Dak bungalow curry is a dish that is famous since the colonial times. Dak bungalows were rest houses where the British officers used to take rest while on a journey, or used as a night stop during a hunting trip. These rest houses were very well equipped with bedrooms, kitchen etc. A khansama(orderly) used to handle the kitchen. Generally, the dak bungalows used have their own chicken, goat and cows, both for the meat and the milk. Other than these, the animals killed as a part of the hunting were also cooked and served to the officers.
I can still recollect my childhood days when I spent a night in such a forest bungalow as a part of our summer vacation trip and after a tiresome day the chowkidaar of the bungalow served us a bowl full of chicken curry along with rice, rotis and salad. I don't know what was in that curry, whether we were too hungry or the organic chicken or the candle lit atmosphere(not for romantic purpose but there was no electric supply) but it tasted the best ever and I still remember that heavenly taste.
The curry recipe may vary depending on the availability of ingredients from one dak bungalow to other. Unfortunately this dak bungalow cuisine is a near forgotten culinary treasure that survives among a few remaining khansama families and Anglo-Indian households. Thanks to some Kolkata based restaurants, these dak bungalow style curries are gaining it's popularity back.
Dak bungalow meat curries can be made with chicken, goat meat, beef or lamb, I used chicken. This type of curry comes with a whole boiled egg and potatoes in it. And all the spices are freshly ground, no store bought spice powder can bring that taste. And if possible use a mortar pestle to grind all the spices.
Things needed to make Dak bungalow chicken curry:
- A whole Chicken with bone(cut into 10-12 pcs)
- Onion(thinly sliced): 2 cups
- Ginger paste: 2 tbsp
- Garlic paste: 2 tbsp
- Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
- Coriander seeds: 1 tsp
- Dry red chilies: 4-5
- Bay leaves: 2-3
- Cinnamon(1 inch stick): 2-3
- Green cardamom: 3-4
- Cloves: 6-7
- Yogurt: 2 tbsp
- Turmeric powder
- Black cardamom: 1
- Potato (cut into halves): 2
- Hard boiled Eggs: 4
- Mustard oil to cook
- Salt to taste
Steps of making Dak bungalow chicken curry:
1. Wash and clean the chicken pieces and pat dry. Keep aside.
2. Make a paste of cumin seeds, coriander seeds, dry red chili and turmeric powder. Cover and keep aside.
3. Make a paste of cinnamon, cardamom(green and black), cloves. Cover and keep aside.
4. In a large heavy bottom pan heat mustard oil. Fry the potatoes(peeled and washed) till evenly golden brown. Take out and keep aside. Fry the hard boiled eggs and keep aside.
5. In the same pan, (add more oil if needed) heat oil, add the bay leaves and fry the sliced onions till evenly golden brown.
6. Add the garlic and ginger paste, cook over medium heat for 2-3 min.
7. Add cumin-coriander-red chili-turmeric paste. Cook over low heat for 3-4 min. Add beaten yogurt(I beat the yogurt with little sugar and water) cook for another 2-3 min. Add the chicken pieces and sprinkle salt. Cook over high heat for 5-6 min, keep stirring. Reduce the heat to medium and cook till chicken is almost done( about 12-15 min).
8. Add 1 cup warm water and the fried potatoes. Cover and cook over low heat till the chicken and potatoes are well done. Add the hard boiled eggs. Add garam masala paste and mix well. Check the seasoning and adjust accordingly. Serve hot with rice or roti.
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