Bamboo chicken is a dish that immediately grabs attention. Much like matka biryani, kullad chai or tandoori momo, it stands out from the crowd of endless varieties of street foods for its rustic appeal. It's not uncommon to find ingredients being cooked in bamboo hollows across various tribal communities in India. One among them is the adivasi community in Andhra Pradesh, particularly in the quiet little hill station of Araku, where in recent years bamboo chicken has become a rage with tourists and locals, alike. So much so that across Andhra, it's now a signature dish.
On my recent trip to Araku this January to experience coffee harvest - yes, Araku has been producing world class organic coffee! - it also got me to discover the hottest selling street food of the region - bamboo chicken. Being for the Northeast where it's a common practise to cook ingredients like rice, meat and fish in bamboo hollows, it was indeed intriguing to find another region, located miles away, following the same traditional cooking method and selling items like hotcakes.
A Tasting Of Bamboo Chicken
So we jumped in to taste the Andhra-style bamboo chicken to experience firsthand what the craze was all about. And sure enough it was a hot, fiery treat! When in Andhra, you can't expect to get away from the heady spice levels. The local people's love for spicy food also reflects in bamboo chicken where the cooked meat served from the hollow stem comes in a vibrant red hue - courtesy the masala coating that is used as a marinade. This is the USP of the dish; it is this masala that makes your taste buds numb and gets you teared up, but also has you wishing for more, particularly if spicy food is up your alley.
How Is Bamboo Chicken Made?
Small pieces of chicken are marinated in a spicy mix of red chillies, ginger, garlic and other spices, and then placed on bamboo leaves, wrapped and filled in the hollow stems. These are then placed over a wood fire and slow cooked for 45-50 minutes until done. During the cooking process, care is also taken to keeping rotating the stems to ensure uniform cooking of the meat.
On the streets, you have to buy the entire bamboo hollow to relish the meat inside. The quantity is very generous and thus works great when in a group. You can enjoy the cool climate of Araku and relish piping hot and fiery bamboo chicken. For those looking for a quick nibble, an alternate is chicken skewers, which are made using the same spice mix. Bamboo chicken can cost anywhere between Rs 150-200 depending on the season, whereas the skewers cost Rs 20-25 per stick.