Friday, May 16, 2014

White Chicken

I used to always think that the meaning of the word ‘bland’ is something which does not have any flavour and is tasteless. Over the years I have, however, been proved wrong – 'bland' means something which does not have chillies. I may find something without chillies quite tasty, but those who know better wonder whether I have taken leave of my senses. Whenever we visit Pune, 

Beautiful Relief Panels On Traditional Chinese Themes In Chinese Room

we make it a point to visit the Chinese Room at East Street. I have eaten there several times and the food is quite good. Once as I was 
Fried Rice and Chicken Green Sauce
going through the menu, I noticed a dish named Chicken Green Sauce, I was curious so I asked the man taking down our order about it, he immediately discouraged me from ordering it saying it was bland. I decided to ignore him and insisted on ordering the dish, I loved it, it was so full of flavour. The man (I guess he was the captain at this restaurant) came back to enquire about the meal and when I told him I found the dish tasty, he looked at me with a slight irritation, I almost thought he felt that I do not belong to planet earth. On our last trip, I ordered Stewed Chicken Green Onion; once again he began dissuading me from ordering by using that offending word (offending to me that is) bland. I lost my cool and told him that tasty does not mean chillies.

If you are wondering why I am going on about all this, it is because thanks to the increasing association of chillies with taste, one dish which has taken a beating is the chicken/mutton rezala. I had heard about this dish but never had the opportunity of eating or even tasting it. Then I visited Oh!Calcutta,  I noticed mutton rezala on their menu. I was thrilled and did not waste much time in ordering it, unfortunately it was not available. When I wanted to know the reason for its unavailability, the answer stunned me into silence,  there were apparently no takers for the dish because almost everybody considered it bland as it did not have chillies, 
although it did have black/white pepper powder.

Out of frustration I decided to do a bit of research and cook it myself. What I have cooked is not exactly chicken rezala as it does not have cashew nut paste. I have  named the dish White Chicken. It tasted yummy. I have not specified the measurements for the yoghurt and poppy seed paste, you can use your judgement in accordance to your taste.


  • Chicken (600 gms) chopped into pieces
  • Yoghurt (curd as we Indians call it)
  • Paste of 2 medium sized onions
  • Poppy seed paste
  • One tablespoon ginger paste
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic
  • One green cardamom
  • 3 cloves
  • Approximately an inch of cinnamon stick
  • One bay leaf
  • White/Black pepper powder to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Required quantity of oil


Wash the pieces of chicken and marinate in a mixture of yoghurt and a little ginger paste. Keep aside.

Heat required quantity of oil in a vessel, add the cloves, cinnamon,  green cardamom and bay leaf to the oil.

Add the onion paste. Fry till slightly brown.

Add ginger-garlic paste and fry for a little while.

Add the marinated chicken to this and stir.

Add salt to taste.

When the chicken is partially cooked add the poppy seed paste.

Add a little water and cover and cook till done.

Beat the yoghurt, I did not use hung yoghurt, if you want a thick gravy use hung yoghurt.

Add the yoghurt to the chicken before switching of the flame, sprinkle pepper powder, preferably white pepper powder (you may use black pepper powder).

Switch off flame and let the chicken remain on the hot stove for a while before serving.


  1. We are very much alike, it seems, Shilpi! While reading, I was reminded of when my husband and I, along with my sister and her family, went to a newly-opened Chinese restaurant here in Delhi. The menu was vast, and after trawling through it, we still couldn't decide on what we wanted. So my husband and brother-in-law said, "Let's ask the captain for recommendations." He suggested all their most popular dishes, so we went ahead and ordered them - only to find that nearly all tasted pretty similar: very highly flavoured, too much soya sauce and too many dried red chillies.

    Ever since then, we invariably make our own decisions, and when we're told, "But that will be quite bland," we smile sweetly and say, "We don't mind."

    This chicken rezala-variation of yours sounds very good, Shilpi. I have to admit I've never actually cooked with poppy seed paste (though I love it in dishes I've eaten cooked elsewhere - O Calcutta!'s aloo posto is gorgeous.

    1. Oh! This is real great; we are alike in many ways. Yes Chinese food, nowadays, is not what it used to be back in my childhood, that is in the sixties. Those days Chinese restaurants were not so ubiquitous as they are now, most people were quite suspicious, they feared that Chinese food was all about cockroaches. I loved Chinese because there were no chillies. Chilli sauce was kept on the table for anyone who wanted that extra spice and punch. The aroma that emanated from the restaurants was subtle and very appetizing. The crockery was imported from China, the crockery had motifs of dragons and the like. It was also the favourite food of the film stars, it was not uncommon to bump into them in these restaurants, I remember we once saw Devanand in one of Bombay’s famous Chinese restaurants Nanking (it closed down some years back). Now everything has changed, your description of the food reminded me of what I once saw in ‘Foodie’ some years back which is aired on Times Now. Nelson Wang the owner of China Garden was being interviewed by Kunal Vijaykar, the programme host. During the course of their conversation, Wang informed that he was the one to invent the popular dish Manchurian Chicken, he cooked it for the camera. What we noticed was that he gave just a little soya sauce; the dish had just a hint of the sauce. However the dish that is available now in restaurants all over is absolutely dark in colour, almost black with a generous dose of chillies. So now I have to invariably ask “Please tell me which dish does not have chillies.”

    2. That sounds very familiar. :-) Fortunately, some of the better Chinese/Oriental restaurants in Delhi - such as The Yum Yum Tree and Royal China - do make very delicately flavoured food, not at all spicy. They always put an array of different sauces - soya sauce, a couple of types of chilli sauce, and so on - on the table, but the food itself is cooked in a way that allows the main ingredients to be tasted.

    3. That's how it should be, there are a few restaurant's in Bombay that too serve such Chinese food, there is for instance China Gate, Mainland China, and there is a very old (75 years) restaurant Kamling. Kamling still has its old world charm and taste and interestingly most of the staff is Chinese and quite old. We noticed two groups of Chinese tourists enjoying their meal here they loved the food. There is one old Chinese here from Calcutta, he converses with us in Bengali and with the Chinese in their language. The other staff members though Chinese do not know the language being long time residents of India. They are more comfortable with Hindi and English.