Kolkata is well known for its multicultural community. The Chinese settled during the 18th century and have had a large influence on food in the city. The fusion of Indian and Chinese foods (Indo-Chinese cuisine) occupies a major space in the street food and restaurant scene. Tangra is the place to find it.
We make this delicious snack when we have addas at home. An adda – a gathering of friends and family for relaxing – is an important part of the Kolkata lifestyle. Sometimes impromptu and other times planned, they will almost always feature food: snacks with drinks, nibbles with tea, and often a meal.
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) skinless and boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) cubes
rapeseed (canola) oil, for deep-frying
For the marinade
1 white onion, roughly chopped
5 cm (2 in) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into quarters
4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
2 teaspoons cornflour (cornstarch)
For the coating
4 heaped tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
4 heaped tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the gravy
3 tablespoons rapeseed (canola) oil
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 bird’s eye chillies, slit lengthways
2 red onions, halved, then each half
quartered to make chunky square pieces
1 green bell pepper (capsicum), deseeded, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper (capsicum), deseeded, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
3 tablespoons tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon chopped coriander (cilantro) (optional)
Start with the marinade. Put the onion, ginger and garlic into a blender, add 2 tablespoons of water and blend to a thick, semi-smooth paste. Transfer to a large bowl and add the remaining marinade ingredients along with the chicken. Mix well, ensuring all the ingredients have coated the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, but ideally overnight.
Once marinated, bring the chicken to room temperature for 40 minutes.
Combine the coating ingredients on a plate and mix well. Set aside.
In a karai or wok, heat enough oil for deep-frying.
Meanwhile, take a piece of chicken out of the marinade and place it in the coating mixture. Press quite ﬁrmly, so it is well but thinly coated. Try not to get too much ﬂour on each piece otherwise it will make the gravy too thick. Place on a plate and repeat until all the chicken pieces are coated.
When the oil is hot, carefully lower a few pieces of chicken at a time into the oil and fry for about 3 minutes until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate. Repeat with all the remaining pieces.
In a separate pan, make the gravy. Heat the oil over a medium heat, add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds, taking care not to burn it. Add the chillies and onions, and continue to stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the peppers, increase the heat to high, and cook for 2 minutes. Add all of the sauces, mix well and cook for 1 minute, then add the fried chicken pieces. Gently stir to ensure the chicken pieces are well coated with the gravy, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for a further 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
If desired, sprinkle the chopped coriander over the chilli chicken and serve immediately.
Extract from Kolkata by Rinku Dutt, published by Smith Street Books, distributed by Thames & Hudson Australia, AUD$55.00 NZ$60.50, available now.