Dhaba Style Chicken Curry

Over the years I have prepared many kinds of chicken recipes for my family and friends. The best part about chicken is that it is a very accommodating meat. As an ingredient you could not ask for anything better, right?

I mean you can bake chicken, cook it in curries or tikkas, grill it or even roast it. It adjusts well to any type of cooking method provided you treat it with care and do not let it burn.

Now, my favourite chicken curry dish is the Dhaba (road side stall in India) Style Chicken Curry. I love it because it uses the right proportion of Whole masala to dry masala. And, for me, the masala in any curry is the star.

Depending on how I want my curry to taste, I roast the masala (length of time, I mean). Some of my curries, like my traditional mutton curry incorporates a masala that takes a good 2 hours to slow roast over a low flame. The result is, ah, heaven on a plate. The slow cooking method that I use ensures that the spices infuse into the dish better.

As for this dish, I tell you, this is one lip-smacking recipe. Try it…



  • 1 kg chicken (Skinless, cleaned and cut into medium sized pieces)

For the marinade(for the chicken):

  • 2 tbsp ginger garlic (Paste)
  • 1 lemon (Juice of)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp refined oil

For the curry:

  • 3 tbsp refined oil
  • 4 Onions (medium sized , pureed in the blender)
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste (no more because we have already added some to the marinade)
  • 3 – 4 green Chillies, slit
  • 4 Tomatoes, medium sized, pureed
  • I tbsp sour curd

Dry masalas (to be added whole)

  • 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 4 – 5 green Cardamoms, pods opened
  • 2 black cardamoms, pods opened
  • 1 tsp Naag kesar/sczhewan peppercorns, (optional)
  • 1 tsp patthar phool (optional)
  • 8 – 10 Peppercorns
  • 4 – 5 Cloves
  • 1 small piece of mace (javitri). Use the piece and not the powder

Dry spices (powdered)

  • ½ tsp turmeric Powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder, Red (adjust the spice as required)
  • 2 tbsp coriander Powder
  • 1 tsp kasuri methi (optional but I recommend it as it imparts a great fragrance to the dish)
  • 1 tsp garam masala powder
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ tsp pepper powder


For tempering the chicken after cooking (optional):

  • 1 tablespoon ghee/ clarified butter
  • 2 green Chillies, slit lengthwise
  • ½ inch piece of ginger, julienned/slivered into very thin slices)
  • 2 tbsp coriander leaves


  1. Marinate the chicken pieces with ginger garlic paste, lime juice, 1 tbsp refined oil and salt. Set that aside for a minimum 30 minutes (but, not in the fridge)
  2. Puree the onions (use a little water if needed) and set them aside
  3. Puree the tomatoes.
  4. To make the puree – Make an ‘X’ shaped incision at the bottom of each tomato. Heat water in a bowl and bring that o a bubbling boil. Into this tip in the tomatoes and let them simmer on high heat for 2 minutes. When you see their skin starting to wrinkle/peel, remove from heat and immediately dunk them into ice cold water. That will stop the cooking and also the skin will peel of easily. Cool them and puree them in the blender.
  5. I prefer to cook the chicken in a pressure cooker. It is faster but you can use a wok or a heavy bottomed pan as well. Heat oil in the vessel of your choice and add the cumin seeds. When those start to splutter, add the other dry masala ingredients (whole). Stir them for half a minute till their flavour infuses into the oil and then add the pureed onions.
  6. The onion paste needs to cook on low heat (otherwise it burns fast).
  7. Keep stirring it occasionally till you see the onions turn golden and the oil starting to separate. This could take up to 20-25 minutes.
  8. At that stage add 1 tbsp of ginger garlic paste and keep stirring for another 2 minutes. The oil will seem to separate more.
  10. Next add the pureed tomatoes along with 1 tbsp curd, green chilies and the dry spices except the garam masala. Again cook this mixture on a low heat till the oil separates. This will take another 20 minutes or so. Once the oil separates, add 2 tbsp of warm water and cook the mixture again for another 10-15 minutes.

The more you cook the masala, the deeper shall be its colour and more developed will be the flavour of the dish. Cooking the masala for the right          length if time is essential! You can add the chicken to the masala after the first time that oil separates from the tomatoes but I strongly recommend you try it my way. I believe in slow cooking curry pastes for extended period of time to get the full array of the flavours that the curry needs. My recipes are a combination of traditional Rajput style and Kashmiri style cooking where the roasting/cooking of the masalas form the crux of the dish.

  1. After the second round of cooking you will notice the oil separate again. At this stage add the chicken (just pick up the pieces and add and leave the excess marinade) and roast that with the masala paste for about 10 minutes and then add about 1/2 cup water (the chicken will release water as it cooks)
  2. Now, if you are cooking the chicken in a pressure cooker like I do, then after adding the water add in the garam masala. Mix well and put the lid on. Give the chicken one whistle on high flame and two whistles on medium flame. After 3 whistles switch off the flame and wait till the cooker lid opens on its own. Once it does, tip your cooked chicken into a serving dish.
  3. If you want your dish to have a thick curry then serve it as such. But, if you would like a thinner curry then add water as per necessity and let the chicken simmer on a high flame for about 10 minutes.
  4. If you are cooking your dish in a heavy bottomed pan then post adding ½ cup water, bring the curry to a boil. Then reduce heat and let it simmer for about ½ hour to 40 minutes. Make sure that the pan is covered. Check in between to stir the dish and add more water as per need.
  5. For the tempering of the chicken – In a small pan heat the ghee. Once it heats up add the green chillies and the ginger. Stir them and wait for them to splutter before switching off the flame. Simple pour this tadka over your chicken dish and garnish with coriander leaves.
  6. Serve hot with garlic naans (for Naan recipe check this link -https://onsonalstable.com/tava-naan/)


About Sonal Singh

I believe that life is a repertoire of anecdotes. The various situations that we encounter, the many incidents of every day, the people we meet, our conversations with them; all make life a melange of tales. And, that is what I attempt to capture through my writing. My cooking is no different! It reflects my love for travel and my love for innovation. The kitchen is my happy place. So, even though by vocation I am a recruiter (www.rianplacements.com), by passion I am a writer, home chef and a hodophile.

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  1. Yummmm! Let me try and make it. The only issue is I lack patience which this dish and cooking typically require. Maybe I can make my mom cook this for me. She’s the epitome of patience!

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