Chilli Chicken, a taste of the only Chinatown in India

Thanks to the upper caste Hindu Brahmins under the British rule, who thought working with leather goods is a job made for the so - called lower castes like Chamars or Mochis, traders and workers from China arrived in Colonial India. A particular Chinese friend also set up a sugar mill near Kolkata welcoming more of his acquaintances into this port city. Some say, they are the reason we call sugar, "chini"!! Fast forward three centuries later, Kolkata is the only city in India which comes alive with fluorescent dragon and lion dancers every Chinese New Year in February. These Christian and Buddhist friends even house a Kali temple where a Hindu Goddess, Kali is worshipped with Chowmein as "bhog" instead of the usual fruits. Where else would you find this multi - culturalism?

Although only a handful of our Bengali - Chinese friends still own leather businesses, the one reason we would remain forever grateful is the Chinese cuisine they brought with them. Anyone who have tasted the Kolkatan Chinese ( Kolkata, not the Indo - Chinese blandness ) dishes would swear by the spiciness and the satisfaction which comes with it. The Hakka style noodles, the fiercely hot Schezwan preparations with a hint of garlic in it, the spicy Manchurian, the Ginger / Garlic proteins or the most famous Chilli and Peppery " Chilli Chicken " are some things which even a bheto - Bangali (Bengalis like me who share a strong and deep connection with bhaat a.k.a. rice ) cannot live without.

Chilli chicken, a name popular on the menu cards of both street vendors and five star restaurants is a no fuss, easy to make dish. Its that thing which lights up your eyes and make you crave for dinner after a long day's work. Its hot, its tangy with just the right amount of sweetness which compliments all those zesty flavours. You can make this whenever you're feeling low and will instantly feel like taking over the world. That's the thing with food. Cutting ingredients and creating something as beautiful as this can be therapeutic. So next time you feel a little Chinese - style, get some fresh produce, reach for those pots and pans and cook up, instead of those leathery - coated chicken in extra greasy gravies delivered.


  • Boneless Chicken - 300 grams (approx.) ; cut into smaller pieces of your preferred size.

  • Garlic - 18 - 20 cloves
  • Ginger - 2 inches
  • Green chillies - 8 - 10 ; slit into halves
  • Cornflour - 1 tablespoon
  • Onion - 2 medium sized ; cut into quarters and just peal out the layers.

  • Capsicum - 1 big ; cut into squared pieces

  • Vegetable oil - 3 - 4 tablespoon
  • Honey - 2 teaspoon
  • Dry Red Chilli - 2
  • Salt
For the sauce
  • Vinegar - 3 teaspoon
  • Soya sauce - 1 teaspoon
  • Red Chilli sauce - 2 teaspoon
  • Tomato sauce - 2 teaspoon
  • Worcestershire sauce - 1 teaspoon
  • Black pepper powder - 1/2 teaspoon
  • Salt ( be careful, the readymade sauces already have some salt in them )
  • Grind up 9 - 10 cloves of garlic along with half the ginger and two green chillies. Use this paste along with a pinch of salt to marinate the chicken pieces for at least 20 - 30 minutes.

  • Add the cornflour and mix it well with the marinated chicken.

  • Heat up the wok along with the oil.
  • Keep the flame on medium high and fry the chicken up.

  • Mix up all the sauce ingredients to make a thick slurry.

  • Chop up the remaining garlic and ginger and add them in the hot oil along with the dried red chillies.

  • Add the onion pieces along with the remaining green chillies and mix everything up with the oil real quick. Wait for the onions to glow brightly being coated with the oil. Keep the flame high.

  • Add the chicken pieces along with the sauce mixture. Mix. Add the capsicum.

  • Cook everything on high flame and wait for the moisture to evaporate. Add splashes of water from time to time. Evaporate - splash water - repeat, at least for 5 minutes.

  • Add the final round of water depending upon the quantity of gravy you would want along with the honey.

  • Adjust the seasonings, check whether the chicken cooked through and let everything come to a final boil. You are ready.

Presenting Chilli Chicken, probably the most eaten Chinese food in India. You can enjoy this with Noodles, Fried rice or simple humble roti / warm plain white rice like my lunch for today.

Chilli Chinese Chicken - a delightful delicacy



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