The other day we were busy in discussing on Chicken Chap over a cup of tea and some lip smacking snacks in the evening. It was raining heavily, the Cable on the TV was showing no signal, so we got a chance to spend some quality time with the Family. I prepared Chicken Chap for lunch that day. So the chitchat taking many tours through the gossip lanes stopped to take a breathe over Chicken Chap. All were in praise of the dish that made me lifted on cloud nine in no time, I decided why not sharing some food stories on this dish. I started first. My memory with Chicken Chap is quite elusive to me. I can dimly recollect the memory of a 9/10 years girl holding her father’s hand, all excited as if some hidden treasure is waiting for me inside Aminia of Park Street – one of the most famous restaurants of that era of Kolkata. Neither I can recollect properly the taste nor the texture. What I can remember the excitement of tasting a dish what is one of my father’s favourite dishes. The New Market area was/is always a treasure trove place for me. Whenever my father used to come to Kolkata, if my school was closed, I never failed to accompany him. And if we were in Kolkata a visit to New Market was a must. I roamed around in amazement holding my father’s hand hours after hours watching the busy cacophonic market life. While wrapping up quickly the works in hand, my father kept on telling me his childhood memories. I can recollect very well my father elucidating his first experience of tasting the Chicken Chap when it was nothing but a fancy dish that could only be found around few areas of Old Kolkata. My father was in his mid-30s, one day on his way back home, he took a detour with his colleagues to Aminia. They ordered for Biriyani and Chicken Chap. Whenever he recollects that memory, I have always seen his face lit up with a joy. My father can’t illuminate the exact taste of Chicken Chap he had tasted so many years back neither I can. But we both know that Chicken Chap has become an integral part of our life from then and it will keep on building up many food stories.
When I asked my FIL when he has tasted Chicken Chap first, I was pretty surprised to hear that he tasted it for the first time when we introduced it on our dining table. Asked my husband, he said that these dishes (Biriyani, Chap, Rezala etc) are mainly the ‘Office-Para-Food’ (The food in the Office areas mainly Park Street and Park Circus area) 20 to 30 years back. Now it might have become so famous and common, but people hardly used to go to the restaurants to dine out at that time. I got pretty surprised to know this because I thought Chicken Chap is one such dish that each and everybody knows in Kolkata. So I decided to explore more on this. My friend Mr. S who has an avid knowledge of the nook and corner of Kolkata and the food history came to rescue me from all my doubts.
He said : Though Chicken Chap is beyond introduction in recent years, say it almost 30 to 40 years ago, people in Kolkata hardly know the existence of the Dish. It was famous only among the people who reside near the Park Street area and for the frequent visitors of the New Market/ Park Circus area mainly in between the Muslims and Anglo-Indians. Originally Chap is cooked with Mutton and comes under the Awadhi cuisine introduced to Kolkata during the Raj Era. Chicken Chap got introduced during the 50s or 60s when many started to reject the Mutton. Aminia itself has open 11 outlets all over Kolkata, therefore, it has become an easy access for people to try out the dishes once what was just a fancy dish. He took me to Royal Indian Hotel at Bura Bazar, Kolkata, which serves the most authentic Mughal dishes in Kolkata. I tried both the Mutton Chap and the Chicken Chap. Honestly speaking nothing can beat the taste of the Mutton Chap. Next, I am going to try my hand with Mutton Chap. I was talking with a Chef of Royal Indian Hotel, who said that the pronunciation of Mutton Chap is actually CHOP. There are many variations on this recipe now a day. Asking about the secret of cooking the dish he said – the process of slow cooking is actually the main secret. The dish asks for minimum spices, make sure a lot of Ghee/oil should ooze over the dish. Here I have adapted the recipe from Royal Indian Hotel‘s recipe section published in a Magazine. Enjoy..