This dish originates from the Mughal royalty. Rich and creamy yet this recipe for chicken rezala is easy enough even for a beginner to make.
Mughlai may be a word new to most outside the Indian Subcontinent, but you may be familiar with words like biriyani, korma, kofte, kebabs and pulao.
These dishes originated way back during the Mughal era when India was ruled by the Mughal emperors and the Indian cuisine was heavily influenced by a strong Muslim cooking style.
Needless to say, Mughal emperors had it all, the money, the land, an army battalion, the women and the spices!!
The Persian and Turkish brought in spices to India making Mughlai cuisine heavily influenced by Middle-eastern spices.
Unlike the usual spices used for cooking a traditional Indian dish such as coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric, chilli powder, Mughlai cuisine use a distinctive range of aroma based spices.
Mace, nutmeg, white pepper, star anise, fennel seeds, caraway seeds
These together form a special type of spices known as ‘Shahi Masala’ which literally translates to ‘royal spices’ in Hindi.
Apart from this, the Mughlai style of cooking also involves the use of natural flavour enhancers such as rose petal, saffron, kewra water.
You may have already heard about the use of rose petal and saffron but what is kewra water?
Kewra water is a kind of sweet screwpine essence or an extract that’s distilled from pandanus flower. It is a clear liquid almost like rose water with a sweet aromatic smell.
The taste of a Mughlai dish can range from being extremely mild to very spicy.
The sweetness comes from the addition of dry fruits, nuts and cream, so if you are into calorie counting bid adios to your weekly treat for the whole month ???? !
While the addition of red chillies and black pepper can make a Mughlai curry hot.
Saying that, Mughlai dishes are my all-time favourite dishes to prepare purely because of the way a cook has control over the spice content.
Given the array of choices of spices within the Shahi Masalas or Royal spices range, you have the flexibility to choose between aromatic spices or hot spices.
The delicate use of flavours makes this Rezala dish something unique and special.
This particular recipe fills me with nostalgia and takes me back to my teenage days of high school and college in Kolkata the capital city of West Bengal India.
As a teen with limited money to spend one had to choose wisely when it came to eating out. Chicken rezala with naan was perhaps one of the most affordable and fulfilling treat for us all.
We had a favourite joint called Nizam’s in an overly populated, narrow street of what was at that time the most happening place to go called New Market in Kolkata.
The smell of kewra water and rose sweeping through the air, clanging of dishes and happy chatty faces relishing the flavours come to mind every time I make this dish.
Different regions have different styles of making a rezala style curry. Pakistani rezala and Bangladeshi rezala is different from the Bengali style of cooking. But the spices used remain largely the same.
Don’t let the list of ingredients and the cooking time deter you from cooking this dish.
It actually requires very less supervision and is mostly slow-cooked on low heat, giving you time to dig into other things. (like tidying up the kitchen shelve which you have been putting off from doing)
The spices used to make Chicken Rezala are mostly whole spices.
If you don’t already have them, they can be easily bought from any supermarket, an ethnic store close to you or directly online by clicking on the images below.
These are the spices you will need to temper in hot oil:
Other special ingredients for Chicken rezala recipe are:
Ghee, saffron and poppy seeds.
Now, it is not a must to have all of the above ingredients.
But making it in Ghee and adding a few saffron strand to the curry will lend a depth of flavour and richness to this dish, that fits its royal beginnings.
2. The use of poppy seeds to this recipe is completely optional.
It may be hard to find white poppyseeds in a regular superstore, besides it is also difficult to grind them if you do not have a proper spice grinder that can grind poppy seeds into powder.
The alternative to using poppy seeds are sunflower seeds. You don’t have to use a replacement. The use of poppyseeds/sunflower gives the dish a thick and rich consistency and can easily be done without as cashew paste would also do the same.
3. If you are not able to grind cashew into a paste then grind into powder and then add 3 tbsps of water and 1/4 cup cream.
For convenience sake, you can also buy almond powder from any superstore, add 3 tbsps of water and 1/4 cup cream to 3 tbsp of almond powder and use that instead.
4. Kewra water, rose water are also optional ingredients. Use saffron strands instead to give the dish a flavour boost.
5. If you do not have mace powder, use 1/4 tsp of nutmeg.
6. Cooking this dish in Ghee gives it a richness, my recommendation will be to cook it in ghee. If you do not find ghee then warm some unsalted butter and mix a tbsp of white oil with it.
7. This rezala curry tastes best if you use chicken pieces with bones. The slow cooking process of the bones lends the dish extra flavour.
Add Cashew paste
Marinade chicken in yoghurt, cashew paste, ginger-garlic paste and onion paste.
Temper whole spices in ghee until fragrant.
Add the marinated chicken pieces to the tempered spices and stir well.
Add cashew paste to the chicken and stir well.
Cover the chicken and simmer for 10 mins stirring occasionally.
Finally add saffron strands, mace and serve hot.
Here is the recipe in detail for you.
|For The Marinade:|
|Whole Chicken cut into large pieces – 1 kg|
|Yoghurt – 1 cup|
|Onion paste – 1 cup|
|Ginger, grated – 1 tsp|
|Garlic, minced – 1 tbsp|
|Salt to taste|
|Spices For Tempering:|
|Dry red chillies – 3 to 4|
|Cinnamon stick – 2-inch stick|
|Black peppercorns – 1 tsp|
|Black cardamon – 2 pods|
|Green cardamon (optional) – 2 pods|
|Star anise – 1 flower|
|Cloves – 6 to 7|
|Bay leaves – 2|
|Ghee or butter (melted) – 3 – 4 tbsp|
|For the Gravy Sauce:|
|Cashew nuts – 10 to 12 pieces|
|Poppy seeds (optional, see cooking notes) – 2 tbsp spoons,|
|Saffron strands ( see notes for alternative) – a pinch soaked in milk Or Rosewater essence – few drops|
|Mace powder or crushed mace – 1/4 tsp|
|Sugar – 1 tsp or as per taste|
|Salt to taste|