Featured in the Babble Family Kitchen.
Laal Maas or Red/Fiery Hot Meat Curry, is another well known authentic Rajasthani dish.
Traditionally goat meat/lamb is used to cook the Laal Maas, and is served with maize or millet flatbreads which are soft but crusty and smeared with a generous amount of butter. Since there are not many in my family who would appreciate lamb, I decided to play safe with the chicken, without changing any of the other ingredients or the process.
As the above name suggests, this is an intensely spicy dish and the warm vibrant red color of the curry comes from nothing but the chili peppers. You must have got it by now that this is not a dish for the “fainthearted”. While we were in India last month, I had the opportunity to experience this Laal Maas at a relative’s farm house. This was the first thing that I saw on the dinner table. The rich red shimmering curry made every other dish fade into oblivion. Even before we started the dinner, I asked for the recipe. But the cook refused; he wanted me to try it first. I chickened out after one bite. I was positively the “faint hearted”. The spice and the heat compared to nothing I have had before. Even the ice cream after dinner could not soothe my poor tongue.
But the immensely wonderful flavor lingered as I was wanting to get a few more spoonfuls but dared not. Instead I walked into the kitchen and caught hold of the head cook of the house and asked for the recipe. He smiled – I think he saw my tear brimmed eyes; the fiery curry that made my eyes well up. He gracefully told me the recipe, in minute details and I am ever so thankful to him.
Once we got back here, I was looking for the first opportunity to give this a try. After a couple of weeks there came the time when we called some friends over. Laal Maas it was going to be, the spicy red color and all, but at a more tolerant level . I used the Kashmiri Red Chili Powder, which does impart the red hue, but with way less fire and heat than the traditional “real red chilies”.
What is most striking about this recipe other than the color is the use of plentiful garlic and adding some more minced garlic at the end of the cooking process. The raw garlic added after the cooking is done, entirely transforms this dish and imparts this unique flavor. I realized this is what makes this recipe so very different from any other chicken curry.
As I cooked, this irresistible aroma hung around our home that drove my children insanely impatient. They wanted lunch at ten in the morning. The chicken took another hour to cook. I was ecstatic as the aroma seemed as familiar and real as in the farm house and at that moment I knew that I got it right!
If you love “spicy”, and I don’t mean just the fire, do give it a try. I promise you won’t regret. The recipe is family and friends approved and loved by all!
Rajasthani Red Chicken Curry
Ingredients: (will serve 5-6)
3 lb skinless bone in chicken – drumsticks and thighs, (feel free to use any part of the chicken)
for the marinade:
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon red chili powder (or to taste) – use Kashmiri red chili powder for less heat
- 1/2 cup grated onion
- 2 tablespoons ginger paste
- 1.5 tablespoons Chili Garlic paste
- 4 tablespoons yogurt
for the Sauce/Gravy
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoon cooking oil
- 7 cups sliced onion (sliced in thin half moons)
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 small green cardamom, split
- 2 black cardamom. split
- 3″ cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves
- 4 tablespoons ginger paste/or grated ginger
- 2.5 tablespoons Chili Garlic paste
- 1/2 tablespoon turmeric
- 15 – 20 red dry chili (de seeded the chili peppers if you want the color but not the heat) or 3-4 tablespoon red chili powder, preferably Kashmiri red chili powder for less heat and a lot of color
- 2.5 tablespoons ground coriander seeds
- 6-7 cups warm water + 1/2 cup water
- 1.5 cup drained yogurt
- 2-3 tablespoons minced garlic, to add to the curry, after the dish is cooked on the meat and then cover and keep till ready to serve
- fresh lime to drizzle on the curry
Skin the chicken if they are not already done, wash and pat dry. With a sharp knife, make 2-3 deep slits in the chicken drumsticks. Cut the other chicken (if you are using mixed parts) in to 2-2.5 inch pieces. Rub the lemon juice, salt and the chili powder to the chicken pieces, reaching inside the slits and let them sit for about half an hour.
In the mean time combine the rest of the ingredients for the marinade. After half an hour, toss the chicken pieces in the marinade and set aside. Let it rest for about 4 hours at least, overnight works best.
If you are using dry whole red chilies instead of red chili powder, soak whole dried chili in warm water for sometime. Then grind to a smooth paste using little water.
Heat oil in a large thick bottomed pan. Add the thinly sliced onion and cook slowly until they are fragrant and start to turn golden to brown. They will almost caramelize and this process will take anywhere from 20 – 35 minutes. Once the onions are near done and a lighter shade of brown add the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamoms and the clove to the pan. Saute for about a minute and add the marinated chicken pieces. Save any extra marinade.
Increase the heat and make sure the chicken pieces are in a single layer (try your best) as they need to be browned. Cook the chicken while occasionally tossing them, coating them with the spice mix and onions and browning them on all sides. All the pieces should have light brown spots. It will take about 15-25 minutes approximately.
Add the ginger paste now, toss and cook for a couple of minutes.
In 1/2 cup water combine, Chili Garlic paste, coriander powder, turmeric, ground whole chilies/chili paste OR red chili powder and salt. Add the extra marinade to the pan if you have any. Add this spice and water mix to the pan and cook slowly at medium heat while tossing the chicken pieces and spices frequently. Cook for about 15 to 25 minutes (the time will vary – watch for the oil to separate and leave the sides of the pan) until there is almost no water and the spice mix separates and the oil leaves the sides of the pan.
Add the 6-7 cups of warm water, tightly cover and cook until the chicken is done and almost falling off the bone. Towards the last 15 minutes of cooking, open the lid a tiny bit for some water to evaporate and have the right consistency of the sauce/gravy. The curry should be soupy and should start to look cooked with the patches of red oil, floating on the top of the curry. Switch off the heat if done and cover. If you feel there is too much water left (the consistency will be soupy with lot of liquid gravy to dunk your bread in), partially cover and cook for some more time till it reaches the right consistency.
Once all done, cool for about 15 minutes. Uncover, add the drained yogurt, stir it in and simmer at very low heat for no more than 5 minutes. Now add the minced garlic, stir it in and cover tightly until ready to serve.
This dish tastes even better the next day as the spices and the flavor of the garlic infuses and blends well with time.
Drizzle some lime juice if you wish before serving and serve with flat breads (tandoori roti/Naan/Makki ki roti etc) or any crusty bread.
The cook’s tip:
Never keep a cooked meat curry uncovered until ready to serve. Keeping it covered seals in the moisture and flavors and prevents the meat from getting “tough”.
A little note to my readers here:
I often get comments and emails mentioning that the dish they tried out from my blog, did not have the colors they see in the photographs. The red color of a curry may be dependent on a lot of things. If you are using store bought chili powders, or dried chilies, keep in mind all varieties and brands are different and might impart different colors to a dish. In my kitchen I use Kashmiri Red Chili Powder, and if you compare this to any other chili powders, you would know the difference in colors. Again all brands of the Kashmiri Chili Powder might not be exactly same. If it is a tomato based curry, again the hue will depend on the kind of tomato or how ripe they are. The goal is not to get the exact colors to match the photographs, but to get closest to the taste of the recipe. Thank you much for your support and appreciation!