Citizens, chicken (chandi) korma is always a popular choice for anyone visiting an Indian restaurant seeking a more mild alternative to a fiery vindaloo or phaal curry. However, what is almost always served is tough chicken served in a boring cream sauce nearly devoid of flavor.
This is the true, authentic recipe for Chicken Korma, as once prepared for the Emperors of India in ancient times – try and it and see what all the fuss is really about. My version of this recipe is based closely on one first created by the famous Indian chef Jiggs Kalera, with a number of tweaks by me.
Yes it’s complicated – and yes, it really uses genuine silver foil to gild the final results! Don’t be afraid, Citizens – it’s totally edible and according to the Indian Ayurvedic medical tradition is VERY good for you. They’re right – it is.
The Ain-e-Akbari (life chronicles of the emperor Akbar written by Abul Fazl) suggests that Korma was created in the royal kitchens of Akbar the great, and though Korma is not one of the 30 recipes mentioned in the Ain-e-Akbari (Akbarnama), it is safe to assume that its cooking method and ingredients have remained the same for more than 500 years. The Korma was always white to symbolize purity and the divine nature of the Emperor.
As noted in a fantastic article on dawn.com, the history of chicken korma is inextricably tied to the royal Moghul court of India.
Korma probably derived from the Persian Koresh, a ghee-based mild stew the Moghuls indianised using cream, yogurt, ground almonds, saffron and aromatic spices.
It is said that if the Indian cook could cook a Korma he could cook for the Moghul court. If he could cook a dozen variations he would be the king of the kitchen and cook for the emperor’s table,’ writes Pat Chapman the English food writer, in his book India Food and Cooking.
But some believe that the Korma has central Asian roots and is referred to askhorma, qorma, kurma and kavurma and its mughlai version was created in the 16th century through the experimentation of Rajput cooks in the royal kitchens of Akbar the Great, under the supervision of Mir Bakawal, the master of kitchens and one of the court navratans (Akbar’s nine gems).
The Rajput cooks on creating the dish, named it Korma, in honour of the warrior Rajput ‘Kurma’ tribe.
Korma literally means braising the meat, and the method for cooking Korma was initial braising of meat in ghee (clarified butter), yogurt and spices and then simmering it in water until completion; blanched and finely ground nuts were also used as thickening agents.
It is said that the cooks in the royal kitchens marinated the meat in yogurt, fried onions and spices before cooking it for the emperor’s dinner table, and after the initial braising of the meat, the dum-pukth method was initiated until completion, or open lid simmering, but the temperature was always controlled hence the yogurt was never allowed to curd.
Citizens – I hope you will gird your culinary loins and give this complex dish once reserved only for the Emperor of India a try! The use of silver foil, known as varq ( वरख in Hindi ) and can be purchased online at Amazon here.
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