A lot is being done to revive old Indian recipes. I feel it is a great move(ment) in the food industry. The length and breadth of India, across the timeline of cultures, is pure culinary education, among many other things. For those not fortunate enough to get their hands on old cook books that discuss how old and ancient kitchens worked, some conscientious chefs are paving the way.
In the periphery of reviving old recipes, is one that is called “Dak Bungalow”. The cooks, known as the “maharaj” or “khansama” would be at-order to make whatever the British officials chose to eat. However, there is more to this story (and recipe). Most cooks in dak bungalows weren’t adept in British fare. And travelling with your personal khansama was a privilege of the higher ranks. And so, in this strange environment of demand and supply, arose a type of curry that was called the dak bungalow. The British officials fancied a good curry but couldn’t palette the spiciness. To appease to their threshold of hotness and spiciness, emerged a curry made with proteins of choice that didn’t require (or have the time for) overnight marination; used available spices (in the dak bungalow kitchen); and was intentionally made bland to suit the foreign palette. With the original recipe lost in the corridors of time, many restaurants across India have been making their own versions of “Dak Bungalow” – some perhaps closer to the recipe, some just selling the ordinary curry with the DB tag.
Now that I have set the premise while chopping onions, it is time to make Chicken Dak Bungalow using the three things that we have learnt: no overnight marination, use available spices and balanced spiciness.
Take about 750 grams to a kilo of chicken (or mutton, if you please), clean and wash them. Add a generous amount of turmeric, coriander powder, cumin powder, red chilly powder and salt to taste. For the rich-looking and balanced gravy, add in a generous amount of curd and get in there with your fingers and mix them well. Pour in a dollop of mustard oil (for pungency and a slight bite) and rest the chicken only for the time it will take for you to get the mise en place ready.
3 medium to big sized onions, diced up will go into the mixie. Chuck in a couple of green chillies and give it a good whir. Feel free to add about 4-5 cloves of garlic. Keep ready.
Pan on fire; and add a generous glug of mustard oil. Once you can smell it (and that means it has reached a suitable temperature), add in some dry spices, namely 4-5 bay leaves, a few peppercorns and about 4-5 cloves. Temper the oil till you can smell the nose-tickling aroma. This is when the finely chopped garlic goes in and so does the onion paste. The base colour of the curry will be determined by how well it is sautéed. When you notice the oil leaving the sides, add in a touch more of turmeric and cumin powder. I also added in some more red chilly powder. Mix them well with the onion paste. In about a couple of minutes, add in the marinated chicken. In it goes and you will notice the colour changing to a lighter hue. This is when the chicken needs to be introduced well to the onion and spice mix. Let them talk to each other. Let them ask each other out. Give this well-behaved foreplay about 5-7 minutes, before you introduce lightly fried potatoes. Surprise, it’s a threesome! Get them all together and then pour in a little warm water, just enough to cover the chicken and potatoes. Cover the pot and let them cook.
Take a flat pan and lightly sear and scar some hard boiled eggs. Yes, I know it sounds criminal when you have to scar some eggs, but then a cook’s got to do, what a cook’s got to do. You must also score them lengthwise before frying them. Let them sit.
Check on your curry. Do the taste test. Balance the saltiness. Now slip in the eggs in the curry and let them slow cook for another 5 odd minutes. Throw in a generous handful of finely chopped coriander leaves. Time to plate up.
Steamed rice on the side. Serve a generous portion of Chicken Dak Bungalow. Do not even attempt to take a spoon. Dig in with your fingers unless you want to eat like the officers of the Raj did – with fine silver and alcohol on the side.
PS: drop me a line to share how it turned out.