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I first tasted lemon chicken like this at Gyani Da Dhaba in Dharampur, in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh and fell in love with it. It’s been five years since my introduction to the dish and the taste really lingered on, so I thought, If one can’t get to the dish, why not try to recreate it, or at least attempt to. So yesterday, I got down to it, and the outcome was much to my and my family’s satisfaction. It may not have tasted exactly the same as the Gyani dish, but it tasted really really good!
The flavours are clean and simple and the dish uses a minimum of ingredients and still comes out a winner. If you want to add a little more gravy to the chicken, the instructions for that are under the Important Notes section at the bottom. This is one of the first chicken dishes both my kids actually liked! My daughter usually does not like to eat any meat or chicken and wails of “the chicken is chewyyyyy’’ mostly assaults my ears whenever she is given chicken anywhere, but she enjoyed this much to my very pleasant surprise!
I used chicken on the bone and left out the breast pieces, as they cook the fastest – at least 10 to 15 minutes faster than the thigh and leg pieces – and by the time those are cooked the breast pieces are as chewy as leather, so out they went. You can make a boneless preparation but the cooking time will then be much less. The minimum marination period should be two hours for the marinade to seep into the chicken nicely but the longer you keep it, the better. You can even leave it in the fridge overnight. I marinated the chicken in the afternoon and cooked it at night, giving it at least seven hours.
This dish, like most of my cooking, has few ingredients, short cooking time, is easy, fuss free and tastes great. Try it.
For the Marinade
750 gms chicken pieces on bone (breast pieces removed)
150 gms thick yoghurt
1 heaped tsp coriander powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric (haldi) powder
2 tbsp lemon juice
For the Final Preparations
2 medium onions diced finely
2 tbsp lemon juice
1.5 heaped tbsp very finely chopped coriander leaves and stem
3 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
- In a bowl, add the yoghurt, coriander powder, salt, turmeric powder and 2 tbsp lemon juice to the chicken pieces, mix well and keep in the fridge for at least two hours.
- When ready to cook, heat the oil in a large non-stick pan, add half the diced onion in the oil and lightly fry on medium heat. Add the marinated chicken pieces to the pan, shaking off the excess marinade and keep turning them till all sides turn an opaque white colour.
- Once the raw look has gone from the chicken, add the rest of the marinade and cook covered on medium-low heat for at least 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, add the rest of the diced onions, lemon juice and 1 tbsp of the diced coriander and cook uncovered for another 10 minutes till the marinade dries up and starts releasing oil. You don’t need to add any water to the dish.
- Check to see if the chicken legs (drumsticks) are fully done as they take the longest to cook. If they are not done, keep the chicken on the gas for another five minutes. If the chicken is fully cooked, remove it onto a serving dish, sprinkle the remaining 1/2 tbsp of diced coriander over the top and serve immediately.
Important Notes: Make sure the chicken is not overcooked or undercooked, which is why it’s advisable to keep the heat on medium and medium-low, so you have better control over the cooking process.
If you want more gravy, add double the yoghurt to the chicken but then you will have to adjust all the marinade flavouring accordingly. You may then need to add 1/2 tsp more of salt and coriander powder, 1/4 tsp more of turmeric powder and more lemon juice to taste.