How will you describe rezala ? Just stating that it’s a highly fragrant dish which looks more like a stew and not a gravy and mildly spiced will not do justice to it. In fact it is a perfect amalgamation of sourness and sweetness with an undertone of spiciness, with lots of unmatched flavour makes it rather amusing and delectable which is very much Bengali in origin.
Unlike other Bengali delicacies which has travelled to far away land, rezala remain confined to the geographical boundaries of Kolkata. The reasons are not known, may be it did not get a loyal patronage or it fails to amuse the rich and varied taste of Indian cuisine. The latter being highly untrue as the mystery slowly unfolds when one get absorbed in its creamy taste and rich flavour which itself speaks about the many tales that shrouded this amusing dish called rezala.
The long period of Muslim rule in the country has greatly influenced the architecture and cuisine of the country and Bengal was no exception. The nawabs who represent the Mughal empire brought bawarchis and maslachis with them and soon the royal kitchens wafting with the flavour of kebabs and biryanis and when the last nawab of Awadh Wajid Ali Shah exiled to Calcutta (metiabruz), it formally established the mughlai cuisine in Calcutta which attains some robust flavour after mingling with the Bengali foods. Like biryanis and kebabs, rezala too slowly cooked over charcoal fire or in sigri and thus attained an unmatched flavour, truly reflecting the Mughal legacy.
This legacy was carried forward by the muslim restaurants like Aminia’s biryani, Shiraj’s biryani, mutton chaap and rezala, Sabir’s mutton rezala, Nizams kebabs and rolls, Rahmania’s mughlai dishes and Arsalan is the latest one to join the league.
The most unusual and comforting thing about this recipe of chicken rezala (a highly abridged version of mutton rezala) is that it uses few chosen spices, slow cooking and un common blending of onion with sour curd used for marination as well as for cooking. Rezala usually has very thin gravy, if you are not comfortable with it you can always add roasted flour to thicken it slightly. I have arrived at this recipe after gone through many recipes on internet and food magazines, the authentic one is yet to surface though.
- Chicken : 500 gm
- Onion paste : 1 cup
- Curd: 1 cup
- Ginger – garlic paste (optional) : 1 tbsp
- Red chillies : 2-3
- Bay leaves: 2
- Few cloves, cinnamon, mace and a pinch of grated nutmeg
- White pepper powder: 1 tsp
- Sugar and salt to taste
- Ghee : 2 tbsp
- Kewra water / screw pine nut water: few drops
- Garnishing (optional) : roasted almonds and dry red chillies
- For marinade: Mix ½ cup onion paste with ½ cup beaten curd along with a spoon of ginger-garlic paste, salt and 2 red chillies.
- Marinate the chicken with the above prepared marinade for two hours.
- Blend the remaining onion paste with the curd and keep it separate.
- Heat ghee in a pan and temper it with cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, mace, red chillies and grated nutmeg.
- Fry for few seconds till it leaves its aroma.
- Now spoon out the pieces of chicken from the marinade and add to the oil carefully, and let it stir fry for 10 minutes.
- Next add the marinade along with the mixture of onion paste with curd and cook for few minutes.
- Add further the ginger-garlic paste and freshly pounded white pepper powder, continue cooking on low heat, add sugar and salt to taste.
- Do not add any water as the onion, curd and chicken will ooze out enough liquid.
- Mix it well with the chicken and cover and simmer on low heat till done.
- Add few drops of kewra water or rose-water to the chicken.
- Garnish with roasted almonds and dry chilli flakes before serving.
Verdict: well I can not vouch for its authenticity and has a very faintest memory of mutton rezala I once had at Shiraz, never had chicken rezala though, all I can say that it was something unique and new to me and we loved everything about it, right from its mild taste to its magical flavour created by nutmeg and mace, roasted almonds has been added to give it a nutty flavour and roasted dry red chillies adds the color and that smoky touch to the dish.
Variation : If you like to try this recipe with vegetables or other meat like mutton rezala, you can check it here at Ushnish da’s blog where he has elaborately described it.
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