Dhaba style chicken bharta recipe – the influence of punjabification on Bengali cuisine and how it has beautifully blended with Calcutta’s own cosmopolitan cultural jigsaw-
For centuries people from different culture, countries had migrated to Calcutta and made the city their second home. For last three centuries, Calcutta remained the hotspot for mass migration for people who were seeking jobs, business opportunities and also for people who left their home countries in the wake of political and religious issues, thus seeking asylum in the city. In due course of time, flavours intermingles, criss crossing the geographical boundaries. From Mughals, Chinese to British, French and Dutch which later amalgamated to form sizable Anglo-Indian community, Armenians, Parsee, Jews each of them had enhanced the flavour quotient of Calcutta cuisine thus enriching it which later evolves into continental cuisine. Kolkata Chinese cuisine is mainly Cantonese in nature while Mughlai cuisine follows a strong lineage of Awadhi cuisine of Lucknow.
Amidst the cosmopolitan jigsaw, the pan Indian influence on Bengali cuisine was not evident till the early part of last century when trader communities from western part of the country began to settle in the ghats of Hooghly, which marked the proliferation of textile industries, huge market began to take shapes in the central Kolkata and with that they introduced new culinary delicacies to the Bengali cuisine. Punjabification of Indian food is worldwide and this has also influenced largely to the regular Bengali cuisine. Chicken tikkas, naan, roti and dal tadka became a regular event in Bengali household. Along the grand Trunk road built by Sher Shah Suri which helped to connect the two communities, numerous dhabas starts their initial journey along the National highways. Most of them were known for their in house specialties, meals were simple but taste and flavour spread their wings to different part of the city. Honey da dhaba is relatively new entrant but it has charmed the Kolkattans with its famous chicken bharta.
Though a true blooded Bengali prefers a goat over chickens, but chicken bharta is something unique and deliciously creamy to their taste that ordinary Kolkattans never shied away from standing in queue for hours to taste this delicacy. Chicken bharta is relatively simple dish and unlike other chicken dishes the mashed egg yolk imparts creaminess to this dish. You will find lots of versions, but make a note that this dish doesn’t contain any cream and also a good soft chicken bharta not just needs a boneless meat but also it should be very soft. So the best approach is to poach the chicken breast in water and then fork it away, a good shredded chicken is the key ingredient here.
- Boneless chicken breast : 500 gm
- Ginger garlic paste : 2 tsp
- Onions (big size and sliced) : 2
- Turmeric powder: ½ tsp
- Cumin powder : 1 tsp
- Coriander powder : 1 tsp
- Deghi mirch (red chilli) powder : 1 tsp
- Punjabi garam masala : ¼ tsp
- Egg yolk : 2 mashed
- Cashew paste : 2 -3 tbsp
- Yogurt : 3-4 tbsp
- Tomato puree : 1-2 tbsp
- Salt to taste
- Oil : 3 tbsp
- Butter : one knob
- Cilantro chopped : handful
- Kasuri methi : 2-3 tsp
- Boiled egg whites to garnish
- Wash and clean the chicken breast thoroughly. Heat enough salted water in a pan and add the chicken breast to it. Poach it or cook till done. Check for the rawness and continue cooking till the chicken is poached thoroughly.
- While the chicken is still hot, fork it away with the table forks and keep the shredded chicken aside.
- In a separate pan, heat the oil and fry the sliced onions till golden in color. Add the ginger garlic paste and saute it.
- Add the spices like turmeric powder, cumin, coriander, red chilli powder and fry thr spices till the rawness disappears.
- Now add the shredded chicken and mix it well on medium heat till the chicken is well coated with the spices.
- In a separate bowl mix yogurt, cashew paste and garam masala.
- Lower the heat and add the above mixture to the chicken. Cook on low heat till the oil starts leaving the sides of the pan. Add the tomato puree and continue cooking on low heat.
- Check for the seasonings, by this time shredded chicken pieces should be well incorporated with the spice mixture. Add little water if requires.
- Cover the pan and cook for five more minutes.
- When it is done, add the mashed egg yolk, butter, finely chopped cilantro and kasuri methi.
- Garnish the chciken bharta with sliced hard boiled egg whites.
- Serve the chicken bharta with roti or naan.
Wishing everyone a wonderful year ahead,