Saunf and chicken: sounds strange?
While there are many recipes for making fried chicken, saunf chicken holds it own amongst the fried chickens of the world. I discovered this recipe while travelling in Kerala. We had an utterly fabulous time for over ten days touring the state and you can read about our experience here. While the scenery was wonderful and people warm and friendly, the food was refreshingly different from the North Indian fare.
The South Indian cuisine (apologies that I am lumping all South Indian cuisines under one!) shares commonalities with the North Indian food but it has some fundamental differences. For example, the oil of choice for cooking in South India is coconut oil whereas in North India, it is either ghee (clarified butter) or mustard oil. While North Indians mostly eat wheat-based carbs: naan, paranthas, chapatis and puris, the south Indians have a rice-based cuisine: dosa, idlis, poha and utpam. What the cumin seeds are to North Indian fare, mustards seeds are to South Indian food and coriander is replaced with curry leaves in South Indian food.
The recipe for fried chicken is from Kerala but it has some elements of the North India cooking such as garam masala. It’s fantastic: the sharpness of chillies is offset by the sweetness of saunf and the dish bound together by the spices and herbs. And it’s really quick to make and you can prep it in advance of dinner and is best served fresh. Go and make it, people, for a bite of heaven!
- 500 gram chicken breasts without skin (cut into small 1/2-1inch pieces)
- 4-5 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
- 1/2 inch ginger peeled and crushed
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- 1 tsp saunf fennel seeds
- 1 tsp garam masala recipe here
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 5-6 dried red chilies small
- 1 tsp salt or according to taste
- 2 large shallots thinly sliced
- 3 green chilies sliced diagonally
- 20-25 fresh green curry leave (curry patta)
- coconut oil for frying
Mix together the chicken, ginger, garlic, salt, red chili, turmeric, saunf (fennel seeds) and garam masala and green chilies and set it aside for an hour. If you are going to marinate it overnight, keep it in the fridge.
In a wok, add enough coconut oil to cover the chicken. Heat the oil on medium high and once the oil is hot (add a small piece and if it sizzles, then oil is hot), deep fry the chicken. Your can fry it in 2-3 batches (depending on the size of your wok) and each batch should take about 6-7 minutes until the chicken pieces are fully fried. Set the chicken aside on a tray covered with paper towels to soak the excess oil. If the oil starts to smoke turn the heat down a bit.
In a separate pan, add 2-3 tbsp coconut oil on medium heat. Once the oil is hot (but not smoking), add the shallots, dried chilies and curry leaves. Alternate between low and medium high heat until the shallots are translucent and golden brown.
Mix together the onion mix and the chicken and you are done!
Serve with drinks as nibbles or with parathas.