What Makes Padma Lakshmi's Fried Chicken So Unique

Padma Lakshmi has made a career out of championing and interviewing accomplished chefs, from her work judging Bravo's "Top Chef" to interviewing restaurateurs in her Hulu docuseries, "Taste the Nation." But Lakshmi is an incredible chef in her own right, having developed numerous recipes and published multiple cookbooks throughout her career. Her recipes tell the story of her unique Indian-American identity through dishes like dosas and khichdi that stay true to traditional Indian culinary techniques. She also likes to create unexpected dishes that utilize Indian ingredients in a novel context, such as spice-infused margaritas and stir-fried rice. Whereas some chefs throw ingredients like turmeric and chai spice into recipes for their trendy appeal, Lakshmi will only call for a novel or unexpected ingredient if it genuinely lends itself to making a recipe that much better. A case in point: When it comes to her fried chicken recipe, Lakshmi believes green mango powder is a key ingredient (via The Daily Meal).

Green mango powder upgrades fried chicken

Lakshmi's fried chicken recipe comes from her cookbook, "Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet." By adding 1 teaspoon of green mango powder into the flour mixture, she gives the treasured Southern comfort food a pop of brightness and acidity to counteract the richness derived from buttermilk and peanut oil while layering fruity flavor. "Green mango powder is great because it lends tartness to a dish without liquid," Lakshmi told Food & Wine. Known as amchur in Indian gastronomy, it is derived from drying unripe green mangoes and grinding them into a fine powder (via BBC). Lakshmi told Food & Wine that she likes to add mango powder into her fried chicken because it doesn't make the flour mixture soggy, as lemon would. 

That's why green mango powder is readily used in Indian cuisine to provide tanginess without ushering in excess moisture that might otherwise alter the finished texture of a dish (via Serious Eats). In the cookbook, "Indian-ish," Priya Krishna makes an amchur-based marinade for her Garlic-Ginger Chicken with Cilantro and Mint. Her reasoning corresponds with Lakshmi's. Krishna told Bon Appetit that amchur is her favorite secret weapon for spicing up simple chicken breast. Legendary cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey uses amchur in her Everyday Cauliflower and suggests ½ teaspoon of amchur can substitute 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. To Lakshmi's fried chicken and beyond, green mango powder proves to be a powerhouse flavoring agent.