Orange chicken curry or narangi chicken is as fruit-scented and zesty as it sounds. Poultry and citrus have always been friends and so, in orange season it’s only natural to cook a dish celebrating this camaraderie. Oranges, tangerines, kinnow, clementines,blood oranges, I love them all. This orange chicken curry is an unpretentious, home-style dish with a smattering of spices and generous glugs of fresh orange juice.
Keep it fresh
My narangi chicken curry recipe is very forgiving in terms of the effort, skill and ingredients. You’ll get it right even if this is the very first curry you cook. But the one thing that it asks is that you use fresh, in season fruit. No brand of orange juice from a can or box can mimic the bright citrus of fresh oranges. I’m talking about the intense, seductive aroma of orange oil that clings lovingly to your palms and fingers when you peel the fruit. The juice that bursts from the succulent clusters of tiny, translucent, teardrop-shaped micro segments is irreplaceable. This orange chicken curry must only be made using juice and zest from fresh, seasonal oranges. Your olfactory glands and your taste buds will thank you for it. I used Nagpur oranges in this recipe.
Always marinate the chicken
Poultry, in my experience, should always be marinated, even if it’s just with salt, garlic and turmeric or pepper or chilli powder. Chicken infused with seasoning, spices /herbs/aromatic pastes is remarkably more delicious than a bird cooked without marination. Since chicken itself has a very mild savoury flavour, it needs a little time and effort to build taste into its flesh. Even a 2-hour marinade makes a world of difference. For the orange chicken curry, I anointed the chicken with salt, a little finely chopped orange zest, yoghurt, ginger and garlic pastes, turmeric, chilli and coriander powder and let it sit overnight in the fridge. This way, the flavours slowly, steadily and lovingly seep right into the meat, injecting its cells with a complexity of taste that cannot be created otherwise.
Since the marination does most of the work tenderising and flavouring the chicken, the actual cooking becomes very simple. Freshly-squeezed orange juice and thin strips of zest along with onion, a few whole spices and garam masala go into making the curry complete and rounded in flavour. I kept the sauce slightly runny to keep the integrity of the citrusy notes. If you like your curry a little thicker, reduce the amount of juice rather than boiling it off. I love eating the savoury, slightly sweet and tangy chicken-laden orange sauce with a spoon and mopping it up with pieces of paratha. Warm, deeply-scented orange chicken curry with flaky, crisp flatbread – winter food to me is about such soul-satisfying, home-style meals.
- 800 g skinless chicken pieces on the bone
- 400 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1½ tbsp orange zest
- 1 tbsp garlic paste
- 1 tbsp ginger paste
- 50 g thick, hung yoghurt
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 tej patta or dried bay leaf
- 2 inch cinnamon broken into 2-3 pieces
- 5-6 cloves
- 3-4 green cardamoms
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1½ tsp chilli powder
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1½ tsp garam masala
- 2 tbsp ghee
- Marinate the chicken in a mixture of hung yoghurt, turmeric, chilli and coriander powders, salt, 1/2 tsp zest, and half of the ginger and garlic pastes. Rest overnight in the fridge or for a minimum of 2 hours.
- Heat ghee in a pan and add the cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf and cardamom. Fry for 15 seconds and toss in the onions. Saute on medium till they're pink and translucent.
- Add the remaining ginger and garlic paste and fry for a min.
- Put in the chicken along with the marinade and fry for 2 mins. Pour in most of the orange juice, add the remaining orange zest, cover and cook for 20 mins till the chicken is fully cooked.
- Now add the remaining juice and garam masala, check and adjust the seasoning and simmer for 5 more mins. Serve with hot parathas or rice.