REZALA.....made with chicken or mutton, coated with a layer of ghee and is fragrant with whole spices is an extremely popular dish in Kolkata. My love with rezala dates back to the 90's when I used to visit the famous Muslim Restaurants with my dear pals to taste Moghlai [as Muslim food is called as there]dishes, and landed on Rezala one day and the rest is history. I mean you can easily make out why I cannot shed those few extra kilos even after regular exercise. Like an average Bengali, I am a foodie and very particular about it. The well known hotelier Anjan Chatterjee who has a chain of restaurants all over India says that the rezala owes its taste to the ingredients goes into it. These includes whole spices, kewra water[attar], milk or cream. He says the popularity of rezala in Bengal is perhaps the fact that Bengalis prefer a tinge of sweetness in their food.
I will also take the liberty to say Kolkata has the best Muslim Restaurants than the rest of India, some of them as old as of 50-100 years, some worth mentioning are Royal, Sabir, Shiraj, Rehmania, Aminia, Arsalan. In the book OH!CALCUTTA Anjan chatterjee writes about how rezala made an entry in the Bengali Cuisine. The story goes that when the Nawabs of Awadh and descendants of Tipu Sultan were exiled in Bengal, they carried their cooks along. They were responsible for the Islamic touch to Bengali cuisine, namely the use of spices, ghee and mutton/chicken.
Rezala goes extremely well with Rumali Roti. Due to my inability to make Rumali Roti I serve it with Luchi/Paratha. Though Mutton Rezala is more tastier and popular than the one made with chicken, I have come up with the latter this time. The mutton version some other day. Lets proceed with the recipe that I followed.
INGREDIENTS :[FOR THE MARINATION] :
Chicken : 500 gm
Plain Yogurt : 250 gm
Ginger Paste : 1tsp
Salt : As required
INGREDIENTS :[for the gravy]:
Cashew : 6-8
Poppy Seeds : 1tbsp
Onion : 2 medium
Milk : 1/2 cup
Black Peppercorn :10
Whole Dried Red Chillies : 6
Cinnamon Stick : 2 one inch pieces
Green Cardamon : 4
Cloves : 4
Bay leaf : 1
Kewra Water [attar] : 3-4 drops[i substituted with Rose Water]
Sugar : 1tsp
Ghee[clarified Butter] : 3tbsp +1tsp
Hot Water : 1/2cup
Wash and cut the chicken into big pieces. Marinate with beaten yogurt, salt, ginger paste. Keep covered at room temperature for about 2 hours.
Peel and wash the onions and get a smooth paste out of it. Wash the poppy seeds through a strainer and get a paste along with the cashews adding little water.
Heat 3tbsp ghee in a wok. Temper with a bay leaf, cinnamon,cardamom, black peppercorn, cloves. As they give out aroma, put in the onion paste. Fry till the raw smell goes. Wipe the marinade from the chicken and put in the chicken pieces. Fry for 2-3 minutes at medium heat. Now add the marinade and lower the heat to minimum.
Stir and cover. Uncover and stir every 3 minutes, to avoid sticking to the bottom. When the chicken is half done add the poppyseed-cashew paste and stir well. Let cook covered and at minimum heat. Add the water . Cover for 2 minutes.
Now add the milk, rose water and sugar. Stir and let cook for another 2 minutes. Add 1 tsp ghee and mix well. Switch off. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with whole dried red chillies.
Since milk is used, it tends to spoil quickly, so eat it fresh.
Use rose water if you cannot take the strong smell of kewra water.
It has to be slow cooked and the gravy should be thicker.