Chicken Curry

Relishing my dad's chicken curry in India.

My brother – he is mummy’s favorite kid. She never admits to that and always gives me that, “what on earth are you talking about?” look every time I say this to her, but I know. He is the gentler of us two (at least on the outside!), doesn’t leave back any trail of his crimes AND he ate his greens. Me, quite the contrary! But still the quieter him and crazy me, together managed to keep mummy on her toes all the time. She was either in the kitchen cooking for us, making rounds to our school explaining for us, pulling us apart while we try to kill each other or in her mandir (temple) praying for us. On her toes all the time!

But Sundays were different. Sunday was the day she looked forward to the whole week. Sunday was when we, the kids would behave. Sunday was when I ate my greens with no whining in the vicinity. Sunday was when Papa was home and he took over from Mummy, the kitchen, the chores and the kids.


So our Sunday morning would start with the sound of mummy reciting her prayers in the prayer room and to the smell of chai simmering away in the copper pot my grandma gave to her. Papa would come in our room, move the curtain for the sun to glare right at our faces, pull away our blankets, plant a big fat kiss on both of our cheeks and lift us in his strong muscular arms taking us straight to the bathroom. By the time we could snap out of our sleep, our teeth would already be brushed and we would be in our running shoes all set for our morning run. Well, Papa’s morning run and our- “dragging the feet behind Papa” run! I remember him running towards the sun with the rays falling on his face and the two of us running behind him, hiding in his shadow to save our sleepy eyes from the shine. We would run past the nearby mandir, some local shops, wave hello to half the town and be back home for breakfast.


The hours after breakfast was what we looked forward to more. It was Sunday so it was a chicken curry day! We knew Papa would get us ready, load us on his scooter, one kid standing in front and other sitting on the back seat, wrapping our two arms around his waist tightly and we would go to the Sunday haat (farmer’s market). Carrying our jholas (bags) we would stop at every vendor looking for the plumpest tomatoes, choosing the freshest greens and bargaining for the best deal on potatoes and onions. Last stop would be the butcher shop located at the end of the haat. While waiting for the butcher to get our chicken ready, we would enjoy our ice creams or savor a glass of sweet sugarcane juice. Then head home.


At home everything from the haat would be washed, twice. Then we would sneak out in the backyard and Papa would get in the kitchen to make his world famous chicken curry. It took him at least two hours to make that chicken curry. The process would start with onion, ginger, garlic paste prepared using a stone grinder. Whole spices ground along until everything turns into a smooth paste. Then his loyal pressure cooker would be pulled out, which by the way was used just on Sundays, just for the chicken curry. The process would begin and the aroma of masala floating in the backyard would get strong and stronger.


Two hours later we would lay newspaper on the floor, put or plates on it and lunch would be served. There would just be chicken curry, steaming hot rotis and a simple salad on the side. But that is still and will ever be the best meal one could ever serve to me. So today when I thought of sharing a couple of exciting news with you, I could not think of a better recipe and images to go with the post. Photos here might not be the best ones, but they carry boatloads of memories. Some happy moments we spent with my family during our last visit to India and another golden opportunity where we relished Papa’s world famous Chicken Curry.


Now the happy news. Because of all the love and support you show to Indian Simmer, it has been nominated again for this year’s Best Food Blog Awards hosted by SAVEUR Magazine. The nominations are now open for voting till Friday, April 19th. So if you think an Indian food blog deserves to win this year, then please vote for Indian Simmer in the Best Regional Cuisine Category. Every vote counts so please take two minutes and vote. Other than that, I am really excited to be featured on some amazingly popular websites like Refinery 29 and Feeling so honored right now!

2 1/2 pounds whole chicken (cleaned and cut into 16- 18 pieces)
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
3-4 cloves of garlic
2 inches ginger root
2-3 hot green chili peppers (adjust according to how much heat you can handle)
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup lemon juice + 1/2 teaspoon salt +1/2 teaspoon cracked pepper (marinade)
2-3 bay leaves (dried)
1 1/2 cinnamon stick
3-4 whole black cardamom
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
5-6 cloves
2 1/2 tablespoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
1/2 cup mustard oil (can substitute with vegetable or olive oil)
1 1/2 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter) 
Salt to taste
Handful of chopped cilatro

Mix the marinade (lemon juice + salt + pepper) well to washed chicken. Set aside for 30 minutes.
In the meantime grind onion, ginger, garlic and green chili into a thick paste. Set aside.
Heat oil in a thick bottom pan with slightly higher sides. A pressure cooker or wok would be a great alternative. Roughly pound the whole spices – bay leaves, cinnamon stick, black cardamom, cumin and cloves. Add to the hot oil. Stir as they sputter.
Add turmeric. Stir and add the onion paste prepared before. Turn the heat to medium and cook while stirring occasionally until all the liquid has evaporated and the paste is reduced to a dense, golden brown paste.
Add salt, coriander powder and chopped tomato. Turn the heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally. Slowly the tomato will begin to melt and then it will all turn into a slightly smooth and loose paste. Wait till oil begins to separate.
Add garam masala, stir in the chicken and mix everything very well. Reduce the heat to medium low. Cover and cook, uncovering and stirring occasionally. Initially chicken will lose a lot of water but after cooking for 15-20 minutes on medium heat the water will begin reducing. At this point you can either uncover and cook, stirring occasionally or put on the pressure cooker.
If proceeding with the pressure cooker then cover, lock and wait for two whistles and then turn the heat off leaving covered for another 15 minutes.
I prefer the slow cooking so I turn the heat to medium low and let the chicken simmer for another 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked well and the gravy is reduced to a nice thick consistency.
Once the chicken is cooked add ghee and cilatro. Stir well. Cover and let it rest for 15 more minutes before serving with your choice of bread or rice.