The best things in life happens unexpectedly. Like this lime and lemony lemon grass chicken curry that has become very much staple part of our late summer meals. After days of scorching tropical Summer when first drizzle of rains touched the Earth, every life forms come alive, as if they are infused with fresh oxygen.
This is also the time when the season changes, as summer transgressed into rainy days, it also brings dozens of its own maladies. Our food habits also adapts itself according to the new season and one hot favourite apart from samosa and chai is my mom’s peppery chicken soup with fresh root ginger, peppercorns and lime. Sometimes she will drop two lime leaves, harvested from our own lime tree, in the soup also. This was kind of tonic for cold and rainy days. Unlike in the metro cities, where rains brings more humidity, in hills it is opposite, the temperature drops suddenly. For long this lime pepper chicken soup has given us much comfort in the needy days and has soothed our soul whenever we felt miserable.
This recipe of my mom’s lime pepper chicken soup got some makeover in the recent past and from soup it has transformed into a delightful and flavorful chicken curry. The inspiration for the makeover has come from very unexpected quarter and at an unexpected moment.
On one Summer afternoon we were returning from LA to N. Carolina, after spending two long week holidays in the awe inspiring West Coast and Yosemite valleys and Yellowstone national parks. LA airport is quiet big enough but what attracted me were the wide range of global cuisine that caters to cosmopolitan culture of LA. There in one of those food cafe we had this lime lemon lemongrass chicken curry flavour some and was served with scented Jasmine rice.
Nice succulent pieces of chicken curried in broth kind soupy liquid infused with flavor of fresh lemongrass, nicely scented with lime, two kaffir lime leaves were floating on top, the sourness from limes were not overpowering but just right and the earthy taste of galangal with citrusy undertones, this was the best light summer style chicken curry that I ever had. The taste, the flavour, the scent of jasmine rice stayed with us for days to come.
This recipe of mine is a way to recreate that magical moment we had that day but it is not possible to recreate it. Instead here is my rendition and am sure you will love this too.
I have used sweet limes in the recipe. You can use Bergamot too. Sweet limes or mausambi is an Indian native citrus variety. The fruit is juicy, sweet with citrusy flavour but not too sour like limes or lemons.
Galangal gives very earthy taste to the dish you can add ginger too. As an Indian ginger is staple in all our dishes from tea to chicken curry and its anti-inflammatory properties helps to fight against the cold viruses. Lemon grass is not regular in Indian kitchen, but is full of anti-oxidants that heals cold, flu, fever and boost metabolism. I suggest use only fresh lemongrass. Sweet limes are full of wonderful health properties, it boost immunity and very good for hair and skin. You can left turmeric in the chicken curry but I love yellow color curry, it brightens up the mood. Moreover turmeric has numerous health benefits and as an Indian turmeric is literally indispensable in an Indian kitchen. From my Thailand travel in some distant past, I had bought a small stash of sichuan peppers. They are not hot like black peppercorns, but slightly sweet and gives a toungue-tickling sensation. They are great flavour enhancers. I often use them in my soups and sometimes use them as rub on my chicken dishes.
So here we go- my sweet lime lemony chicken curry and this recipe use no ground spices, except turmeric.
- Chicken curry cut : 500 gm
- Onion / shallots (one) : finely chopped
- Ginger / galangal : two inch root piece, peel and smash it
- Garlic : 5-6 cloves
- Bay leaves - 2
- Black peppercorn : 5-6
- Sichuan Peppercorn : 10
- Lemongrass : two stalk chopped
- Juice of sweet lime : 1 cup
- Juice of one lime / lemon
- Salt and sugar to taste
- Turmeric powder : 1tsp
- Butter : 2-3 tbsp
- Lime leaves : few
- Chicken stock : 4 cups
- Wash and clean the chicken. Rub salt and turmeric over it. Keep aside for 10 minute.
- In a pan, melt the butter. Add garlic, let it fry till it slightly changes its color. Add onions.
- Fry the onions till they become soft.
- Add lemon grass, ginger or galangal smashed nicely.
- Add the chicken, fry them till the rawness disappear.
- Add rest of the spices. Stir well.
- Add sweet lime juice, lime / lemon juice.
- Adjust salt and sugar to taste.
- Add the chicken stock. Cover and let it cook till the chicken pieces become succulent.
- I use pressure cooker to save some time and it really makes the chicken succulent.
- Check the seasonings before serving.
- Sprinkle some black pepper powder, some more melted butter and fresh squeeze of lime may be.
- Serve it warm with jasmine or basmati rice.
Stay tuned for feasty monsoon series,