This is one of the most unusual dishes I have ever eaten and an extraordinary feast for coriander lovers. I saw the recipe in The Ultimate Curry Bible by Madhur Jaffrey, but I needn’t have bookmarked it: the dish was instantly engraved in my memory. Its Kenyan origins were obviously intriguing, but what made my eyes sparkle was the huge amount of fresh coriander (aka cilantro) the dish called for. Do you realise how much 50g (about 1,8 oz) fresh coriander represents? It’s actually an extremely big bunch, especially since the author says to use only leaves, discarding the stems. As scary as it may sound to coriander haters, it was one of the best curries in my life.
Apart from its unique taste and fragrance, Dhania Chicken/Cilantro Chicken is filling and warming, especially given the high level of hotness, in my case provided by three mixed green bird’s-eye chilies. At the same time, it’s one of the lightest curries I know: the sauce is composed only of coriander and yogurt.
I have followed the original recipe, roughly adapting it to a meal for two. The cooking time depends on the chicken cuts you use and on the chicken quality: organic chicken legs will require more time since they are tougher.
TIPS: I would advise this dish only if you are fond of coriander. Otherwise, there is a certain risk (but maybe also a challenge?). Its strong aroma is of course subdued during the cooking process, but the typical scent and taste is still recognisable. It’s also quite fiery and the hotness goes so well with the abundance of coriander here, I cannot guarantee if the magic of this dish can survive the absence of chilies.
The yogurt used here cannot be acid, so if you taste yours and feel tanginess, I advise using Greek yogurt or fresh smooth cheese (quark/fromage frais) instead. Otherwise the dish will be tangy and it doesn’t improve the taste (I know what I’m talking about: I prepared it three times and the first time I used slightly tangy yogurt).
Preparation: 1 – 2 hours
Ingredients (serves 2):
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cm (about 1,5 in) fresh ginger
2 big garlic cloves
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 chicken legs or breasts (cut in two pieces ) or a mixture of both, skinned
1 small tomato or 3 tablespoons canned chopped tomatoes+ 1/2 teaspoon tomato purée
50 g (about 1,8 oz) coriander leaves (without bigger stems)
3 bird’s-eye green chilies or the equivalent in other chilies
125 ml (1/2 cup) not tangy yogurt (the best would be Greek yogurt) or fresh smooth cheese (quark/fromage frais)
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix the salt, the garlic and the ginger to a smooth paste with 1 tablespoon water.
Rub the mixture into the chicken pieces and marinate for at least 30 minutes (you can leave it overnight too).
Just before cooking, in a food processor mix well the coriander, the chilies, the tomato, the tomato purée, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 5 tablespoons water.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil.
Fry the chicken pieces until slightly browned.
Add the coriander mixture, cover and simmer until the chicken is soft (check from time to time if it doesn’t burn and add water if necessary).
Add the yogurt, cook at medium heat, uncovered until the sauce thickens and clings to the chicken.
Adjust the taste, adding more salt if necessary, and serve.