To the uninitiated the brouhaha about a lemon (gondhoraj lebu) will seem like typical Bengali idiosyncrasy. But if you haven’t tasted it, you don’t know what you are missing; the closest cousin I can think of is the Thai Kaffir lime. Originating in a place called Rangpur in Bangladesh; I doubt this lemon grows anywhere else apart from West Bengal or Assam in India. Today I see this citrus fruit making an appearance in quite a few restaurant menus, and it makes me happy that people outside the Bengali community are now becoming familiar with this. And justifiably so after all its name literally translates to the king of fragrance and the fragrance is something to die for.
When we were kids I remember, lunch would always be served with a slice of gondhoraj on the side on the plate, and anything with a few drops of the lemon, would taste sublime. Growing up I never knew that this lemon is not available in the rest of the country and now the more I have stayed away from Kolkata, more I have learned to love Bengali cuisine, and more I miss this quintessential Bengali lemon. So this time when I went to Kolkata for my annual sojourn I came back with a few of these precious gondhoraj lemons. And apart from just enjoying them like that; I was in search for a recipe to incorporate the brilliance of these lemons.
I remember watching a you tube video of somebody cooking a chicken dish using gondhoraj, this dish is inspired from there, my version of the gondhoraj chicken. It’s a light summery chicken with lots of lemony acidic broth and tastes amazing with steamed rice. So here’s the recipe:
Chicken 500 Gms
Juice of one onion, inch of ginger, two green chilies and 5 cloves of garlic
1 cup of curd
½ tsp coriander powder
Half regular lemon
1 gondhoraj lemon
Few gondhoraj lemon leaves (I didn’t have the leaves so used kaffir lime leaves)
2-3 cardamom pods
Refined oil-1 tbsp
Salt & sugar as per taste
Clarified butter or ghee for cooking
First marinate the chicken, add half a cup of the curd to the chicken. Make a paste of the onion, garlic, ginger and the chilies in the grinder and strain them in a strainer to take out the juices. You can add a little water to help strain. Add this juice to the chicken.
Also add the regular lemon and the gondhoraj lemon juice to the marinate. Before juicing the gondhoraj, scrap some zest from the gondhoraj, put half in the marinated mixture, save the rest for later. Then add the coriander powder, salt and the oil; mix everything together, and let the same marinate for an hour.
Heat the ghee in a wok, add the cardamom, and once it crackles add the chicken. Brown the chicken well on both sides. Add the gondhoraj leaves/kaffir lime leaves along with the marinade mixture. Add half a cup of water for the gravy. Add the remaining curd and the lemon zest. Put salt and sugar as per taste. Bengali cuisine we add usually a bit of sugar, in this case probably a quarter of teaspoon will be enough, to balance the taste. It creates a sense of balance between the flavours and is not really to sweeten the dish.
Fold everything together, and cook covered till the chicken is cooked. You can increase or decrease the water depending on the amount of gravy you want in the dish.
P.S. Just found out a seller in http://www.ebay.in who will deliver gondhoraj lemons in Mumbai, yippee!!