This recipe comes from another era, when people used to travel and stay in forest and daak (mail) guest houses that littered the country-side. The care-taker of these British era bungalows had simple kitchen at their disposal and in that they would whiff up simple yet extremely well tasting concoction of spices. They would use the simple mortar and pestle to pound the spices, this coarse spice mixture is the signature of this recipe.
A decade ago we had travelled to a small hill station called Kemanagundi from Bangalore. We stayed in a non-descript department of horticulture guest house. The caretaker literally ran and caught a chicken from the courtyard and prepared this for us with his hand ground simple spices. I still remember the fun of having daak-bungalow chicken under the light of lanterns, wrapped up in blankets to fight the bitter cold.
Today the daak-bungalow chicken has left the confines of the bungalows and is a common specialty item served in Bengali themed restaurants in Kolkata.
- 1.5 lb. chicken cut into medium pieces on bones
- 3 medium potatoes cut into halves
- 2 medium onions cut into big pieces
- 7-8 garlic cloves
- 1” ginger
- 1tsp. turmeric powder
- 5-6 whole red chilies broken in irregular pieces and crushed
- 2,3 bay leaves
- Whole garam masala ( 1’ cinnamon stick, 2 green cardamoms and 2-3 cloves roughly crushed )
- 1tsp. sugar
- Salt to taste
- 2,3 tsp. oil ( I used mustard oil, you can go for any refined oil like canola )
Clean chicken pieces and smear them with turmeric powder. Keep them aside.
Now take onion, ginger, garlic and crush them roughly using your pestle. If you have Sheel Nora then nothing like it. Use your nora (stone rolling pin) and you will be done in no time. Fine chopping and paste will not bring the flavor you want, so just crush them.
Heat oil in a pan and fry potato halves till they turn golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep aside. Temper the same oil with bay leaves and crushed whole garam masala. Let them sizzle for a while. Now add crushed onion, ginger and garlic to the oil and fry on medium heat for about five minutes.
Add chicken pieces to it and fry them on high heat for a while. Add crushed red chilies, salt and sugar to it. Throw the fried potato halves in and mix everything well so the chicken and potato pieces are nicely coated with oil and spices.
Pour about 2 cups of warm water and bring it to a boil. Cook it covered till chicken is done. Potato halved will also be cooked by this time.
Check the seasoning and adjust accordingly. Serve with a plateful of plain white ice.