Winter picnics are a thing in Calcutta. Like a real thing. Office picnics. School picnics. Family picnics. Every type of picnic you can think of. There are gardens which have designated spots for people to show up and spread out their picnics. The popular ones get booked out weeks in advance, so snagging a good spot takes a bit of planning.
It’s been a while since I was in Calcutta in December for a long enough time to attend a family picnic. I guess it was probably in 2010! But I had such a good time that it still stands out in my memory! We were a large group, and some of my cousins were there too. I’d recently bought my DSLR and spent a good portion of the picnic taking pictures. I have fantastic memories of that picnic – the people, the conversations, and also the food. I remember the food being delicious, but the highlight of that day was the fried chilli chicken that my brother had made.
I loved it so much that I promptly had my brother share his recipe of the fried chilli chicken. Unfortunately, I never ended up trying that recipe till just a couple of weekends ago.
As it so happened, I was home alone, and was looking for something fun to cook. There was some chicken in the fridge, and just on a lark, I pulled up the recipe for the fried chilli chicken that my brother had sent me. I had all the ingredients on hand, but there was only one hitch – I’d just come back from attending a wedding in Jaipur, and having eaten a fair share of heavy (and tasty) food, wasn’t quite in the mood for deep-fried anything.
Enter the oven – I am so glad that I’d insisted upon getting one fitted in our kitchen when we were planning out this house last year. I decided to just bake the chicken, instead of deep frying it, wishing fervently that the final dish would taste as good as I remembered it to be. Thankfully, it lived up to the memories (otherwise, I wouldn’t be sharing it here), and I ended up with a delicious, tasty and mostly healthy dinner recipe.
Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try this healthier take on the chilli chicken.
Ingredients (serves 2-3):
350 gm boneless chicken, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp chilli sauce (green chilli sauce would work best)
1 tsp black pepper powder
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 1/2 tbsp cornflour
1/2 tbsp all purpose flour (almond or coconut flour would also work well)
Salt, to taste
1 tsp vegetable oil + 1/2 tsp for brushing the baking tray
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 green chilli (or serrano pepper), finely chopped
Spring onions for garnish
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degree Celsius.
- Brush a baking tray with 1/2 tsp oil and keep aside.
- In a small bowl, mix together the items for the marinade – 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tbsp chilli sauce, 1 tsp black pepper powder, 1/2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste, 1 tbsp cornflour, 1/2 tbsp flour and 1 tsp salt.
- Marinate the chicken in this mixture for an hour or two (in a pinch, you could marinate this for 30 minutes or so, but the longer you keep it, the better) and keep aside.
- Once the chicken has been marinating for about an hour, line up the pieces on the baking tray, and bake for about 15 minutes at 180 degree Celsius. Halfway through, flip the chicken pieces. If the chicken is still under-cooked after 15 minutes, try baking further in 2 minute increments till it feels done (mine took about 20-21 minutes to be cooked, though I did lower the temperature to 150 degree Celsius for the last 5-6 minutes).
- When the chicken is about halfway done (around the 8 minute mark), you can start cooking off your onion. Heat a non-stick pan with 1 tsp oil and let it heat to smoking. Add the chopped onions and green chilli, and after they’ve been cooking for about 5 minutes on medium, add the remaining ginger-garlic paste. Cook for another 4-5 minutes, or at least till the raw smell of the ginger-garlic paste disappears. I like my onions a little on the crisper side, so I let them cook for about 12 minutes total.
- Add the remaining ingredients (1/2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp chilli sauce and 1/2 tbsp cornflour) and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Once the chicken is baked, add it to the cooked onions, and mix well. Stir it all together for a minute or so.
- Garnish with chopped spring onions and serve hot.
I like my chilli chicken spicy and without gravy. If you’d like to have some gravy, add some water to the onions along with the remaining marinade ingredients and cook to desired consistency before adding the chicken. Season the gravy accordingly.
Also, you could easily use boned chicken as well. Boneless chicken was what I had on hand, so that’s what I went with.
To be clear, this recipe is a little different from the traditional chilli chicken that you get in Chinese takeaways. There’s no capsicum used in this recipe, though you could add it in if you want. And also, it’s a rather dry preparation, unlike the usual saucy chilli chicken.
If you do end up making this, do let me know how it turned out in the comments below.
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