Learn how to make a basic Indian aromatic curry paste and turn it into a restaurant-style Indian chicken dish that pairs perfectly with Naan or rice.
If you have been to any Indian restaurant or any Indian’s home you have probably tried some version of this dish. Sometimes simply called Chicken curry, this dish is basic in it’s use of whole spices and ingredients to bring out the complex flavors of a curry. It’s not your Chicken Tikka Masala…or butter chicken, although it may look similar. The flavors here are more intense as you cook down the onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and whole spices with yogurt into a deeply flavored masala paste. For those of you wondering what Masala is, it’s basically a combination of spices, sometimes ground into a powder or some times cooked whole with other flavor bases to make a paste.
Now just because this dish is a called curry it doesn’t necessarily need to have ‘Curry Powder’ which is a very western concept. I have had readers comment in the past on my Indian dishes and and say things like “You can’t call this a curry when there is no such curry in the dish!”. It’s unfortunate that in the West here that Indian food become synonymous with the use of “curry-powder”, which is just one of the spice mixes that most closely resembles what we call “Madras Curry Powder”. It is very hard to find the this called ‘curry powder’ any where in India really and I would say roughly 98% of most curries in Indian don’t contain said “curry powder”. So if you’re looking for a curry powder recipe…I’m sorry to disappoint…this isn’t it. But if you’re looking to make a real Authentic Indian Curry…I promise to share all the secrets I know.
Like I said above, this is a common curry made in Indian households and is also a common feature on most Indian restaurants. There are a lot of variations of this dish however as people use different ratio of spices, some leave the spices whole and dice the onion and tomato to make a more rustic sauce. Some leave out the tomato. The yogurt is added at different times of the cooking process and so on. The biggest difference of most home-made versions of this dish and what they offer up in restaurants, is a little more refinement and effort in making everything pastes instead of simply dicing and having chunks in the sauce and also the time taking to slow fry and caramelize the paste to intensify the flavors of the spices and onions and tomatoes. They also use a lot more oil/ghee (which I haven’t in this case). Once you have this Masala paste, which you can make ahead and store…the rest of the curry process is very simple.
This Chicken Masala Curry however, unlike Chicken Tikka Masala that most people here in the west eat with rice…is best served up with Naan (here’s my recipe to make Naan at home) or some form of flatbread/ bread. It goes ok with rice but it’s better with Naan. Trust me!
Here’s how you can make my version of Chicken Masala and as always…please do comment below if you like and try this recipe. Also I would love to see your dishes on Instagram and Facebook so tag me @noreen_picturetherecipe (instagram) and share them on https://www.facebook.com/PictureTheRecipe/ or simple tag them with #picturetherecipe.
- * 2 lbs Chicken (I did boneless thighs & breasts)
- * 2 Onions (I used 1 walla-walla sweet onion & 1 red onion)
- * 10-12 Garlic Cloves
- * 1 1/2 inch Ginger
- * 3 Tomatoes
- * 1 (6oz) Greek Yogurt, Plain
- * 2 green Chili peppers/ 1/2 Serrano pepper
- * 8- 10 Black Peppercorns
- * 8-10 Cloves
- * 1 inch Cinnamon Stick
- * 3-4 Cardamom Pods
- * 1 Bay leaf
- * 1 Tbsp Kashmiri Chili Powder (Use paprika if not available)
- * 1 Tbsp Coriander Powder
- * 1 tsp Garam Masala Powder
- * 1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
- * 2 Tbsp Ghee/Oil
- * Handful of Cilantro
- * 1 lime
- * Salt, to taste
- - Blend the garlic and ginger together to make a paste. You can also just grate them together if you want (the blender just makes it quicker)c.
- - Peel and big chop 2 onions (I used 1 full walla-walla sweet onion & 1/2 the red onion, reserving the rest for later) and add it to a bigger blender jar. Set aside.
- - Add the green chili peppers, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom pods and bay leaf with a little bit of water and blend to form a paste. Set aside.
- - In the same blender jar, add 3 diced tomatoes and puree them. Set aside.
- - Cut the chicken into big pieces. I cut the thighs into thirds and the breast into 4 pieces.
- - Marinate the cut chicken with half the ginger garlic paste, half the Kashmiri chili powder, turmeric and the juice of 1/2 a lime and mix to coat all the chicken well.
- - Set aside and let the chicken marinate at room temperature for 30 mins.
- - Heat a large pan on medium and add 1 Tbsp of ghee.
- - Add the onion paste and caramelize the onion paste for 10-12 minutes on medium-low heat stirring frequently until it turns a light brown color and reduces to less than half it's original volume. The oil should start separating from the onion. Don't rush this step...it is very important to fry out all the raw flavors of the spices and onion to develop a sweet caramelized paste.
- - Add 1 tbsp of the remaining garlic-ginger paste and fry for about 2-3 minutes.
- - Add one 6 oz container of Greek yogurt and stir it into the onion paste.
- - Add the remaining 1/2 Tbsp Kashmiri Chili powder and 1 tbsp coriander powder and fry the spices for another 7-8 minutes until it dries and the oil starts separating again.
- - Then add the tomato puree, mix it in with the spice and onion paste and fry for another 10- 15 minutes or until it reduces, cooks out all the rawness of the tomatoes and forms a thick deep red paste. You may need to add a touch more oil/ghee to see it separate out of the paste. But that's when you know it's ready.
- - Take out the paste from the pan and set it aside. This is a basic Indian curry paste and you can store it in the fridge for up to 10 days and use spoonfuls to flavor veggies or chicken or meat dishes.
- - Moving on to the chicken Masala part. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the remaining ghee/oil to the pan.
- - Add the marinated chicken pieces, salt and fry the chicken until it's partly cooked/ browned.
- - Add the masala paste and a cup of water and mix it all well.
- - Put a lid on and simmer the chicken for 10 minutes.
- - Add the remaining 1/2 red onion, sliced and 1 tsp garam masala powder, a handful of chopped cilantro stir and simmer for another 5 minutes.
- - Garnish with more chopped cilantro and serve hot with Naan.