Chicken (or Whatever) Curry




Every other Tuesday at my house is curry night. Make some curry (most always chicken), pull out the tv trays, and eat in front of the TV.

The trick with curry is to make it the day before. It's always better a day or two later because it gives the herbs and spices time to wander through the whole sauce.

Step 1: About Our Bastardized Brit-American Indian Food

You can find all the Indian cookbooks you want, but you'll never make curry at home as good as your favorite restaurant. It's like that with all restaurants. Either it's the ingredients they have access to, their cooking equipment that gets super hot or can grind anything into a super smooth sauce, or they just don't give a f@#$ and throw in four sticks of butter which we would never think of doing at home.

Disabuse yourself that you'll ever make any of your favorite restaurant dishes at home. The fun of cooking is in chasing those tastes down. You won't find them all, but you'll know more than when you started and probably find something that'll be in your recipe card file for life.

Indian food commonly uses what we in America might think of as pie spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom. The awakening American palate wouldn't have thought to put cinnamon on anything but buttered toast or in an apple pie fifteen years ago. Along with these you'll find those common equator spices: cumin, coriander (seed and leaf - cilantro), ginger, hot peppers, turmeric. And those versatile, ubiquitous alliums: onion and garlic.


That's pretty much all you need for most any curry (not all at once, but you could run across a recipe that does use all of them). A few specialty spices will have you ready for any curry you might encounter.:

Fenugreek (seeds)
Fenugreek (leaves), they will probably be called kasuri methi or just methi leaves
Spice blends like garam masala, chaat masala, tandoori masala, etc.
asafoetida (hing)

If you have these things around you're halfway to becoming a curry head.

Step 2: Marinade Your Whatever

Chicken Tikka Masala and Murghi Mahkani (butter chicken) are pretty much the same dish. You have chicken, you have an orange/red sauce). Whether you use lamb, goat, beef, pork, chicken, vegetables, or that lovely Indian cheese, paneer, you'll want to make a marinade to park it in overnight.

Many curry dishes will have a marinade made of yogurt or coconut milk. I don't often keep coconut milk around, but for those that think coconut is gross, you really don't have to worry when using it in curry. It becomes so much a part of the dish that you wouldn't know it was in there.

For this dish I used 2 pounds of chicken tenders. I make only enough marinade to cover the meat. Anything else will just be wasted, unless you toss it into your cooking sauce which would be acceptable.

I mixed about a third of a cup of yogurt with some grated ginger (maybe a half tablespoon), about 2 tsp of garam masala, 1 tsp garlic podwer, 2 tablespoons of paprika, a sprinkle of salt, some oil to loosen it up (I used mustard oil), and then mixed the mess together, mixed in the chicken, covered it up, and let it rest over night in the fridge.

Step 3: The Sauce Is Infinite

I do not follow a recipe for curry sauce. I've read enough recipes and tried enough of them to have a feel for how they are put together. You can go about getting spices into the sauce in a few ways.

1) heat your oil or butter and add the spices to the hot pan. You'll only want to do this  for no more than 20 or 30 seconds, otherwise you'll have bitter, burned spices. And that's no fun.

2) blend the spices with the tomatoes or other liquid and cook them in it.

You can handle your onions, garlic, and ginger the same way. Saute them first or just grind them up in a blender.

You can see how the myriad pathways of currydom unfold in front of you.

Here I chose to blend a can of tomatoes with the spices and everything else. Lazy that day I suppose.

I used half an onion, three garlic cloves, 1/2 to 1 Tb of grated ginger, 1 tsp fenugreek seeds, 1-2 TB fenugreek leaves, a heaped up teaspoon of turmeric, 1 TB paprika, 2 tsp coriander, 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp Indian red pepper*, a can of diced tomatoes (14 oz), a couple of large pinches of salt, and a little water to thin it out enough so it pureed well.

* Indian red pepper is what I call the stuff I get at the Indian grocery store I frequent. It is simply labeled as red pepper and it's hot as hell's bbq.

Step 4: Reducing the Infinite

Heat some butter or ghee (clarified butter) in a pan. Once it's hot dump in the contents of your blender and watch it sizzle. Reduce the heat on it until it is at a lazy bubble and let it reduce for a while. You don't want it to get dry, you just want to drive off some of that liquid.

Once it's thickened up a bit . . . thin it out, of course. Duh. Add some heavy cream or half and half. A large knob of butter. And if you want it thinner, add some water. And for the love of pete check it for salt!

Step 5: Grill That Whatever

Obviously if you're using a tough cut of meat you'll want to cook it slow and low. The place to do that is in the sauce when you make it. Or you could cheat and pressure cook whatever it is for 20 minutes and add it. Or sous vide it a few days. Whatever, it's your party.

I normally use boneless thighs for curry. It's damn near impossible to over cook them. But this time I opted for chicken tenders. And it turned out well. Of course they were tender. Duh. It's in their name.

Fire up the grill and char that marinade!

Once you've got your pseudo-tandoori chicken off the grill and cooled down hack it up with the nearest sharp thing.

