Chasing a Goan chicken
My favourite thing to order from Chutneys, an Indian restaurant in Wimbledon is something called Green chicken from Goa. It was a little spicy and a little creamy and about only thing that wasn’t little was the coriander (cilantro) content. Handfuls of the herb were cooked down until an intense, dark green sauce coated the chicken.
But is it really from the Indian state of Goa? Everything I’ve ever read about Goan food mentions coconut and a Portuguese influence. I swear there was no coconut used in the Green chicken from Goa and I’ve never found a similar dish at any other Indian restaurant. Deciding to recreate the green chicken, I cooked from my recollection so I make no claims to Goan authenticity or likeness to the original dish. I guessed at the spices and their quantities but even the process of cooking this took me back to when I lived in London.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
I grew to like coriander once I was an adult but I loathed the herb as a child. Now I just can’t get enough of the stuff. There’s no typo in the recipe below – I do really ask you to use 300 grams of fresh coriander. I bought an enormous bouquet of coriander at a local Asian grocery store. If you like, stir in a handful of chopped coriander (yes, more!) just before serving to brighten the taste.
How do you store your herbs once you buy them? Or do you grow your own? Mournfully, I have a persistent black thumb and kill plants just by glancing at them. I keep my herbs in a tall glass jar half filled with water and covered with a plastic bag in my fridge door. The bag protects it from the excessive cold like a mini greenhouse and since the door is the warmest part of the fridge that helps too.
Although it’s been 7 years since I last ate at Chutneys, I felt that I was able to approximate the elusive taste of the coriander flavoured chicken. But maybe my memory is playing tricks on me. Authentic or not, it’s the ghost of my taste memory that I seek. A true Goan chicken dish wasn’t what I was looking for after all.
Feeds: 6 people
Start cooking: 12 hours before eating
Chasing coriander chicken
- 1 kg x skinless chicken thighs
- 300 grams x fresh coriander (cilantro)
- 4 x large red or green fresh chillis
- 30 grams x fresh ginger
- 4 x garlic cloves
- 1 x onion
- 2 teaspoons x cumin seeds
- 1 heaped teaspoon x coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon x black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon x chilli powder
- 2 teaspoons x salt
- 1/3 cup x water
- 200ml x plain Greek-style yoghurt
- Vegetable oil
- Toast the cumin, coriander seeds, black peppercorns in a dry pan over medium heat for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Remove spices from the heat.
- Roughly chop up the ginger, garlic, fresh chilli and half an onion, placing in a food processor. Add the toasted spices, chilli powder, salt and 100 grams of coriander (roots and all) and blitz until a paste is formed.
- Place the chicken in a large bowl and marinate with the coriander paste for at least 3 hours or overnight in the fridge.
- Once marinated, remove the chicken pieces from the bowl, brushing off the marinade paste. Set aside the chicken. You should have about 1 and a half cups of marinade.
- At this stage, you can choose to brown the chicken pieces first for a minute each side over medium heat. I like the depth of flavour it adds but it does mean you have to either clean the pot before cooking further, or use a separate pan. If you hate washing up, skip to the next step.
- Roughly chop up 200 grams of coriander and the remaining onion half.
- Heat up a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat and cook the chopped onion and marinade paste for 3 minutes, stirring until fragrant and onion is softened.
- Add the chicken, chopped coriander, 1/3 cup of water and simmer covered for 15 minutes.
- Fold through yoghurt and cook uncovered for a further 5 minutes or until chicken is tender.
- Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Serve with basmati rice.