Most of us have experienced chicken in an Indian curry. The most common version you may have tried outside of India (in North America, Australia, Europe, etc.) is murgh makhani, also known as “butter chicken.”
But tonight, we are showing you a very traditional home-cooked curry chicken. Something that the aunties of the world would cook up for their family in their homes. This Punjabi version of curry chicken features chicken thighs and drumsticks (or a whole chicken cut into parts if you prefer) that are slow-cooked in a pot of tadka, tomato paste, garam masala, turmeric, and red chili powder.
Interestingly, that reduced, thick curry sauce that you often experience in traditional murgh makhani or restaurant-style curry chickens is untraditional. The intended consistency is thin and soupy. Like my biji (paternal grandmother) used to say, “make a pocket with your roti, and spoon the chicken and the dudhi (referring to the curry sauce) into the pocket to create a flavor explosion!”
This complex curry is rich in taste, fragrant to the nose, and makes for a comforting meal any day of the week. So, let’s dig in!
Selection of Chicken Parts
For ease, this recipe calls for a combination of skinless bone-in chicken drumsticks and thighs. We recommend using bone-in chicken parts because they impart a more pronounced flavor to the curry.
As an alternative to chicken drumsticks and thighs, you may instead use the entire chicken and cut each part into pieces approximately the size of a halved chicken thigh. Remove the skin from all parts of the chicken before cooking them.
What is Tadka?
Tadka (also known as “tarka“) is the technique of blooming spices in hot ghee or clarified butter to catalyze the release of their natural oils. Blooming imparts intense fragrance and robust flavor to the oil. Tadka may also refer to the base of a curry dish, generally composed of onions, garlic, ginger, spices, and hot ghee or clarified butter cooked on low heat for an extended time to bloom the spices and draw out those flavors. We use the latter technique for this recipe, which serves as the base for our dal. To learn more about tadka, visit our post “How to Make Tadka – the Base of All Northern Indian Curries.”
Storage of Spices
The shelf-life of whole spices is up to 4 years, whereas the shelf-life for ground spices is up to 3 years. Be sure to verify that your spices are not expired. When storing your spices, store them in airtight containers in a cool dark place. This step will ensure that the spices stay fresh for the maximum time.
How to Clarify the Butter
To clarify the butter, place a pot on the stovetop at medium-low heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt. As it begins to bubble, a white foam will appear. This white foam is the lactose or milk solids in the butter. Use a large serving spoon to remove the white foam from the butter by skimming it from the top.
We clarify the butter to increase its smoke point. The presence of lactose or milk solids in the butter will cause it to burn more quickly. Increasing the butter’s smoke point will assist in blooming the spices and cooking down the onions, garlic, and ginger, without burning them. Although you may not remove all of the lactose or milk solids from the melted butter, removing some of them will have a considerable impact on the butter’s smoke point.
Be Careful Not to Burn the Spices
Cook the tadka on the stovetop at medium-low heat. The cooking temperature should remain medium-low to low throughout the cooking process. Keep in mind; you will be cooking the ingredients for 30-40 minutes. Allow the spices to sizzle but not burn.
Note that the onions and spices may stick slightly to the pot or pan. Stir occasionally to prevent them from sticking, but this result is expected.
How to Adjust the Spice Level
We advise that you use one green chili pepper. This will create a soft and mild heat. Hiwever, if you prefer spicy curry dishes that will make you sweat, we sympathize! In this case, add one to two additional green chili peppers to add an extra kick.
How to Eat It
Store leftover curry chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator and consume it for up to 3 days. Alternatively, store it in the freezer and consume it for up to 3 months.
To reheat refrigerated or frozen curry, add it to a saucepan and place it on the stovetop at medium heat until warm throughout. By utilizing this method (vs. the microwave), the curry will heat more evenly.
Visit your local liquor store and request a bottle featuring these characteristics to find the perfect pair.
- Color: white
- Notes: peach, pear, tangerine, apricot, floral, baking spices, ginger
- Geography: old world
- Structure: full-bodied, medium acidity, unoaked
Purge your Fridge
You just finished scarfing down our classic curry chicken and you are left with half a red bell pepper and half a green bell pepper. Dice ‘em up and toss them in a salad or an omelette!
Classic Curry Chicken
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 yellow onions diced
- 1/2 red bell pepper diced
- 1/2 green bell pepper diced
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 2 thumbs ginger three thumbs thick, peeled and grated
- 2 green chili peppers add 2-3 extra chilies for a spicier version
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/4 tsp red chili powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds heaping
- 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
- 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 green cardamom pods
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 black peppercorns
- 6 cloves
- 7 chicken thighs bone-in
- 7 chicken drumsticks
- 6 ounce tomato paste
- 1 tbsp Patak's mild curry paste
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup cilantro chopped
Cut the Chicken and the Vegetables
- Clean the chicken. If the drumsticks and thighs are not skinless, remove the skin. Cut the chicken thighs in half. Pat them dry and set them aside.
- Dice the onions, red pepper, and green pepper. Set aside.
- Mince the garlic and thinly slice the green chili peppers. Set aside.
- Peel and grate the ginger. Set aside.
- Finely chop the cilantro. Set aside.
Toast and Grind the Garam Masala
- Break open the cardamom pods, discard the shells, and set aside the seeds.
- Place a dry saucepan on the stovetop at medium heat.
- Add coriander seeds, cumin seeds, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, cardamom seeds, black peppercorns, and cloves to a dry saucepan.
- Dry sauté the spices for 1 minute to toast them.
- Add whole and ground spices to a coffee grinder and grind them into a powder. Set aside.
Clarify the Butter
- Place a pot on the stovetop at medium-low heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt.
- Turn the stovetop down to low heat if it begins to bubble.
- To clarify the butter, skim the white foam off the top of the pot with a large serving spoon to remove the lactose or milk solids.
Begin Cooking up the Tadka
- Add onions, red pepper, and green pepper to the pot. Increase the heat on the stovetop to medium-low and allow the vegetables to bubble softly.
- Cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure the vegetables do not stick to the bottom of the pot or burn.
- Add ginger and garlic.
- Cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Bloom the Spices and Finish the Tadka
- Add green chili peppers, red chili powder, garam masala, cumin seeds, and 1/2 tsp salt.
- Cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Cover the pot with its lid and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Add Tomato Paste, Curry Paste, and Turmeric
- Turn the heat on the stovetop up to medium.
- Add tomato paste, Patak’s curry paste, turmeric, and 1 tsp salt.
- Cover the pot with its lid and cook for 10 minutes.
Coat the Chicken in the Spices and Cook for 40 Minutes.
- Add the chicken to the pot.
- Use a spoon to generously coat each piece of chicken with the sauce and spices.
- Cover the pot with its lid. Lower the heat on the stovetop to low. Cook for 40 minutes.
- Stir occasionally to prevent the chicken from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Add Cilantro and Boiling Water
- Add boiling water and chopped cilantro to the pot. Stir well.
- Turn up the heat on the stovetop to medium-high.
- Simmer the liquid for 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat.
- Serve and enjoy.