Step 6: Putting It Together

Bring your sauce out of the fridge and bring it back up to temperature. Once you have it lightly simmering add your cut up whatever to it. If you grilled it like I did you don't want to leave it in too long and toughen it up. Just toss it and heat it all through.

Step 7: Service

Serve with basmati rice and some tasty sides. Like naan or some variation thereof. Here's a store bought version that's good. If you're up to it make some cauliflower pakora.

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20 Discussions


I've been toying with home masala and curies for years. I did find one that is now a mainstay for my family, but we're always up to another option. I understand that getting the "restaurant version" at home is possibly a pipe dream, but damnit... why? There's GOT to be the REAL secret out there or us home cooks. Seriously. Thanks for the ible and good laughs, it was a pleasure to read.
As for naan, we did find a recipe that was good enough - we altered to use high gluten flour and grill it or throw it on the pizza stone.

4 replies

There IS a secret out there... here it is... just made my first authentic from-scratch curry... then made another...then canned up about 8 - 24oz jars for good measure... lived in the UK for 4 years and absolutely loved the only good food to eat over there - Curry. I had my favorite curry take-away where my friend, Habeeb, knew my usual and automatically put my order in... "Jake, my friend, your usual?" "Yes, Habeeb, you know it"

This is the book that teaches you the authentic way to make curry. It is labor intensive and is in basically two steps. You make the curry sauce which takes quite a bit of time and then you use the curry sauce to make a curry dish. (there is also the original book without the "new" but I don't know what the difference is. My friend in the UK came over and we cooked it from scratch once and he turned me on to this book)

Kudos though, for this 'ible as I will definitely use this method and compare notes.


first authentic curry from scratch.jpg

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

The secret to those restaurant curries has to be a quart of cream or half and half and two sticks of butter . . . on top of a half a cup of ghee. I just can't bring myself to use that much good/bad stuff. I also think that the tikka masala sauce at the curry restaurant I frequent is based on tomato paste rather than whole or canned tomatoes.

Plus how do they make them differing levels of hotness? They'll ask you for a scale of one to ten or mild, medium, hot, but you know they don't have ten or even three different sauces going. Probably some kind of secret Indian Restaurant hot sauce lurking around out there.


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

To get make them differing levels of hotness, all they do is increase or decrease the amount of "chilli powder" (ground dry Indian red peppers) to the sauce.


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

yeah, we just cannot bring ourselves to put all the extra milk fats in.
Our fave place to go keeps raising their prices, so it's becoming necessity for us to replicate as closely as possible. I suppose if we KNEW how much extra fat was being added, we might not get from there.


5 years ago on Introduction

dlewisa, that looks yummy for sure... Next time, instead of plain Indian red peppers (or Indian Red Chillies), try Kashmiri Chillies.... This variety has an awesome flavour, without as much heat.

Additionally, the next time you make curry (not the Chicken Tikka masala or any other grilled / BBQ'd chicken curry), add the raw chicken a little after you add the blended spices & blended onion. Give it a bit of a 'fry' for 3 - 4 mins in that masala (the blended spices are called the 'masala'), and then continue with adding your water or coconut milk as you normally would.


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

I was actually making a saag dish at the same time I was making this. We had a bunch of kale and spinach to use. I'd never made it before (I was pretty much making it up as I went) and when it started looking a little too thick I dumped in some chicken stock . . . which after I did I noticed the rancid smell it was giving off. Into the compost it went.

John Sphar

5 years ago on Introduction

I'm feeling dense. I don't see curry powder on your list of spices. Is it that curry powder is a combination of your spices? I learned a wonderful Chinese style chicken (or whatever) curry from Martin Yan (Yan Can Cook) which uses curry powder, chili powder, salt, pepper, garlic. it is a one pot, wok style cooking, which we love over rice with condiments.

2 replies
dlewisaJohn Sphar

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Curry is just a dish where something is served in a sauce. There are many varieties and none of them usually use what we call curry powder. Curry powder is a kind of generic brit-american blend of spices to approximate an indian-like flavor. An Indian gal I work with actually uses the word "curry" when what we would say is "spice".

John Sphardlewisa

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Nice, from a Google search, I see that curry powder is a European/American spice concoction from the 18th century of spice trading . You have encouraged me to give your recipe a try. Thanks!


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

This is the naan recipe I have been using for the last few years. I use a flat cast iron griddle I inherited from my grandmother. I currently have an electric stove (oh, woe! LOL) so I have to be content with just cooking it on both sides on the griddle. But they're still delicious.

Thanks for sharing your delicious curry recipe! I've added it to my collection - I probably have 100+ different curry recipes, and I rarely actually look at them when I'm making curry, because how it ends up tasting is based on what mood I'm in on the day. But I like to read through them to see what different people do with their spice proportions, prep methods, etc. :)


6 years ago on Introduction

Having enjoyed this dish at dlewisa's house on more than one occasion, I can attest to the deliciousness of this dish. Of course, I'm disappointed that he doesn't make his own naan, but nobody's perfect...

1 reply