Note: Bibi Ji may be subject to Stay-at-Home Orders, where they cannot offer dining. Thank goodness this Chicken Tikka is on their To-Go Menu!
Indian-American sommelier Rajat Parr is widely known for his extensive knowledge and expertise of the world’s great wines, and for developing and managing wine programs for more than a dozen famous restaurants across the United States. He also makes wines right here in Santa Barbara County, with his various labels sourcing fruit mainly from the Sta. Rita Hills appellation.
But, food was actually Parr’s first love. He grew up in India and studied to become a chef, eventually graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in New York. And when he began living in the Santa Barbara area near his wineries, he really missed the food of his youth. Parr missed his mom’s and grandma’s cooking so much, he convinced his mom to put together her family recipes for him. He felt like he was home.
Now, Parr and restaurant partner Alejandro Medina offer that taste of Parr’s home at Bibi Ji on State Street, with a hyper-local focus on ingredients (and they are open for takeout during this pandemic, including this Chicken Tikka). Their aim of blending traditional Indian flavors as the foundation, while also incorporating local bounty, results in a unique Central Coast-Indian cuisine. The flavors are vibrant and light, and meant to pair with wine. Parr loves to pair the dishes with natural wines that do not overpower the food—young, fresh, and clean. The wine list, like Parr, is local, global, and eclectic.
This Chicken Tikka is one of Parr’s personal favorites, and he frequently makes it at home. The dish features local Tarragon plus red cabbage and spring onion from John Givens Farm at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market. The Panch Phoron (Indian five-spice, consisting of cumin, brown mustard, fenugreek, nigella, and fennel) is roasted, ground, and blended in-house, to ensure the particular taste of home Parr’s mom would make herself.
Chicken Tikka Recipe
To prepare Parr’s Chicken Tikka, mix 2 cups of whole yogurt, 3 Tablespoons of Panch Phoron (available at spice shops or online), 3 Tablespoons of Kosher salt, 5 Tablespoons of freshly-squeezed lemon juice and 5 Tablespoons of local olive oil. Cover 6 pounds of chicken thighs with the paste, and marinate for 2-6 hours.
Whisk together 1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and a dash of sugar or honey. Add in a pound of thinly sliced red cabbage and 1/2 pound of thinly sliced spring onion and toss. (This can also be made ahead of time and marinated.)
Grill the chicken thighs until tender — or heat oil in a pan on medium-high heat and add chicken thighs. Cook about 5-6 minutes, then flip and cook for 5-6 more, or until done. Add a pat of butter and a sprinkle of chaat masala to the pan. and a dash of lemon.
Place the hot chicken on top of the cabbage slaw, add a dash of lemon, and serve.