Maharashtra is home to several wonderful dishes, recipes of which lie in its ingredients. Things like a Thaalipeet, or a Kombadi Vada maybe lip-smacking, but there's another dish that's lesser known. The ingredients of this dish called as Dagadi Chicken is found near rivers. And it is literally a rock!
I visited a secluded waterfall with my friends once. It was located deep in the forest very close to Khopoli in Maharashtra. We had contacted a few locals to help us out with temporary accommodation and food.
While my group was chilling at the waterfall, I saw a local boy jump into the river and pick two black rocks from the bed. He got out of the river and ran towards the village with the rocks while I wondered why he came all the way to pick rocks from the river.
Once we went back to our temporary accommodation which was basically a makeshift shack, we saw that the local ladies had started cooking chicken.
The recipe for Dagadi chicken is really. Onions are sautéed in very little oil along with garlic and green chilies. There are only two main spices in Dagadi chicken, turmeric and red chilly powder. Once the spices are added to the pan, chicken is added and fried on a low flame. Then comes the main ingredient which is the river rock. It is placed directly on top of the chicken.
Then we saw the ladies add water to the pot and close it with a lid. I asked the woman why she added the rock in the gravy and that is when I found out how the rock is the real tastemaker in the gravy. When the rock is placed in the pot, it is pitch dark brown or grey in color. When the rock is heated with the chicken, it releases a lot of natural flavors into the gravy.
This gives the gravy a spicy and smokey flavor and it almost seems like a few herbs were added to the gravy. And once the pot is emptied and taken out, it changes its color to red.
The gravy is ideally consumed with Bhakri’s made with rice flour. The combined taste of the bhakri (roasted Indian bread) and the gravy is just heavenly. And another reason for why Dagadi chicken tastes so good is because country chicken is used to cook this gravy and desi chicken always tastes better than poultry.
So the next time you go to a river in Maharashtra, pick up a nice round fist-sized rock and try making this gravy at home.