Today being the auspicious Chinese New Year, I thought I will post a recipe for a Chicken dish that is a fusion of Indian and Chinese flavors! I also have an amusing story below to go with it (that is if you care to read 🙂 )…meanwhile I would like to wish everyone a very happy Lunar New Year!
‘Chili Chicken’, ‘Chicken Manchow’, ‘Chicken Manchurian’ are all ‘Chinese’ dishes that the folks in China may never have even heard of ! 🙂 It’s really a mystery how these dishes came about. All I remember is while growing up in Mumbai in the 1990s there was suddenly this huge craze for ‘Chinese’ food in India with restaurants and even roadside joints offering ‘spicy Chinese food’ with the likes of the above mentioned names in both chicken and vegetarian dishes. Whoever had started this and created these recipes must have been a truly great chef, combining Chinese flavors and cooking techniques with Indian ones and the result – truly tasty and finger-licking!! I truly believed that those dishes were the authentic Chinese stuff until I moved to the US and was talking to my Chinese classmate in grad school. She was a good cook herself and I begged her to give me the recipes for ‘Chicken Manchurian’ and Chilli Chicken’ (which I was craving for and which I could not find on any of the US Chinese restaurants’ take out menu!) and she just stared at me with a blank look on her face. Other than telling me that Manchuria was the name of a region in NorthEast China she was totally unaware of any foods with that name!!! LOL !
So anyways, that experience did not falter my love for those dishes nor did it deter me from creating my own version of ‘Chilli Chicken’ which is slightly different from the ones available in India (and still extremely popular there!) but has basically the same main ingredients – chillies for the heat and soy sauce for the tang. In my ‘paleo’ version, I use tamarind or coconut aminos and I use tapioca starch instead of corn starch. I also pan fry the chicken pieces instead of deep frying them. I use a mix of green chillies and red chilli powder for the heat but you could use only one of them if you prefer to keep it less hot.
You can serve this dish either as an appetizer (in which case you would not add as much sauce or serve them without the sauce as in Crispy Asian Style Chicken Bites) or have it as main course served with white rice or cassava rotis for a paleo option.! I am sure you will love this recipe as much as we do in our house!
I sometimes also add other vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower to the sauce before adding the chicken that way it becomes a complete meal.
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 inch by 2 inch piece of fresh ginger
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 lb boneless chicken, cut into small bites size pieces
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli pow (use less if you want it mild, omit for AIP)
- 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste (see below how to make this paste)
- 2 tsp coconut aminos or soya sauce (Use coconut aminos for paleo)
- 2 tbsp tapioca flour / tapioca starch
- About ½ cup light olive oil for pan frying
- 2 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
- 4 scallions chopped
- 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (see below)
- 3 green chillies slit length-wise (optional , omit for AIP)
- ½ tsp kashmiri red chilli powder (omit for AIP)
- 2 tsp tamari or coconut aminos (use coconut aminos for paleo)
- 2 tsp tapioca starch mixed in 2 tbsp water
- About 1 cup water
- sea salt as needed
- Add all the ingredients listed under 'for ginger garlic paste' to a food processor and grind to a fine paste. Keep aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, add rest of the ingredients listed under 'cooking the chicken' and mix well. Add the chicken pieces to this and mix well using your hands to coat all the chicken pieces with marinade. (will not be too wet because of the starch)
- Heat a large frying pan with some oil to shallow fry the marinated chicken pieces in batches. Pan fry them on medium heat for about 4-5 minutes total turning them midway to cook both sides. Keep the fried chicken pieces aside.
- Heat a deep skillet or a medium size pot with a broad base and add the oil. When hot add the scallions, ginger garlic paste and the green chillies.Saute for about 1 minute and then add the red chilli powder, the tamari(or coconut aminos). Add the water. Check for seasoning and add salt accordingly if needed. Cook for about a minute till the water comes to a boil.
- Now lower the heat and add the tapioca starch slurry slowly stirring continuously till the sauce thickens. Finally, add the chicken pieces. Cook for about 2-3 mins. Turn heat off and serve immediately.
You can also add vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower etc) to the sauce and cook them for a couple mins before adding the fried chicken for a complete meal.