Saturday, December 13, 2014

Murg Tikka Paan Rolls

The Indian Sweet Betel Leaf or paan is an essential mouth freshener cum digestive chewed by many in daily life. It is mostly chewed after the meals. Though there are hundreds of paans with added tobacco and other intoxicating agents available in almost every nook and corner of India, sweet paan is most sought sfter, which is liked by men, women and children. Any festive dinner is highlighted by paan. Paanwalas can bee seen near restaurants and markets with their petty make shift stalls. As per my knowledge, Mumbai has the highest number of paanwalas in the entire world!

Some years ago, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor had demonstrated on Khana Khazana,  how to make Shaam Savera, a spinach and cottage cheese dish which attracted my attention. Later in year 2010 when we used to frequent Vintaage Inn, a restaurant that was being run by an enterprising guy called Vinayak. He introduced many innovative dishes and he used to ask us if we would like to try new dishes. One such starter dish was 'Beeda Kebab'. Vinayak told me that it looks like paan roll and tastes similar to paan. I was surprised to hear that and we did order and taste it. It was OK, but not great. It lacked flavours. The filling tasted as if chicken is stuffed with Biscuit Rotti filling. The added grated coconut in the filling spoiled the taste.

Years rolled by and recently it was our good friend Uma Shenoi's birthday. I wanted to present a starter dish for Uma, something exotic, something unique and something she had never tasted before!

Using my imagination, borrowing the idea from what Vinayak had served us at Vintaage Inn that day in 2010, I came out with this one that I named 'Murg Tikka Paan Rolls'. It has the subtle taste of spinach blended with with a hint of mint and the biting taste and flavour of betel leaves. It has succulent juicy marinated chicken filled with sweet aromatic filling of fennel seeds, nuts and dry fruits with the redness of Kashmiri Chilli Powder and the tongue tickling taste of dry ginger. In a way, Kashmiri cuisine has much influence over this recipe.

Before we proceed to check the recipe, let me mention in brief about what any typical Indian Meetha Paan(Sweet Betel Leaf) consists of. Following the traditional preparation of paan, I have formulated the dish, of course with my own imagination to replace certain ingredients with suitable ones. After all, this is a chicken dish and we should also get the taste of chicken. Yet, adding garlic and onion to this may spoil the flavour. Hence I suggest, don't add any of those into this!

Essential constituents of a typical Meetha Paan(Sweet Betel Leaf):

Paan has its own good and bad effects on individuals due to tobacco and arecanut as per research studies, but I am highlighting some of the safe and healthy substitutes that I have added to suit the dish, at the same time giving almost the same flavour and taste as a typical pan has.

1. Any good variety of betel leaf - Kolkata, Banarasi, Salem leaves are very famous. They are sweeter than the Madras and Mangalorean leaf. Here I have used the local Mangalorean leaf which is quite pungent. To neutralise the pungency, I have added paalak leaves. If you use Kolkata or Banarasi Paan, you can double up the number of paan and reduce number of paalak leaves. Mint leaves are added for that minty flavour you get while chewing the paan. Make a paste of all the leaves add spices to the paste and use for marination.

2. Chuna(Lime paste) - Lime paste mixed with paan gives a different feeling for the paan chewer. Here I have symbolically represented chuna with hung curd with added Kashmiri Red Chilli powder for colour and other spice powders for flavour.

3. Gulkand(Rose-Honey Preserve) - Gulkand is made from wild pink rose and honey traditionally processed and preserved in ceramic jars. It is the sweetener added to make the paan tasty and succulent.  Sadvaidyashala of Nanjangud was famous for Gulkand in Karnataka. I have personally seen how they make Gulkand in 1988, since Meena was close to the owner BV Balasubramaniam son of BV Pandit, the founder of Sadvaidyashala. As newly married couple then in September 1988, we were invited by him to wish us and bless us.

I have represented gulkand with chopped candied pineapple, Tutti Fruity and raisins with added honey. You may add dates if you prefer and eliminate candied pineapple. I had stock of pineapple candy from Soans Farm Bannadka, hence used that.

