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Note: For the four weeks between January 14th and February 11th, I'm adopting a completely vegan lifestyle. Every weekday I'll be updating my progress with a diary entry and a recipe. For past posts, check here!
Ask any American what the most popular dish in an Indian restaurant is and you'll likely hear Chicken Tikka Masala—the British-Indian mashup of chicken cooked in a tandoor oven (check out our grilled version) and coated with a sweet, creamy tomato sauce. But hey, guess what! Turns out that Britons have cooled to the dish in pursuit of spicier fare. The number one dish in Britain's over 10,000 Indian restaurants as reported by The Daily Mail? Chicken Jalfrezi.
It's not as popular with the U.S. audience (yet), but it seems that as palates are shifting and folks are becoming more and more accustomed to spicier foods, jalfrezi is getting primed to win over this side of the pond as well. With its origins in China, jalfrezi is more similar in its cooking method to dry-fried Chinese dishes rather than the typical wet Indian curry.
It's made by cooking spicy green chiles (I use Thai bird chiles, you can use serranos or jalapeños if you prefer) along with onion, garlic, ginger, cilantro stems and red peppers. The key to great flavor development is to cook down the aromatics in oil until almost all the moisture is driven from them and they become sticky and begin to brown. To this flavorful base, a few spices are added (hot paprika, cumin, coriander, and turmeric), along with chopped tomatoes.
Chicken is the typical main element of choice, and while many vegetarian versions use cauliflower and chickpeas, I prefer the tender texture of potatoes. I'm always looking for more ways to get leafy greens into my diet, and spinach works very well in this dish. Traditional? Not at all. Delicious? You betcha.
A simple chutney of cilantro, garlic, chile, and lime juice finishes it off. (Also, keep that chutney around—it's great on everything).
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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.