For those of you who don't know, I am not a chef by any means. I work at a leading laser manufacturer in the semiconductor industry, which is even more boring than it sounds. Anyway, I work with a lot of mechanical engineers and software engineers from India. But don't worry, I never talk to them about those things. I solely waste their time all day talking to them about food, and not one of them has ever told me that it is possible to get good Indian food in San Diego. There are some places I really like, but little did I know I was just being ignorant. All of my Indian work friends always suggest different dishes that I should make so that I can try "real" Indian food; paneer makhani, spinach chapathi, chicken biryani, okra in curry, potatoes with mustard seed and turmeric... so many things! I really want to make them all, but I have been craving something spicy lately, so I asked around for everyone's opinion on the most spicy dish they could think of. Obviously I got a thousand answers because everyone I work with is from different regions within India, but I did manage to get two whole votes for a single dish: Chicken Jalfrezi!
Apparently it is a Bangladeshi dish well-known throughout the north-east of the Indian continent. Some people add cayenne or chili oil to add even more fire, and yogurt is not traditional, but I kinda thought I would try it out just with chilies at first. Then I touched my eye after chopping the chilies, and then I also had a massive coughing fit after adding the chopped chilies to the oil, and was like "ok wow I need to add yogurt to this". I would even suggest substituting the cooking oil with butter for added richness and another opportunity to temper the heat coursing throughout the sauce.
The most important thing is to add the spices before the tomatoes. Otherwise, there will be raw spice flavor and the sauce will turn out gritty. The other piece of advice I can give you is to have all of your ingredients prepared and measured before starting any heating. Things move quickly once you start flash-frying!
Butter Count: It's Indian food
2 Tbsp cooking oil
4 Thai chilies sliced thinly, and 2 Thai chilies left whole*
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp garam masala
1 Tbsp turmeric
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes**
3/4 cup water
2 Tbsp yogurt
1 yellow onion, cut into 12 wedges
1 green bell pepper, cored and sliced into small pieces
2 tomatoes, cut into 4 wedges
2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp water
*Thai chilies are extremely spicy. For a lower heat level, use Serrano peppers.
**I use organic chicken breasts. Non-organic will be much bigger, so you may only need 2.
1. In a large pot, heat 1 Tbsp of cooking oil over high heat. Add the garlic and chopped Thai chilies and saute briefly until the garlic is fragrant, careful not to burn.
NOTE: The chilies will explode with aroma and will likely make you cough.
2. Pour in the spices, sugar, and salt. Quickly stir to fully coat the chilies and garlic and lightly toast the spices. Before the spices burn, pour in the chopped tomatoes into the pot and stir to fully combine.
3. Add the chicken and whole Thai chilies, tossing often for about 5 minutes until the chicken is basically cooked on the outside.
4. Add the water and yogurt and stir well. Immediately lower the heat to medium so that the sauce continues to bubble but not splatter. Allow the sauce to reduce about 9 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked through.
5. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat 1 Tbsp of cooking oil over high heat and throw in the onion wedges, bell pepper, and quartered tomatoes. Heat Cook about 8 minutes, tossing once or twice, until the veggies are deeply browned but not all the way cooked through.
6. When the chicken is fully cooked, stir the cornstarch mixture into the sauce and continue to simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened. When the sauce is the desired thickness, remove the pot from the heat.
7. Toss the flash-fried veggies to the sauce pot.
8. Serve with rice!