This is one of those timeless recipes from my home state of Goa in India. A lesser known one, I’ve only eaten this curry in the part of Goa from where my family originates. It’s not one of the more popular restaurant kind of dishes that have gained in popularity because of their fiery colour or temper, but a rather delicately flavoured one, and one that is prepared without the addition of coconut in any form. So no coconut, no vinegar and no fiery red chillies.
But what this curry does, is remind me of home, of my grandparents on my mother’s side, and of good home food. It’s one of those dishes from the old country with its Indo-Portuguese influence, a curry that comforts, which is what food should do, and this beautiful Green Chicken ‘Pitiya’ Curry does just that.
A beautiful place on India’s western coastline, Goa is a beach paradise, though tourism, rampant corruption and erosion of natural resources have denuded what could have been and once was ‘heaven on earth’. The place holds a lot of happy memories for me, memories that centre around food, and good times… beaches, clear skies and piglets with curly tails running around and grunting in the pig-pen. I tried not to make friends with them. After all it can be pretty heartbreaking when one of your friends lands up on the dining table, feet up, all deep gold and glistening, even if they do taste darn good.
This is basically a recipe that I tweaked from my mother’s repertoire. Known in local parlance as a ‘Pitiya Curry’, this is traditionally made with chicken, and is a green curry with poppy seeds and coriander, with a bunch of other aromatics.
The original recipe calls for one small onion, 4 medium sized cloves of garlic and a 1/2″ piece of ginger, but I had just come home after a couple of days of travelling and like Old Mother Hubbard the cupboard was quite bare. I was craving a good home cooked meal and didn’t quite feel like calling in for take out, so I substituted the fresh ingredients for packaged ones and the end result was quite delicious.
Here are the ingredients -
300gms chicken (boneless or on the bone)
juice of 1 small lime
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fried onions (I used a packaged variety)
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
4 pods green cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder (or a 1/2″ piece of cinnamon… try and get hold of Sri Lankan cinnamon. I believe it’s the best)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 green chillies (de-seed if you don’t want it too hot)
1 teaspoon each of ginger and garlic paste
a small handful of fresh coriander
1 medium potato, peeled, chopped into quarters or more and partially shallow fried to golden brown in 2 – 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 – 4 cups of light chicken stock or warm water
4 – 5 tablespoons water (at room temperature)
There are a couple of steps to this recipe the first of which entails marinading the chicken in the lime juice.
Grind all the dry spices, add in the coriander, chillies, ginger-garlic paste, fried onions and about 4 – 5 tablespoons of room temperature water.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of the oil in a pan, adding the curry leaves and the chicken, about 30 seconds later so that the curry leaves release their flavour but don’t burn. Lightly fry the chicken in the oil for a couple of minutes on each side till they get a faint golden tinge. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan, and add in another tablespoon of oil, before adding in the masala that you ground earlier. Fry the masala on medium heat for about 3 minutes or so until the oil separates.
Add the chicken back into the pan, and fry it with the masala before adding the potatoes and salt. Top with warm chicken stock (or water), stir, cover and cook for about 25 minutes on a low to medium flame until the chicken is tender.
This curry is best eaten with a local Goan bread like Poee or Pao (Pav), or even with a crusty Brun Pao or you can enjoy it over steaming hot white rice, accompanied with some sliced red onions, red radish and chillies pickled in the local goan vinegar and a rice Papad (Papadum) or two.