Holla!… It’s Chicken Tikka Masala! But you can call me Tikka Masala.

Chicken tikka masala apparently is the most popular dish in British restaurants, and is referred to as Britain’s true national dish.  Interestingly, there is no standardized recipe for chicken tikka masala; then again, there really does not exist standard ways to cook kung pao chicken or chow mein.  But there are common ingredients that can be found such as chicken, and a tomato and coriander sauce.

This was the first dish that I ever tried during my first encounter with Indian food.  And OMG, it was to die for, especially when it was eaten with basmati rice and naan.  Mmmmm, naan.  It was like a party in my mouth.  I ordered Indian take out with chicken tikka masala, rice, and naan two times a week for a straight two months because it was so good.  And also because I have a slight obsessive personality.  I don’t remember venturing out of my comfort zone until I was out having dinner with a friend and tried their chicken korma dish.  And then my chicken korma addiction started thereafter.

Chicken Tikka

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and cut into large cubes
2 cups plain yogurt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Masala Sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
1 medium onion, diced fine (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
1 fresh serrano chile, ribs and seeds removed, flesh minced (leave ribs and seeds for a spicier dish)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup fat-free half and half (or heavy cream)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

For the chicken:
Combine garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt, tumeric, lemon juice, and yogurt in small bowl. Mix well. Place chicken in bowl and mix. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for four to six hours.

For the sauce:
Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.

While the sauce simmers, adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position (about 6 inches from heating element) and heat broiler. Using tongs, arrange the chicken on the foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan, and place on wire rack. Discard excess yogurt mixture. Broil chicken until thickest parts register 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer and exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10 to 18 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking. Alternatively, you can also skewer the chicken breasts and cook them on the grill, which is I plan to do as the weather warms up :)

Let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes, and then stir into warm sauce (do not simmer chicken in sauce). Stir in cilantro if using, adjust seasoning with salt, and serve.

Makes 2 servings.

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