!
1 ½ -2 lbs fresh chicken ( I used thigh and leg pieces)
1 ½ cups finely chopped onions
2 tomatoes chopped
3-4 green chilies (adjust according to your taste)
1 tsp ginger paste
4-5 cloves of garlic chopped
2-3 tbsp mustard oil ( vegetable or canola can also be used)
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp coriander powder
2 tsp paprika (or red chili powder – adjust according to taste)
¼ tsp garam masala powder (easily available in all Indian grocery stores)
2 bay leaves
3-4 whole cloves
3-4 whole cardamoms
1 large cinnamon stick
4-5 whole peppercorns
1 tsp sugar
2 cups of water
2-3 tbsp fresh coriander chopped
Salt (according to taste)
- Dry roast the whole spices (except bay leaves) in a small pan/skillet for minute or two and keep aside. Heat oil in a pan. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Let the whole spices crackle in the pan for a few seconds, be careful not to burn them.
- Add the onions ginger and garlic. Fry this for a few minutes till the onion is slightly brown.
- Add ¾th of the chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder and coriander powder. Let this cook on medium-low flame for 15-20 minutes. The more you cook this the better it will taste!
- Add the chicken pieces and paprika. Paprika gives it a nice natural red color and a spiciness that is not terribly hot. Stir the chicken well in the onion-tomato masala (sauce) for 15 mins or so on medium-low flame.
- Add 2 cups of water, stir well and bring this to boil. Cover and cook for 5-7 mins on medium high heat. Add the garam masala powder. Then reduce the flame to medium, uncover the pan and cook to reduce the sauce/gravy a bit. The final dish should have a runny sauce/gravy, not too thick. By now you will see the oil on top of the sauce.
- Turn off the gas, add chopped coriander on top and serve with roti/chapati/parantha or simply steamed rice! It tastes great with anything!
If you choose to, you can use freshly made ginger paste. This time I used a store bought one. Any Indian store in the US carries it.
One of the best part of this recipe is that you don’t have to add a lot of oil. The red color can be easily achieved using the spices and paprika (or kashmiri mirch powder).
Rice is gluten free. So is fresh chicken. There you go! A gluten free Indian meal ! Relish it.
And make sure after this meal you have a place and some time to nap. It will be That good. 🙂