BANGLADESH: Chittagong Chicken

I was hoping for some good spicy recipes this month, and I’ve already got my wish. I’m trying Chittagong chicken, a hot curry with great spice mixes and a liberal use of mustard oil. I’m using this recipe by Antara Navin on Better Butter.

In North America, mustard oil is sold “for external use only”, though it’s demurely placed alongside the other cooking oils in South Asian groceries. Canada and the US have banned it for cooking because of high erucic acid content – a fat that may cause heart issues if consumed over a long time (though the science is still out on that). It’s also found in rapeseed oil, which is why we engineered canola in Canada. I figure people aren’t keeling over from mustard oil in other parts of the world, and using it once in a while can’t hurt – plus, I already survived cyanide apricot kernels (albeit with some hysterics on my part).

I did have to make one change in the recipe for health reasons, though – I’m allergic to cashews, so I swapped in peanuts instead. They worked just as well for soaking and thickening.

Most of the time spent on this recipe was spice preparation. I could have just used pre-ground spices, but I wanted to really get the good authentic roasted flavour from the chilies and coriander seeds. I also ground my own Bengali garam masala. Unlike the multi-ingredient Punjabi garam masala we normally get in Canada, it’s only three spices: cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom (and sometimes bay leaves, as in this recipe).

This chicken turned out fantastic – the mustard oil gave it a wonderful pungent sharp kick that went well with the heat from the chilies and the complex spice mixes. Coriander seeds usually fall to the background in a lot of recipes, but here it added a fresh, almost citrusy flavour. Marinating the chicken makes it incredibly tender, and it goes great with basmati rice. I doubled up the recipe, so I’ve happily got enough for several days.

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