Red Hot Chili Chicken

Note: During our last phone call my Mom mentioned that she saw a new cooking programme and experimented with sesame seeds, corn flour batter and bell pepper in her chili chicken!!!!

Ans now here's my cooking video on chili chicken

'Chili Chicken'. Two words which brings tears to the eyes of any Non Resident Indian. The Chinese dish which is ingrained in our psyche. Is it authentic? Who gives a carrot stick? If they are going to usurp our land then we can appropriate their dishes.

My mom would make chili chicken for me way before it became a part of Indian kitchens. I was a spoilt eight year old who would refuse to have 'Indian' food. Power cuts, mosquito, the heat I could take. But after the UK and Iran I was particular about food. Fish and chips, chicken and chips, Spanish omelets, fried rice and of course chili chicken. Her attempts to appease my palette. Remember that it was not easy to access sauces, condiments, meats and cold cuts, cheese butter or even Coke and Pepsi in Calcutta of the early eighties. India was yet to be liberalised.

Family legend goes that my Dad learnt how to cook Chinese from a Chinese patient of his in the UK. He then taught my mother. These are snatches of distant childhood memories. So let's leave it as a legend.

I never asked my mother for the recipe of chili chicken . I have replicated it from taste memories. There is a cultural context to it too. Remember that there were hardly any ingredients in Calcutta when she cooked this. Nor were their cookery shows. So chances are that the recipe would be very simple and uncomplicated. So no corn flour or capsicum or even batter coating. Keep it as simple as possible.

So this is how I make Chili Chicken. I am sure that most Bengali Mashimas would approve of it.

I needed this long preamble as the recipe is rather short.

  • Heat 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil in a non stick pan. The Chinese use Sesame oil. Olive oil makes me feel less guilty about fried dishes
  • Add a tablespoon of finely chopped garlic once the oil warms. This could sputter so be careful
  • Once the garlic darkens a bit, add two to three tablespoons of dark soy sauce. Add a teaspoon of green chilly sauce if you have it. Be brave. This will cook up a storm. Try to cover it with a lid. Or wear a face mask. Ones made for blow torches. Not the Oil of Olay variety
  • Wait till the soy sauce spreads across the pan and forms an oil slick like layer at the base
  • Add 2 onion bulbs cut into four. Stir till onion looks a bit pale. You want it to cook a bit but not too much
  • Toss in 250 g chicken cut into two inch long pieces. I use leg pieces and boneless cuts if there are guests. Leg pieces are tastier and boneless makes it less messy. The original version of the 80s would of course not be boneless (As you can see I am really trying to make this stretch)
  • Toss the chicken with a ladle and keep turning the pieces so that they cook evenly. This should take a maximum of five minutes.Add salt and a pinch of ajino moto. Keep the flame high so that the oil and juice gets absorbed into the chicken
  • Add 5,6 green chillies. Split into two. Stir. Switch of the lid and try to eat it immediately. They use bell peppers not but that wouldn't be authentic 80s Calcutta Chili Chicken
  • To cut a long story short: Heat oil, add chopped garlic, add soy sauce and chili sauce, add, chopped onion bulbs, add chicken, salt and ajino moto, stir till cooked and oil dries, add green chillies. End of story. Ten minutes from start to finish

The following spectacular pictures were taken by the incredibly talented Jyotika Purwar of Follow My Recipe She followed the meat and me diligently with two lenses that night, creating magic in the process

Pic taken by: Jyotika Purwar


Scarlett said…
I have chicken sitting in my fridge & was wondering what to make with it and here comes your well-timed post. You inspire me! And who can say no to spicy Indian chilly chicken? Yummmmm!!
Moonshine said…
It looks deceptively simple!!! Next weekend, I will try it and report the results :)
Madhura Manoj said…
Quick & easy chilly chicken. hmmm tempting...
Sassy Fork said…
Looks delicious!
Holy Cow! this sounds so easy!!!
Although I have a question for you - what kind of green chili sauce would you recommend? I have sriracha at home which is not green. and then i have a habanero sauce which is not asian - it is mexican. Do I need to make a run to the asian store for this green chili sauce? what should I do? IM DIEING to make this chili chicken and convert my sweet german boyfriend into one that loves spicy chinese food with a major twist of indian! :D Please help!!
Also - I totally agree with the part of using olive oil for fried dishes. Makes me feel less guilty as well. However, here is food for thought - have you ever used olive oil and then thrown in sesame seeds??? i havent - that's why it was just a thought. although I wouldnt be surprised if it tastes like nothing or even gross... :D
Unknown said…
@Miss Cultured purl: i dont think seseame seeds in olive oil is bad at all,.. done it many times

@knife: I want more of this... Thank you, my taste buds were dancing.
Unknown said…
I love this version of the Chili Chicken with fried rice. My Mum made this when we were kids and then the world spoiled her and she started making the battered fast food version of it.

The Chili Chicken looks very good, K. Aam going to make it soon. But a little tight with using chili sauce, its rationed in our house. Baba got a few bottles from India and I dont want to finish them off too soon.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Ms pearl, green sauce is not essential to the dish, soy sauce and split green chillies are
nice..I like that!! its looks yummy and flovor ful..but why did ya keep newspapers underneath ..?? for easy cleaning?its a good idea if that is the purpose!!
Kalyan Karmakar said…
That's right Harman :)
sharmila said…
this is the chilly chicken i have always had in my childhood, miss badly and would happily give my right arm for (if it was already not taken). too good ... and the header snap too. :)
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Scarlett, Moonshine: how did it turn out?

Thanks Madhura, Sassy Fork

@Sharmila, pree even my friend Soumik said that the chili chicken reminded him of his mom's
Ok - this recipe turned out divine. With the olive oil and Sriracha sauce - it was fantastic. Now if only I had a recipe for desi style fried rice... *hint hint*
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Miss Pearl, great show. Substitute the noodles with rice in any of my Hakka Noodles recipes and you have got it :)
Revati Upadhya said…

I have been silently following your blog for sometime now :) Wanted to let you know that this post made me want that Chilli Chicken, and made me want it IMMEDIATELY! So make it, I did. And I happened to add sliced bell peppers too, before you mentioned it here, which turned out really nice!
Revati Upadhya said…
Also, Iv documented my chilli chicken endeavour here: and given you credit for the idea/recipe!

Anonymous said…
Just tried this recipe and am now scoffing it with slices of sinful white bread. Delicious. I added a lot more green chilli sauce tho, couple of tsps at least. I've only just discovered your blog being a recent blogger myself- where have i been!?!
Unknown said…
is there any particular green chilli paste you use?