Pop Quiz – What makes this Chicken korma ‘authentic’? Is it because…
a) I’m full-blooded Pakistani and feel strangely entitled to call it so.
b) You will not find ‘curry powder’ as one of the ingredients. Instead, you’ll notice an unapologetically long list of whole spices.
c) It uses legit (yet optional) ingredients like saffron and kewra essence. #fancy
d) All of the Above.
If you guessed D, then your answer is correct!
Jokes apart, I don’t think there is an authentic way to make anything anymore. Cuisine doesn’t freeze in time or place. Our recipes transport and evolve just as we do. Whether intentionally or not, we adapt our cooking to the ingredients, produce, and flavors around us.
But because I’ve tried to stick to the original concepts of korma as conveyed by google, youtube, and my mother-in-law, I hope ‘authentic’ will pass as an accurate descriptor.
So what is Chicken Korma?
Chicken Korma is a cherished South Asian dish from the time of the Mughals. In the Pakistani and North Indian way of preparation, whole spices are used to flavor the chicken and then yogurt is added in low heat to prevent any curdling.
One method I’ve often seen is first frying the onions, and then drying and grinding them with the yogurt. I’ve tried that and it made a negligible difference in taste compared to the method of just using a food processor to finely grind the onions before browning them.
This is one of those traditional dishes, like Nihari and Haleem, that I’ve attempted numerous times before I was satisfied enough to share. My goal is to give simpler, easier, and healthier versions of these dishes with zero sacrifices on the classic, ‘authentic’ taste.
If that sounds good to you, then feel free to join my mailing list so you never miss a recipe. Are you ready?
Let’s do this!
Authentic Chicken Korma
This is a warm, deeply flavorful Chicken Korma recipe that has all the authentic flavor with simple, easy-to-follow instructions.
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/8 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 3 green cardamom pods
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 1-2” cinnamon stick
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp red chili powder or more to taste
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
- 1 3/4 tsp salt or to taste depending on amount of chicken
For the curry
- 1.5-2 lbs bone-in, cut up, skinless chicken cleaned and excess skin removed
- 2 large onions blended in a food processor
- 1/3 cup neutral oil such as avocado or grapeseed
- 8-10 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 inch piece ginger crushed
- 2 small tomatoes blended in a food processor
- 3-4 green chili peppers chopped
- 1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt whipped with a fork
- 1 1/2 tbsp ghee
- 1/2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (methi) crushed between your hands
- pinch saffron optional
- 1/8-1/4 tsp diluted kewra essence optional
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves chopped
Combine the spice powders and salt in a small bowl and the whole spices in another small bowl. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over high heat. Sauté the onions until they are golden, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté until the raw smell disappears, about a minute. Add the whole spices and continue to sauté for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes* and continue to sauté for 3-4 minutes, until the tomatoes are fully cooked.
Add the chicken and fry it until it changes color, about 4-5 minutes. Add the spice powders and salt, and green chili peppers. Continue to sauté for a minute.
Add about 2 cups of water (depending on how much meat you have), lower the heat to medium, cover and let cook for 15 minutes. If it is too watery, put the lid ajar for another 5 minutes. Once the chicken is cooked, lower the heat and add whipped yogurt, ghee, methi, and saffron (if using).
Add ¼ to ½ cup of water to thin it out, if desired. Allow the chicken to simmer for an additional 3-5 minutes. The oil will have risen to the top. Sprinkle the kewra essence (if using) and cilantro on top. Serve with rice, roti or naan.
In many traditional recipes, tomatoes are not used in korma. I do prefer the taste of them, so I've included! If you prefer not to use tomatoes, simply increase the amount of yogurt as desired.