We all have that one dish which we could absolutely devour no matter what time, day or season it may be. For me, that dish is a delicious egg paratha wrap, juicy Reshmi kebabs, filled with pickled onions and raw green chilis. Just writing this one sentence makes me so utterly nostalgic with thoughts of sitting at a Dhaba (street cafe) back at home, and enjoying bites of pure heaven. I never thought it would actually turn out as good as it did, and that too from cooking it in my oven!
There’s a special ingredient in this dish which makes these chicken breast pieces taste so heavenly. The ingredient that I used was a powdered meat tenderizer. This is something I found walking around the streets of China Town. As I was walking through the grocery store, I spotted this white powder that read “meat tenderizer”. Instantly I thought it would be a mix of 20 different ingredients, half of which I would have never heard the name of. Believe it or not, it turned out that the only ingredient is raw papaya powder. I was so intrigued that I came home and the first thing I did was looked this craziness up. Interestingly enough, raw papayas have this enzyme called papain which helps to break down the tissue in meats and that’s what helps it tenderize lean meats like goat, beef or chicken breast.
I would always wonder how cooks would make dishes like tandoori chicken, chicken tikka and other chicken kebabs so juicy and soft. Although prolonged marination does help, it is this tenderizer that does the real trick. For this dish, I used the leanest chicken breast I could find, that way my dish was very healthy but also really soft and juicy. For your convenience, I have searched up a good and easy recipe to make the papaya paste in this website called Filipino Chow. It gives some information on how the enzymes work, and what quantities to use to make the homemade version of the paste. Click here!
I hope you guys will try this dish and let me know how it goes. Winter is the perfect time for steaming hot kebabs, so get a move on and make them before its too late!
1kg chicken breast
Juice of half a lemon (~3tbsp)
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp pepper
1 red chili (1/2 if you don’t want it too hot)
1 cup chopped fresh coriander
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1.5 tsp of table salt
3/4 tsp meat tenderizer (or 2 tbsp raw papaya paste)
5 cloves of garlic
2 tsp ginger paste
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup cream
4-5 bamboo soaked skewers
1/2 cup of yogurt
The first step is to submerge and soak your bamboo skewers in room temperature water. These need to soak for about 45 minutes to prevent from burning, once you place it into the oven. Then prep your chicken into thin pieces. First, place the breast piece on the chopping board with the flat side faced down on the board. Now using your knife slice horizontally through the middle of the breast into two thin pieces. With one half of the breast piece, slant your knife 45 degrees and diagonally slice it into 3-4 pieces.
Now to start off the first step of the marination. Using a mortar and pestle (or in a food processor), make a paste of the coriander, mint, garlic, ginger, chili, and oil. Then in a bowl, mix the coriander paste, chicken, salt, pepper, lemon juice, lemon zest, and meat tenderizer. If you are using raw papaya paste, click on the link to find how to make raw papaya paste and how much to use. Now set this mixture aside for 15 minutes while we prepare the next steps of the marinade.
Although Desi recipes would call for using Malai (reduced milk fat) in the marinade, an easier substitute is to use fresh mozzarella or ricotta cheese. These are not only easy to find in stores today, but it gives a real nice cheesiness to the dish. Although I used 3/4 cups, you could use less cheese and opt for a little extra yogurt. Place the cheese on a flat surface or board and mash the cheese down as much as possible. It won’t turn into a smooth paste, but it should mash down to very little chunks.
Now add in the yogurt, cream and cheese into the chicken and mix well till fully incorporated. Try your best to mash the cheese down as much as possible. Set the marinade aside for 30 minutes, at least, and at this point heat your oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Once marinated, grab a skewer in one hand and one piece of meat in the other hand. You want to fold the long pieces, like a paper fan, and then put the skewer through the middle. Repeat with the rest of the pieces.
To bake the chicken I used a roasting rack and pan, that way when I placed the skewers on the rack, the juices dripped down to the pan. Personally I would BBQ the kebabs, but it works just as well in the oven this way. When ready, just rub some oil on the rack and then place the skewers, to prevent from sticking. Bake the chicken in the oven for 10 minutes, then flip the skewers and place it back into the oven for 10 more minutes. Once you have baked the chicken at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, set the broiler on high (~500 degrees fahrenheit), and bake the chicken for another 5 minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on the chicken so that nothing is over burning, but you want to get some nice char.
When ready you could serve the chicken by itself with some mixed peppers or salad. However, as I mentioned earlier, I love wrapping the chicken, peppers, chili and some yogurt in a paratha, and making a kebab. But as always, make it your way!