We have a good friend from Idaho who use to joke about a dish she grew up with that her mother called “Hong Kong Chicken”. In spite of the decidedly ‘ethnic’ name it was, in essence, the archetypal casserole: chicken pieces bathed in cream of mushroom soup and baked until tender. So why is it “Hong Kong Chicken”? Because it’s served over rice instead of potatoes. (rimshot)
Which is why I was immediately suspicious of a recipe called “Bombay Chicken”. This suspicion was compounded by the source: a freebie cookbook from an Indiana realtor. (My realtor sends me calendars – this guy sends his clients cookbooks.) This same cookbook is chock full of antiquated casseroles, and I expected to find some sort of baked casserole with canned soup and curry powder.
When I started poring over the ingredient list, though, I was pleasantly surprised. I live in an area with a strong Indian contingent and won’t pretend to call this authentic, but it’s also not some hyper-Americanized bastardization of Indian cuisine. It’s a simple chicken dish dressed with onions and tomatoes and simmered in yogurt mixed with a fragrant spice blend. The dish itself would be unrecognizable on the sub-continent, but the flavor profile would be familiar. It’s a commendable ‘tribute’ to Indian cuisine, framed in terms and ingredients accessible to your average American shopper.
It’s also a perfect fit for the Instant Pot. I’ve remarked elsewhere on this site that the Instant Pot is one of a few kitchen gadgets that I tolerate. Instead of collecting dust in a cabinet like most kitchen novelty products my Instant Pot gets used once or twice a week. For this particular recipe it significantly reduces the cooking time, giving you fork tender chicken in 20 minutes (versus simmering for an hour or more). I was able to get dinner on the table in just under an hour, about the same time it took for the rice to cook.
Other than changing the venue from the stove top to the Instant Pot I’ve made very few adjustments. I’ve replaced ginger and garlic powders with their freshly chopped equivalents used crumbled dried chilies instead of chili powder. I’ve otherwise left the spice profile intact – it didn’t need any help. I’ve also used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of skinless, bone-in cuts. This allows me to shred the chicken and soak up more of the savory sauce. Now would I recommend making Bombay Chicken over an authentic Indian dish? No way, but I’ve also got ready access to Indian markets and neighbors who can coach me on proper technique. If you don’t have an Indian market nearby or just plain aren’t sure if you like Indian food this is a pretty good place to start.
Bombay Chicken is best served over basmati rice. I like to serve this with cucumbers and cherry tomatoes or a lightly dressed salad. If you’re feeling ambitious it would pair well with my Braised Greens with Paneer, which is a subtle riff on takeout saag paneer. Enjoy!
- 3-4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- salt and pepper
- ¼ cup neutral cooking oil (or ghee)
- 1 large onion (thinly sliced)
- 2 tbsp dried, shredded coconut (unsweetened)
- 1 tbsp ginger (shredded or finely chopped)
- ½ tbsp minced garlic
- 2 dried red chili peppers (crumbled)
- 1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
- 6 tbsp plain yogurt
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- ½ tbsp mild paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom seeds
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- pinch nutmeg
- pinch cinnamon
- Trim excess fat from chicken thighs and season liberally with salt and pepper.
- Using Saute Mode, heat oil in Instant Pot until pot is hot. Add sliced onions and fry until brown and tender. Remove from pan and set aside in a large bowl.
- Fry the coconut in the same oil, about 30 seconds, then add a single layer of chicken pieces. Fry chicken pieces about 1-2 minutes per side until well browned, then remove to the same bowl as the onions. Continue frying chicken pieces in batches as needed until all pieces are cooked.
- Add ginger, garlic, and chili peppers to the instant pot and saute briefly, then return chicken pieces and onions to the pot. Add tomatoes, yogurt, and ground spices to the chicken and combine well using tongs until chicken pieces are evenly coated.
- Place lid on Instant Pot. Cook at low pressure for 8 minutes, and allow pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes after cooking. Release the rest of the pressure manually.
- Shred chicken well with forks or tongs. Serve over basmati rice. Top with chopped cilantro and yogurt as desired.