Here is a South Asian dish I have taken a few liberties with for the sake of ease in preparation. Nimbo (lime/lemon) and Murgh (chicken) has many regional variations. The chicken is marinated in sour curds (yoghurt) along with onions and spices. After marinating overnight the chicken is cooked in the marinade with a few additional ingredients. The chicken is then fried or broiled to crispy perfection.
A very easy dish to prepare, especially for a crowd!
Nimbo Murgh: serves 4
Marinade: Prepare 8 hours before cooking.
- 1 whole chicken, divided, or legs and thigh separated, skin on (about 2 pounds)
- 1 cup full fat yoghurt, drained (or Greek yoghurt)
- 2 large shallots, finely diced/ ¾ cup
- 2 garlic cloves, grated
- 1 ½ inch ginger knob, peeled and grated
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and finely ground
- 2 teaspoons hot red chile powder, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
Divide whole chicken into legs, thighs, wings, and breasts, or separate the legs and thighs if using. Puncture the chicken pieces all over using a skewer.
Place the yoghurt in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Combine the shallots, garlic, and ginger in a mortar and grind into a paste, Then add the coriander seeds, hot red chile powder, paprika, and sea salt and grind everything together until relatively smooth.
Stir the paste into the yoghurt until well combined. Add the chicken to the marinade and massage the marinade into the chicken. Press the chicken into the marinade, cover with cling film and place in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.
Pickled onions: Prepare ahead.
- 2 onions, peeled and finely sliced across into rings and separated
- ½ cup vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
Place the onions in a small non-reactive bowl. Place the vinegar, sugar, and sea salt in a small sauce pan and heat while stirring until the sugar and salt is dissolved. Pour the mixture over the onions and add the mustard seeds and stir to combine. Add just enough water to cover the onions, stir. Place a plate over the onions so they are completely submerged. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
- marinated chicken and marinade
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- ¼ cup cold pressed peanut oil if frying
- 2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves chopped + sprigs for garnish
- lime wedges
Bring the chicken and marinade to room temperature and place in a large wide saucepan or skillet Set over medium heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat until just simmering. Partially cover and cook, stirring from time to time, until the marinade has been reduced by three quarters. Add the lime juice and stir into chicken and marinade. Bring back to a low simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, until nearly all of the marinade has been cooked away; total cooking time about 40 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter, shaking off any excess marinade, and set aside. Set the skillet with the excess marinade aside.
At this point you can either fry or broil the chicken to crisp up the skin before serving.
Frying: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until nearly smoking. Add the chicken pieces skin side down and brown until the skin I crispy. Turn the pieces and brown the other side.
Broiling: Preheat the broiler. Place the chicken skin side up on a roasting try and place under the broiler and broil until the skin is crisp. Turn the chicken and broil until crisp.
Meanwhile, set the skillet with excess marinade over medium heat. Stir in a little water and deglaze the pan. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Place the chicken on a platter or plate the chicken and lightly sauce with the deglazed pan juices. Top the chicken with pickled onions, fresh coriander sprigs, and a lime wedge to the side.
This is a very simple and versatile yellow rice to serve with many South or Southeast Asian dishes, but it also nicely complements grilled meats or fish, or as a side for just about anything that begs for some color, flavor, and enticing aromas.
There are many seasoning options, so get creative!
South Asian Yellow Rice:
- 2 cups rice; Basmati, Thai, or rice of choice
- 2 1/2 to 3 cups water (or stock)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 6 curry leaves
- 8 cardamom pods
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice (optional)
Additional optional ingredients; chillies (red or green), kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, coriander seeds , cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds…and so on.
Rinse the rice until the water runs nearly clear.
Place the rice and all the ingredients except the lime juice in a large saucepan or electric rice steamer.
If you are cooking in a sauce pan, bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Partially cover and cook until the water is no longer visible. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice if using, stir in, and set aside covered with a lid to steam for 15 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff the rice with a paddle, and serve.
If you are using an electric rice steamer. Again, add the rice and all the ingredients except the lime juice if using. Lock the lid and press the cook button. Once the keep warm light appears, open the lid, add the lime juice if using, stir in, and close the lid. Wait 2 minutes and then pull the plug. Allow to steam for 15 minutes. Open the lid, fluff the rice with a paddle, and serve.
