Chicken tikka masala is an Anglo-Indian cuisine that has been the staple of the British.
It is so popular in the UK that a member of parliament claimed in 2002 that it was a British national dish. It is also the most noticeable dish of the Indian restaurants in America.
But chicken tikka masala is not from India, although some people said otherwise.
The origin of chicken tikka masala is ambiguous. Some claimed that it was originated from an Indian restaurant in Glasgow called Shish Mahal restaurant. Other culinary pundits speculated that it was probably from the British Bangladeshi community. Rahul Varma, an India expert of street food, offers an alternative suggestion of the origin. He said that it was probably of the improvisation of cuisine from Punjab and Uttar Pradesh fifty year ago.
Despite the mystery of the origin, This classic chicken tikka has taken to the next level with the improvisation with a dash of British coolness. It reflects the creative fusion of the exotic Indian spices with the British cooking techniques.
Chicken tikka masala was invented by improvising the chicken tikka, a traditional dish in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. Chicken tikka a prepared with boneless chicken meat marinated with various spices and yogurt and then bake in the tandoor on skewers. Chicken tikka masala goes a step further by cooking grilled meat in a gravy flavored with a myriad of spices. The gravy is creamy, spicy and orange-colored.
Make chicken tikka masala at home
Many traditional recipes from Asia remain elusive and difficult to replicate. The local chefs rely on feel developed through experience over clearly written recipes. The involvement of a myriad of spices makes it difficult to approximate this Indian favorites at home.
As usual, I will include as many details as possible to ensure you will make it successfully even for the first trial.
Make this at home this weekend, and you will find your guests in ecstasies over the heavenly aroma of a symphony of spices wafted out from the kitchen.
Whether you love the original chicken tikka (meat on skewer minus the gravy) or you prefer the ‘masala’ way with gravy, you are definitely in for a treat.
Step by step explanation of how to make chicken tikka masala
1. Marinate the chicken
Marinating the chicken is a major step to tenderize the chicken and let the flavor of the spices penetrate into the meat. You need to marinate it for at least six hours. There is a noticeable difference in tenderness and flavor between two hours and six hours of marination. Six hours of marination will make the chicken very tender, and the flavor of the spices will imbue into the meat. The flavor will remain in the chicken even after cooking with the gravy for a minute.
You may use chicken breast meat and chicken thigh meat in this recipe.
Tips: For best result, marinate the chicken and leave it in the refrigerator overnight.
2. Frying the spices
Garam masala (spices) can get burn quickly over high heat, and leave a bitter taste.
Use the spices liberally. There is never a problem to use too many spices. On the other hand, an insufficient amount of spices produces lame chicken tikka masala.
1. Use low heat to saute the spices until aromatic.
2. Add a small amount of water to the ground spices can prevent it from burning.
3. Grilling the chicken
Cook with open fire with an outdoor griller is the best. Alternatively, you can use a grill pan over the induction burner if you want to make it in a small home kitchen. Cook the chicken meat by putting them on the grill pan. Thread the meat pieces onto a skewer if you want to make chicken tikka.
Tips: Be patient when grilling. The spices and yogurt can burn quickly.
4. Onions, tomatoes, and nuts
Cut the onions into small pieces or slice them very thinly and loosen the layers before browning. Tiny pieces of onion will brown quickly. The taste of caramelized onions is superior to the raw onions.
The cashew nuts will not contribute much flavor, but it helps to thicken the sauce. Almond is the alternative to cashew nuts. The use of candle nuts in Indonesian rendang minang recipe is for the same purpose, i.e. to thicken the sauce so that it will cling on to the surface of the meat.
Tips: Blend the tomatoes, onions, and nuts thoroughly until it forms a smooth paste. It takes much shorter time to cook the finely blended paste into a thick and homogenous gravy.
5. Combining the gravy with the chicken
Start with sauteing the whole spices like cinnamon stick, cloves, and cardamoms. You can substitute them with ground spices if you have difficulties to get them.
Add some water as soon as the ground spices start to stick onto the surface of the wok. The water will prevent the spices from burning.
I prefer to cook (actually just to mix !) the chicken in the gravy for less than half a minute and make sure it is not watery. Some recipes suggest cooking the gravy with the chicken for a few minutes, which I do not think that it is the way to bring out the best of the chicken tikka. Since the chicken pieces have been marinated for hours, the flavor is more intense than the gravy, and I prefer to preserve as it is.
Tips: Cook the sauce until it thickens, so that it will cling on to the surface of the chicken meat.
Mixing with the chicken meat
Since the chicken tikka is full of flavor by itself. I prefer to just combine the gravy and the chicken meat to preserve the flavor and grilling aroma. I have tried to cook the chicken with the gravy for five minutes by following a recipe, but the flavor of the chicken was lost somehow and diluted.
Watch how to make chicken tikka masala (10.11 minutes)
- 250 g chicken breast meat cut into 2cm cubes
- 100 g plain yogurt
- 1/4 small lime , use the juice only
- 1 teaspoon fennel powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cloves garlic
- 2 cm ginger , about 2cm length
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 100 g tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon cashew nuts blend with the tomato
- 130 g onions chopped
- 1/4 red capsicum cut into 3cm pieces
- 1/4 green capsicum cut into 3cm pieces
- 1/4 large onion cut into 3cm pieces
- ground coriander , chopped
Combine all the ingredients except the chicken meat in a large bowl.
Cut the chicken meat into 2cm cubes..
Place the chicken in the bowl and combine with the spices. Cover and marinate for six hours. You may also leave it in the refrigerator overnight for better flavor.
Place the chicken pieces on a griller. Grill over low heat for ten minutes or until golden brown.
Turn the chicken pieces over when they start to turn golden brown. Baste with melted butter or ghee until they are cooked through with slightly charred edges.
Heat up the vegetable oil in a saucepan or wok.
Add the finely chopped onions to the oil. Saute the onion until caramelized.
Blend the fried onions, tomatoes and cashew nuts into a paste.
Saute the cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, bay leave with oil over low heat.
Add the remaining spices and saute until aromatic. Add some water if necessary as the spices can get burned quickly.
Add the tomato/onion paste. Cook for five minutes. Add water if necessary.
Add the capsicums and onions as in Ingredients D. Cook for one minute.
Add the grilled chicken tikka. Mix well.
Transfer it to a dish. Garnish with coriander leaves.
Serve with rice, roti or naan.
You may also need the following items for this recipe:
About chicken tikka (not chicken tikka masala)
What is chicken tikka, minus the word ‘masala’?
Chicken tikka is a chicken dish originated from the Kashmir region of India. Tikka means small bites, so chicken tikka means small boneless chicken pieces. It commonly refers to chicken pieces marinated in a myriad of spices, mainly coriander, cumin, fennel, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, and garlic. The exact formula of the spices varies from one region of India to another. However, yogurt is used universally as the main ingredients for marination.
The chicken pieces are threaded onto a skewer and grilled over a small flame for about twenty minutes.
Chicken tikka tastes fabulously by itself, even without the gravy. The similar set of spices is also used to marinate the larger pieces of chicken, and thread onto a long metal skewer. This chicken is baked in a large vessel call tandoor, which is the famous tandoori chicken.
The best way to prepare chicken tikka is by using a charcoal grill. Using a simple grill pan over a gas or induction stove is an option for home cooks. Since we are preparing chicken tikka masala, I have shown you how to make the chicken tikka with grilled pan in the video.
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