Friday, 5 September 2014

Murgir Bhorta: Opar Bangla specialty

পুজো আসছে 

A bona fide Bengali is essentially khadyoroshik and his love for machh (fish) and bhat (rice), is legendary. For a Bengali, dining is not a survival routine; it is a ritual of sorts.  There was a time when the status of a Bengali household was determined by the quality of rice they ate or the size of the Illish they served their guests. The man of the house would return home drenched in sweat, having spent an entire morning in the bazaar. He would definitely extol his uncanny knack for picking up the best fish in the market, before scurrying off to the bath. During bride viewing sessions the mandatory question posed to a Bengali girl by the groom’s family, in a bid to judge her worth, would be if she knows how to cut and clean mocha (banana flower). But that was another age. The New Age Bengali usually serves Fish Florentine or Chicken lat me kai to guests, sends the domestic help to the market and heads out to one of the city’s specialty restaurants to slake his occasional cravings for mochar ghonto and ilish bhaape. In fact, the proliferation of Bengali specialty restaurants in Calcutta is a comparatively recent phenomenon. 

Of course, there are still people who have the time or make time and take the trouble to prepare traditional Bengali delicacies at home no matter what the demands of present day life are. My family, for instance, doesn't often venture out to eat Bengali food in a restaurant. Everything from mochar ghonto to Daab chingri is prepared at home and on a regular basis.Nonetheless there is one particular restaurant serving Bengali cuisine that is a family favourite. Kasturi, a Bangladeshi restaurant serving Dhakai cuisine. And being a Ghoti family (natives of West Bengal), the Bangal (native of erstwhile East Bengal,now Bangladesh) style of cooking is anything but regular for us. My mother is crazy about their Kochu Pata Chingri (shrimps and taro leaves cooked with mustard in mustard oil) while their paturi, with that extra zing from the mustard, is a perennial family favourite. 

However, my favourite dish at the restaurant is the fiery (runny nose, teary eyes kind of fiery) Murgi Bhorta. My friend Angona, another huge food enthusiast, introduced me to the bhorta a few years ago and am I glad she did. Trust a Bangal to turn anything from dried fish (shutki machh) to taro leaves (kochu pata)  into a bhorta and you are in for a delectable meal. As far as I am concerned, I can eat a plateful of rice with two tablespoons of Kasturi's murgi bhorta. Usually I pass most of the other dishes ordered, just so I can have my fill of bhorta and bhaat. Now this bhorta is markedly different from the North India favourite, Chicken bharta. The Bengali avatar of Bhorta is basically chicken, ground into a paste and fried with a host of spices in mustard oil, on a low flame, for the longest time, and finished off with a drizzle of raw mustard oil, for that extra kick. The dish is oily but like I said it is so rich and full of flavours that a table spoon is enough to polish off a mound of rice. 

Anyway, last year, on the second day of Durga Puja, I insisted we bring home food from Kasturi. My father vehemently protested considering the crowds and the traffic. But then, when the daughter wants something, she wants it. I was ready to shed a couple of tears to convince him, however 20 odd "please Baba" did the trick. What I didn't know then was that I would regret my decision. My father had to wait for over two hours to get his order packed and returned home close to 3:30 in the afternoon. By then, my sanity was at stake. I hurriedly brought out the boxes and off came the lids. But no Murgi Bhorta. I could feel that stinging sensation in my eyes. Yes I still cry when I am denied good food. How could he forget? And just then dad came in and said "Shono, tomar oyi bhorta ta shesh hoye giyechhilo (Listen your bhorta was over") Great. And so was my was gone! I sulked the entire day. And that's when I decided I have to try and make my own version of the Bhorta, which I did. And now, though Kasturi's remains a favourite, my own murgi bhorta is a close close second. In fact, sometimes, I crave mine more than I crave Kasturi's. And this Durga Puja, I am not banking on Kasturi for my quota of murgi bhorta. You should try it too. 

This is how I make it 


Fine Minced chicken – 600 g
Vinegar – 50 ml
Onion paste – 3 tbsp
Minced Garlic – 1 tbsp
Minced ginger – 1.5 tbsp
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Red chili powder – 1.5 tbsp
Cumin powder – 1 tbsp
Coriander powder – 2 tbsp
Garam masala powder – ½ tsp
Salt to taste
Besan (Bengal gram flour) – ½ tsp
Chopped green chilies - 1/4 cup 
Chopped coriander/cilantro leaves - 1/2 cup packed 
Mustard oil - 3/4 cup 


Grind the chicken in a blender into a fine paste. Better still do it on a grinding stone.

Add the vinegar, onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, red chili powder, cumin and coriander powder, mustard oil, and salt. Keep aside for half an hour. 

Now heat a heavy bottomed pan. Once the pan is hot, pour in the spiced chicken mixture. Stir well, bring to a boil, cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes on medium low heat. 

Remove cover and continue cooking on low heat, until the juices dry up. Add garam masala powder, chopped green chilies and chopped cilantro leaves and keep frying on low heat. Soon oil will separate. But continue frying (bhuna) on low heat for the next 40 minutes or so. 

If the chicken dries up a little to much, sprinkle some warm water and continue. You can do it a few times, as required. 

When it almost done sift in the besan and mix well. The chicken will be a little grainy, but mushy. 

Drizzle a little raw mustard oil and remove from heat. Serve with plain boiled rice. And some onion rings on the side, perhaps. 


  1. No oil is added while cooking the meat? All the MO is added at the end?

    1. No noMoalisa, the mustard oil goes into the marination. Add the end just drizzle a little!