4. Supari(Arecanut) pieces/flakes, Saunf(Fennel), Dhania(Coriander), Catechu(Acacia powder extract), Elaichi(Cardamom), Menthol, Jeera Mithai(Sugar coated Cumin) - These are dry ingredients that are added over gulkand for substance. They add to flavour and help in digestion. In these paan rolls, Dry fruits like roasted almonds, pista and cashew bits mixed with Khuskhus(Poppy Seeds), cardamom powder and nutmeg powder are added. Nutmeg belongs to the Arecanut family and looks similar. However, being very strong in flavour, I used just a pinch of nutmeg.

I am sure, this will be liked by all age group people. Surprise your family and friends with this. They wouldn't mind asking you to repeat the dish often, especially in these cold and dark winter months. You may serve this as a starter dish or a side dish with rotis and curry or any rice dish.


For Marination:
Chicken Breast - 1 or approx 400Gms
Salt - To taste
Hung Curd - 1 Tbsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 Tsp
Kashmiri Chilli Pwder - 1 Tsp
Garam Masala Powder - 1/2 Tsp
Black Pepper powder - 1/2 Tsp
Lemon - 1/2 

For the Green Paste: 
Palak(Spinach Leaves) - A handful chopped
Mangalore Betel Leaves - 2 chopped(or Salem, Kolkata Or Banarasi leaves 4-6)
Mint Leaves - 1 sprig chopped
Cumin Powder - 1/4 Tsp
Black Pepper powder - 1/2 Tsp
Dry Ginger powder - 1/4 Tsp
Coriander Powder - 1/4 Tsp
Corn flour - 1 Tbsp
Egg white - 1

For the Filling:

Fruity Filling:
Candied Pineapple or de-seeded Dates - 6 chopped
Raisins - A handful chopped
Tutti Fruity - A handful
Dry Ginger Powder - 1/4 Tsp
Cardamom powder - A pinch
Nutmeg powder - A pinch
Honey - 2-3 Tsp

Nutty Filling:
Tiny Cashew Bits - A handful
Almonds - 8-10 chopped
Pistachios - 15 chopped
Toasted Fennel Seeds - 1 Tsp
Toasted Poppy Seeds - 1 Tsp

For final baking:
Butter - For basting
Wooden strong Toothpicks
Whole Clove(Optional)


Preparing Murg Paan Rolls:
Wash the chicken breast, carefully slice the chicken breast with a sharp knife and separate two heart shaped sheets from both sides.
Pat dry them or dry them with a kitchen towel.
Grind palak leaves with mint leaves and betel leaves into a thick puree without adding much water.
Add 1/4 Tsp dry ginger powder, pepper powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, corn flour, salt to taste and mix well.
Spread this paste on a platter.
Combine juice of half lemon, hung curd, turmeric powder,  Kashmiri chilli powder, garam masala powder, salt and pepper, rub over the chicken sheets on one side.
Place the chicken slices over the green paste and marinate for 30 mins to one hour in the fridge.
Mix the tutti fruity, raisins and dates with cardamom powder, 1/4 tsp dry ginger powder, nutmeg powder and honey.
Lighly crush roasted almonds, pistachios, fennel seeds, poppy seeds and mix with cashew bits.

Preheat oven with baking tray lined with aluminum foil for 10 mins at 180°C.
Grease the baking tray with sufficient butter, spread the sheets of marinated chicken on the tray, green side down.
Apply sufficient fruity filling on them.
Top them up with sufficient nutty filling.
Roll the sheets into half moon fold to cover the filling.
Apply half the left over green paste from marination on them to cover them properly.
Bake at 180°C for 15 mins, baste with butter, flip them upside down,  apply remaining green paste, bake for another 10 mins or till slightly browned.
Baste with butter, flip them over and prick toothpicks at one inch gap and optionally prick with cloves or just leave the toothpicks intact.
Beat egg white till frothy.
Brush the beaten egg white all over the rolls and bake them for another 10 mins or till golden.
(Coating with egg white gives that leafy glaze all over the rolls).
Remove from the oven and slice the pieces with a sharp knife between the toothpicks.
Serve on a platter with choice of salad and lemon wedges.

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