Kaari Chawal (Curry and Rice) – A Bohra Eid specialty
Last Saturday, I hosted a Ramadan Eid party at my home. As the guests talked about how long and trying the days were, and how quickly the month went by, I recalled the same Eid party at my home a year ago and tried to remember all that had happened in a year.
What I’m particularly proud about this Eid is that I learned how to make a dish that is made in every Bohra household on this big day of celebration. Kaari Chawal. Kaari is clearly a version of the word Curry, and only God knows what came from what. Chawal is the Hindi word for Rice. What also makes an Eid meal complete, is Sheer Korma, a milk and vermicelli pudding, prepared with assorted nuts, raisins and saffron. Hopefully I’ll post the recipe for this dish in a later post.
Back to Kaari Chawal! This rich curry is made with a unique concoction of roasted and then ground nuts and spices. When I learned about the composition, I wasn’t surprised why such a decadent combination of ingredients is reserved for a dish made specifically for a major day in the Islamic community.
White Poppy seeds or Khus Khus, White sesame seeds, Cashews, raw, Almonds, Cinnamon, Cloves, Black Pepper corns, Red dried, chilies, or Kashmiri Mirch, Whole Corainder seeds, Whole cumin seeds
Roughly equal quantities of everything is used, except for Cashews, which are used liberally, and which make the bulk of the spice mix. The ground mixture is available ready-made in India, sold by individual, family-owned grocers (yes those exist in abundance back home), mostly from the Bohra community. It goes without saying that every store has its own unique proportion of ingredients, not to mention a secret ingredient that we’ll never know of. Some Bohra women swear by one vendor’s Kaari spice mix over another, some others prefer to make their own Masala at home, from scratch. I used a ready-made spice mix that my sister had squirreled away from my mother’s visit a few months ago.
Making the curry once you have the spice mix is really a breeze and a one-pot dish. The flavor is nothing like any curry that you may have tasted at your local Indian restaurant.
Here’s how you use the spice mix to make the creamy, delicious curry. Serves 5 people:
You will need:
- About 7-8 skinless chicken drumsticks or about 2 lbs of bone-in, skinless chicken
- 2 cups of the Kaari spice mix
- 2 cans Coconut Milk, diluted in 1 can-full of water
- 2-3 tbsp dessicated coconut
- 3-4 whole green chilies, slit lengthwise
- 1 cup Ghee or clarified butter
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 Anise Stars
- 1 tbsp Cumin seeds
- 3 tbsp Ginger & Garlic paste
- 1/2 tbsp Red Chili powder
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 cup wet tamarind (available at any Asian or Indian grocery store)
- A handful of chopped coriander and mint leaves
- Lemon juice for garnishing
- Clean the chicken, pat dry and keep aside. You can also use mutton in this dish, but cooking time will be much longer
- In a large pot, heat the Ghee on medium heat. When heated, add the Cinnamon sticks, Anise Stars and cumin seeds
- When the spices crackle and are fragrant, add the Ginger & Garlic paste. Allow to fry for a minute and then add the spice mix, lower the heat and toast it in the Ghee, stirring occasionally, until the fat separates from the sides of the mixture
- Now add the chicken or mutton, and mix well. Allow the meat to cook partially in the spice mix, with a lid on the pot
- Add the diluted coconut milk, dessicated coconut, and slit green chilies. Mix very well and add salt to taste. Put a lid on the pot, set heat on low-medium and allow the curry to simmer
- When the meat is partially cooked, add the red chili powder, mix well and continue to cook
- When the meat is fully cooked, heat about 1 cup of water in a bowl and add the wet tamarind in it. Squeeze the paste from the tamarind into the water. Remove any solids from this mixture and add to the curry. Mix well. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes more.
- Garnish with chopped coriander and mint leaves. The true test of a well-done Kaari is when the fat from the clarified butte rises to the top of the curry
- Serve with hot naan and Cumin Rice