KATHMANDU: Chicken Choyela is a popular dish. It’s a seriously comforting chicken dish, made fiery with timur – a Nepali variety of sichuan pepper.
While making Choila in a typical or traditional way, the meat is cooked over fire made by using straw from rice or wheat.
However, while making it at home, you can cook it over charcoal grill or over a heated pan at home (you will, however, not get smoky taste).
skinless chicken breasts 450g
ground cumin 1 tsp
ground coriander 1 tsp
garam masala 1 tsp (optional)
lime or lemon juice (fresh or bottled) 2 tbsp
timur or sichuan peppercorns ground to make ½ tbsp (see cook’s notes)
dried chilli flakes 1-2 tbsp, (depending on how spicy you like it)
spring onions 6
garlic 2 cloves, very thinly sliced
ginger finely chopped to make 1 tbsp
red onions 2, thinly sliced
flatbreads, roti or lettuce leaves to serve
vegetable, sunflower or mustard oil 4 tbsp
fenugreek seeds 1 tbsp
green chillies 2, sliced
ground turmeric 1 tsp
coriander a small bunch, roughly chopped
Half fill a large pan with cold water, put in the chicken breasts, bring it to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until the breasts have cooked – add the tomato to the water for the final 5 minutes.
Drain the water (you can reserve it to be used as a stock or to make chicken soup). Once the chicken has cooled, dice the breasts into small pieces or use forks to shred them. Peel the skin off the tomato. Transfer the chicken and tomato to a mixing bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and use your hands or a spoon to combine everything, crushing the tomato as you do.
To temper, heat the oil in a large pan over a high heat. When the oil is hot, add fenugreek seeds. Once they have coloured, turn off the heat, add the green chillies and cook for a few seconds. Move the pan away from the hot hob and add turmeric. Immediately pour this mixture over the mixing bowl – it should sizzle. To avoid the pungent fumes it’s best to do this either by an open window or under an extractor fan, and keep an arm’s length away to avoid any splattering hot oil.
Add the coriander and mix well. Leave it for at least 5 minutes – the longer the better for the flavours to infuse. Serve on its own or with a flatbread or roti, or in a lettuce wrap (my personal favourite). The choyela can be stored in the fridge up to three days and can be served at either room temperature or cold.