South Asian cookery can be a daunting prospect for a western cook unless you happen to be from the UK, where Indian and Pakistani foods and ingredients are an integral part of of the culinary landscape. For most though, Indian food is relegated to being savoured in restaurants. The array of spices and seasonings seem so unfamiliar and complicated that even a savvy cook may take pause. However, mustering up a little courage and trying your hand at South Asian cookery will have you wondering what all the trepidation was all about after all.
Dhansak is an ideal dish to familiarize yourself with the balance of South Asian ingredients, seasonings, and cooking methods. Give it a try! Fortified with new found confidence will set you off on an adventure in South Asian cookery.
Dhansak is a Parsi dish which is a melding of Persian, Pakistani, and Indian cuisines, brought to South Asia by Persian Zoroastrian emigrants that settled in the regions of Sindh and Gujarat in the 10th century. The dish includes lentils (native to Persia), as well as other pulses, lamb, vegetables, and a confluence of traditional seasonings. If lamb is not your thing, try the recipe with chicken, or make a vegetarian version as many Hindu Indians do. The recipe is open for interpretation, but keep in mind cows are holy in India and never eaten, and pork rarely.
Shopping: A trip to an Indian market is your best bet for finding all the ingredients you will need. If that is not an option, a health food store should have a good selection of pulses, an Asian market for tamarind and palm sugar, a spice shop for seasonings, and your local butcher for the lamb.
Dhansak serves 4
For the pulses (dried legumes)
- ¼ cup masoor dal (red lentils)
- ¼ cup mung dal (green split mung beans)
- ¼ cup yellow chana dal ( yellow split chick peas)
- 1 cup finely diced onions
- 1 garlic clove, whole peeled
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
Pick through the pulses and rinse well. Place them in a sauce pan and add the onion, garlic, turmeric, and water to well cover. Bring contents to a low boil and simmer until the pulses are very soft. This could take 30 minutes to more than 1 hour depending on the age of the pulses. Add additional water as needed while cooking. Don’t worry about overcooking, just be sure all varieties are very soft. Remove from the stove and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Then transfer the pulses to a food mill or blender and process, adding all the cooking liquid to make a smooth puree. Transfer the puréed pulses to a bowl and set aside.
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 10 black peppercorns
- 8 small dried red chillies, seeded and crumbled
- 6 cardamom pods
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 2 pounds/900g lamb shoulder (or chicken), cut into bite size pieces
- 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter), coconut or peanut oil
- 2 medium onions, peeled and diced
- 10 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 ½ inch fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
- small handful of curry leaves
- puréed pulses
- 1 tablespoon garam masala powder
- 1 medium eggplant, peeled, cut into ¾ inch cubes, salted, drained 45 minutes, rinsed. Excess water squeezed out.
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾ inch cubes
- 1 cup green peas
- ¼ cup tamarind
- 2 teaspoons palm sugar (jaggery)
- 1 ¾ cups water
- sea salt to taste
- fried shallots to garnish
Place the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, and crumbled red chillies in a dry sauté pan placed over low heat. Toast the ingredients until lightly colored and aromatic. Transfer promptly to a mortar and grind into a coarse powder. Set aside.
Heat the ghee or oil in a large wide sauce pan or soup pot until nearly smoking. Add the lamb (or chicken) and sear until lightly browned on all sides. Lower the heat slightly and add the onions and garlic. Saute until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add the grated ginger, ground spice mix, and curry leaves and stir until combined. Add the pureed pulse mixture and enough water to cover all the ingredients in the pan. When the contents come to a boil lower the heat and when just simmering, partially cover the pot with a lid and simmer for 1 hour. (If using chicken reduce the cooking time to 25 minute.) Stir from time to time and add more water if needed. Test the lamb to determine if it has softened. If still firm continue cooking until the lamb is tender, but not falling apart.
Then add the garam masala, eggplant, and potatoes and continue cooking, stirring from time to time, until the potatoes have softened. About 20-25 minutes.
Meanwhile combine the tamarind, palm sugar and water in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly, then strain, pressing on the tamarind pulp to extract all the tamarind juice. Set aside.
Add the peas and tamarind juice to the Dhansak and stir everything together until well combined. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently as the liquid reduces to a thick soupy consistency. Taste and add sea salt to your liking before serving.
Serving: Place the Dhansak in a serving bowl or individual bowls, garnish with fried shallots. Serve with basmati rice, and a cooling cucumber salad (see here)
Storage: The Dhansak can be refrigerated for several days or frozen for later use. Bring to room temperature before reheating, adding water as needed to thin out the liquid.