A Chicken And Leg Situation (Chicken Tikka)

Cardamom
Kardamom
April 7, 2017

A Chicken And Leg Situation (Chicken Tikka)

Chicken Tikka

So, this isn’t a chicken and egg situation. It is rather a case of chicken-and-a-leg. History is replete with stories of people choking over chicken legs, but an extraordinary asphyxiating condition in India some 500 years ago gave birth to one of the most favorite chicken dishes in the world.

Legends have it that Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India, was a foodie who experimented with his palate and plate. He loved his chicken, but an occasional odd bone always spoiled the party. Diagnosis: fragile bones when cooked tend to stick strongly to the meat, sometimes punching holes in a square meal.

After a few unpleasant instances, the emperor ordered his Punjabi chefs to remove the bones before cooking[1]. The outcome: boneless “chunks” or “cutlets” pickled in spices that swept Mughlai cooking off its feet. This simple 15th century “cut-throat” innovation evolved over the generations to become the immensely popular Chicken Tikka.

What makes this gourmet attractive is its orchestration with the spices. Traditional ingredients include cayenne pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garlic, chili, curry, lemon, salt and the Indian garam masala. Over the centuries, the recipe improvised with marination of the meat in yogurt and spices.

The dish is typically eaten with green coriander and tamarind chutney served with onion rings and lemon.  Chicken Tikka is today used as an ingredient for other dishes as well e.g. Chicken Tikka Masala – a succulent red, creamy preparation made with a sauteed puree of tomatoes and onions, widely acknowledged as Britain’s national dish.

In fact, food globalisation has inspired several interpretations of the Chicken Tikka. From outlandish variants in chocolate orange[2] served in British restaurants to favored toppings in American pizzas to an unusual roll-up in French croissants, Chicken Tikka represents a culture in motion. Some communities even grill it over red-hot coals, while brushing the tikka at intervals with ghee (clarified butter) to give it a nutty flavor.

The dish is also an excellent accompaniment to beer. The famous gastronome and chef Madhur Jaffrey attributed the popularity of the chicken tikka to the hordes of Englishmen, who frequented Indian restaurants for the cheap spicy food that went well with beer[3]. But what she may have missed is this combination of alchohol and chicken is as old as the legacy of Babur, who was known for his wine parties[4].

 


Sources

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