CHICKEN REZALA – A MUGHLAI TREAT

Recipe for Chicken rezala

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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. 

Recipe for Chicken Rezala – A Mughlai Treat

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.

Spices Used in Mughlai Cuisine

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.

These are:

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.

How Does Mughlai Curry Taste?

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.

Kolkata Style Chicken Rezala

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.

How to Make Chicken Rezala At Home

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:

  • Dry red chillies 
chile-de-arbol-pepper-whole-chillies-buy-online
Click  image to buy whole red chillies online
  • Cinnamon stick 
cinnamon-cassia-sticks-dalchini-indian-spices
Click image to buy cinnamon stick online
  • Black peppercorns 
BLACK-PEPPER- sabut-kaali-mirch- image-indian -spice
Click image to buy black peppercorn online
  • Black cardamon 
Black-cardamon-moti-elaichi-image-indian-spice
Click image to buy black cardamom pods online
  • Green cardamon (optional) 
green- cardamom-elaichi-image-indian-spice-buy-online-spiceitupp - Copy
Click image to buy green cardamom pods online
  • Star anise 
star-anise-select-whole-pods-1
Click image to buy star anise online
  • Cloves 
cloves -image- laung-indian-spice
Click image to buy cloves online
  • Bay leaves 
bayleaf- tejpatta- image-indian -spice - Copy
Click image to buy bay leaves online
  • Mace (ground or whole)
mace-blade-ground-buy-online
Click image to buy ground mace online

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.

saffron-spice-image buy indian spice online spiceitupp
Click image to buy saffron online.
Ghee clarified butter buy online
Click image to buy Ghee online

Cooking Notes and Optional Ingredients For Making Chicken Rezala

  1. You can make onion paste by grinding raw onion is a blender. If you are not too keen on this then use finely chopped or sliced onions.

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.

The Step by Step Process of Making Kolkata Style Chicken Rezala

Step 1

make cashew paste for making chicken rezala

Add Cashew paste

Step 2

recipe for chciekn rezala. Chicken marinated with yoghurt in a bowl

Marinade chicken in yoghurt, cashew paste, ginger-garlic paste and onion paste.

Step 3 

Whole Spices tempered in hot oil

Temper whole spices in ghee until fragrant.

Step 4 

Chicken rezala step by step recipe- add chicken to tempred spices in a pan

Add the marinated chicken pieces to the tempered spices and stir well.

Step 5

Step by step recipe for chicken rezala - Add cashew paste to chicken in a pan.

Add cashew paste to the chicken and stir well.

Step 6 

Step by step recipe for chicken rezala - cover and cook chciken pieces in a pan

Cover the chicken and simmer for 10 mins stirring occasionally.

Step 7

Recipe for chicken rezala in a bowl

Finally add saffron strands, mace and serve hot.

Here is the recipe in detail for you.

Pinterest image recipe for chicken rezala

Ingredients

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
* Click to ingredient to choose one

Directions

1
Clean and pat dry the chicken pieces. If you do not wish to cut a whole chicken simply use the drumsticks and thigh pieces you get in the super market.
2
Mix together the yogurt, onion paste, ginger, garlic and salt. Pour it over the chicken pieces and keep aside for at least a minimum hour. I have used both onion paste and few onion slices to give you an idea.
3
Next make a paste of cashew nuts and poppy seeds or cashew and sunflower seeds in a blender. Making a paste of poppy seeds can be a bit tricky if you do not have a good blender which grinds tiny seeds. If you really struggle with it then simply use 4 tbsp of cream with the cashew nuts. Cashew nut paste is what is more important in this recipe to give it a creamy texture. Leave aside to be used later
4
Now take a large heavy bottomed pan and add ghee to it. If you do not have ghee then use unsalted cooking butter and melt it in the pan with 1 tbsp on oil. Make sure that the butter or ghee does not turn brown or burn so keep heat to medium.
5
Next add all the whole spices listed under the tempering ingredients list i.e. Red chillies, cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon, star anise and black peppercorn. Let in splutter for few seconds till the spices emit a fragrance, about 40 to 50 secs. Make sure it does not burn either.
6
Now simply add the marinated chicken pieces with the tempered spices and give it all a good mix. If you are using sliced onion put the onions in as well and stir.
7
Cover and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes. You can come back to it and check to see its not sticking to the bottom of the pan from time to time.
8
Add th cashew nut paste to the chicken and mix well.
9
continue to cover and cook for further 10 to 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the gravy reduced to a creamy texture.
10
Finally add the kewra or rose water or saffron strands. Stir well and remove from heat.
11
Chicken rezala goes best with Naan, although you can also have it with boiled basmati rice, parantha or chappati.