A distinctive Mughlai chicken dish whose roots can be traced to Lucknow. The dish is heavily influenced by Lucknowi spices and is cooked in a flat round dish which is sealed and cooked (the “dum” method). Chicken chaap is almost always prepared with legs of the chicken. The garam masalas are not used whole, they are ground with some water in a traditional Sil Batta (flat stone grinder). Apart from cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon and black pepper and dry red chillies, the additional ingredient added to this spice mix is dried melon seeds. Of course you can grind the garam masalas in any wet grinder!
Add ground ginger and garlic. Salt, ground coriander seeds powder and some strands of saffron infused in hot milk to the yogurt mixture. In India, the tradition is to add yellow/orange food colouring to the yogurt mixture. Chicken chaap has a distinct saffron or zafrani colour.
The first step is to brown onions and crush them. Mix the onions with some thick Turkish yogurt. Add the ground spices listed above and some of the oil that as used to brown the onions.
Marinate the chicken for at least four hours in the dish in which the chicken will be cooked. Ideally the dish should be flat and have a tight fitting lid. This is to ensure the chicken is steam cooked on low heat and as much as possible, the steam is kept inside. A traditional “dum” method is to seal the lid with a paste made with flour and water. A tight fitting lid works too.
Once the chicken is cooked, add some sugar (this is a Calcutta dish after all – touch of sugar is essential!) and serve.
If anyone is travelling to Calcutta, the best Mughai restaurants to try this dish is Arsalan http://www.arsalanrestaurant.in/. They also have a branch in Mumbai.