"Aik so aik," Badam ni Curry
The 100-almond curry was made with a large amount of almonds that were ground into an almond meal, hence the name "sau badam ni" curry. I may not be the first and definitely will not be the last to be very Parsi about the whole story and prefer to call this the 101 almond curry, or aik sau aik badam ni curry! As per our culture, we give money as gifts, on happy occasions such as weddings, birthdays, and navjotes, where we always add an extra one to whatever number we may choose to offer. This is considered auspiciously lucky and, in reference to being "in abundance," that little extra.
Cooking with almonds has always been a source of excitement for me, and it adds a slightly exotic flair to the dish. Although the reason for counting the almonds appears mundane, it has a lovely ring to it. The title does elicit thought.
Don't worry, though; there won't be any arithmetic required of you here. Using fresh almond meal or simply measuring whole almonds by gramme accomplishes the same task. If you intend to make the almond meal at home, leave the almonds whole with their brown skin. Usually, if something is ready, it has already been blanched. Both will work well.
This curry, like all others, has variations; a tweak here and there, a pinch of saffron, and a preference for the thickness of the curry. I like it rather thick if served with flatbreads, naans, and lavash and thinner if served on a bed of rice—boiled, with lemon, or even khichri. My family prepared it in yogurt, while others used narial nu dudh—coconut milk.
The Badam Ni Curry can be made with chicken or lamb. The key is to perfectly cook the meat of choice and keep the gravy as little or as much as you want the end result to be before adding the finishing ingredients—aromatic, sumptuous, and quite exotic. Yet another recipe that has been revived with the promise of transporting you back a century or two.
Interestingly, this curry has been adopted from Tamil Nadu in southern India. Its origins are deemed to be from the valleys of Mosovad and is often referred to as Mosavadi Curry. The original Kari is prepared with equal amounts of almonds, hung curd and cream sometimes mixed with milk to keep it lighter. Paneer is a good substitute for the hung curd but the textures differ. Prepared with onions, garlic and ginger, it is flavoured with garam masalo, turmeric and salt. Tamils cook this in heavy amounts of pure ghee and with meat. There are no red or green chillies, nor tomatoes added to it.
Note -you will need a hundred and one almonds only if you double this recipe.
1 tbsp oil
1 dry bay leaf
10-12 pieces of chicken, skinless but with bone
1 tsp fresh ground garlic
1 tsp fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
3/4th cup fresh tomatoes
4 green chillies
2 cups water
1 cup thick yogurt with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 tsp garam masalo
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
In a pan heat the oil, drop in the spices and the chicken, brown it for a few minutes on low so the spices do not burn but the chicken turns colour. Add the tomato and green chilli mixture.
Bring to a boil, cover the pan and cook for 30 minutes till the chicken is cooked through.
Open the lid, turn the stove on high and let all the water evaporate until only one cup of thick gravy remains. Bring the pan off the stove and let it cool until just warm. Now add the mixture of the yogurt into it. The curry is ready to eat. Reheat gently before serving it with your choice of rice or flatbread.
Read more about Parsi Food and its origins in my cookbooks The World of Parsi Cooking Food Across Borders and The Art of Parsi Cooking; reviving an ancient cuisine. And The Vegetarian Parsi, inspired by tradition.
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