Sirka Chicken

Food & Travel | Jul 02, 2021

It is after a long gap that we are posting a new recipe here. Lockdown zoom meetings, webinars and an attempt to encourage enough guests to keep the Sarai afloat have been the distractions in the intervening year. In some ways pandemic times seem to speed up time’s passing.  Raghu’s recipes tend to be creations by instinct so he has to make them once or twice, measuring all ingredients to transcribe here.  

Today’s recipe is for the carnivores: it is a chicken dish with a dominant vinegar flavour. Hence the name—sirka means vinegar in Hindi. 

Good quality vinegar is essential for this. I use balsamic vinegar but good malt vinegar is a fine alternative. The recipe is a kind of fusion of continental and Indian flavours. This time the recipe was introduced to the family by my eldest sister, Vrinda, who is married to an army officer doctor. 

We all loved this chicken recipe because it was completely different from the Indian masala gravy-based chicken curry we are so used to. Whenever my sister visited us, my father and I always asked her to cook it for us and I learned the recipe through watching her cook. Always my favourite as it works well with broiler chicken.  

Cooking does take a bit of time and I do first tenderize the chicken with whatever is available— yoghurt, papaya, pineapple—for a couple of hours, although I don’t think my sister did this. So, this “Sirka Chicken” recipe is not exactly how my sister cooked it but is now our family recipe though it may have a few differences from the original

Sirka Chicken: Chicken with thick gravy, cooked with vinegar

Ingredients (for four servings)

Chicken 1kg in medium-sized pieces
Oil 1/2 cup refined
Yoghurt 1 cup
Onions four medium sized, cut into medium squares
Cassia bark three 1/2 inch pieces
Cloves 4-6
Black peppercorn 10
Green cardamom 2 pieces
Black cardamom 2 pieces, half-opened
Star anise 1 piece
Green chillies medium hot, 3-4 cut in large 1/2 inch
Tomatoes 4 medium-sized pureed
Vinegar (dark) 2 tablespoons
Salt to taste 11/2teaspoon
Sugar couple of pinches

Coriander leaves to taste.

Cooking guide

For best results use a thick-bottomed round degchi (stewpot) for this recipe. Alternatively, a thick-bottomed 4-5 litre saucepan can be used.

  1. Heat oil (not smoking hot), add the chopped onions and fry until golden brown in colour.
  2. Add the chicken pieces to the onions with the salt and brown the chicken pieces on medium-high heat. The chicken will take on a dark colour from the caramelised onions.

  1. Add all the spices—cloves, peppercorns, cardamoms, star anise and cassia sticks.
  2. Bring the heat down and add the green chillies and tomato puree to bring down the temperature of the chicken and then add yoghurt. Stir immediately for a few minutes so the yoghurt does not curdle.

  1. After a few minutes gradually turn the heat up again and let it simmer vigorously for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Stir in the vinegar with the smidgeon of sugar and let it simmer on medium heat for 10-15 minutes with the lid on or until the chicken is tender. If needed add a tablespoon of water. Keep stirring at least a couple of times. When oil begins to separate, it is almost done.

  1. Add coriander leaves, stir and simmer for another ½ a minute, take off the heat and serve hot.

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