How My Mom Made Chicken Curry

Nov 15 2010


(This is a secret I am going to share with you. My mother was born in Amritsar, a Sikh holy town/city in north India,  married my dad and somewhere between the 2 World Wars they migrated to South East Asia. She had 8 kids, besides all her friends and neighbours and she was a prolific intelligent cook with a gifted intuition for cooking. Those days we did not have blenders and being her blue eyed boy, I  was her chosen child for spending plenty of time squatting on the floor or on a stool and using a large pestle and mortar to crush and blend. I derived great inspiration in seeing my mother getting happier by the minute as she saw large amounts of raw fresh indian masala coming together as I pounded and pounded for her till everything got crushed very smoothly but still a tiny bit coarse for crunchiness which modern blenders can fail to do sometimes. Those days we had chicken curry only on Sundays as a treat, and hence a lot of effort was put into making it so very tasty. I  share this recipe with you here, and I use it very regularly as part of the cafe’s Chicken Tikka Masala recipe I will share too soon).


Red onions, fresh ginger, garlic, red and green chillies, fresh plum tomatoes, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, dried red chillies, curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, star anise, cardamons, cinamon bark, red chilli powder, fresh coriander, spring onions, cloves, and preferably 1.5-2 kg of chicken quarters which you can buy fresh or defrost from frozen (chicken quarters are a mixture of parts of a chicken i.e thighs, legs, breast, drumsticks etc on the bone and skin that you buy from butchers or supermarkets), a can of coconut milk.


1)Blend together 3 red onions, 2-4” inch of fresh ginger, a bulb of garlic and 5 red chillies with very little water. Also blend coursely and keep aside a tablespoon each of coriander and cumin seeds and 4 dried red chillies. Wash the chicken and keep it aside too. Chop 2 red onions into rings, fry them in a wok and keep aside.

2)In your main wok or cooking pan, add half a small teacup of cooking oil and warm that gently. To that add the following- a tablespoon of cumin seeds, 20 curry leaves, 5 dried red chillies, 4 inches of cinnamon bark, 10 fenugreek seeds,  4 star anise, 8 cardamons crushed, and 10 cloves. As these spices sizzle within 1-2 minutes, add the blended mixture of onions etc. Let this heat up and  stir lovingly  for about 5-10 minutes till you see the mixture turning golden brown and deeper red and oil bubbles start surfacing. Now add the blend of crushed cumin, coriander and dry chilies, 2 teaspoons of turmeric, and 3  finely chopped  big juicy plum tomatoes. Stir this for 5-10 minutes and add salt too.

3)Once oil bubbles start surfacing, it means the tomatoes and spices are cooked,  so now add in all the chicken, stir, then let it bubble, as you stir intermittently. After 5 minutes, add the coconut milk and uncut or half sliced lengthway  green chillies and keep stirring till it starts to bubble. Now leave it to simmer on low heat. If you curry is looking thin/watery, do not cover as you simmer. Only cover once it looks thick.

4)After 10 minutes, take out a piece, slice it and inspect whether it is cooked. Do this till it looks cooked. Now add  freshly chopped coriander and spring onions, stir and cover for 4 minutes. Serve with fresh rice, breads, chutney and pickles and even some chopped raw onion and fresh green chillies.

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