Basic Chicken curry or “murghi ka saalan” is something that literally ALL brown people have grown up eating. Although I don’t think anyone calls it murghi ka salan any more and we all just end up calling it Chicken ka Salan (cz amm….millenials??) But anywhooo…it is one of the oldest and bestest chicken curry recipe from Pakistan and also India I think. The curry is based on caramelized onions and yogurt and uses some very basic South Asian spices to bring you the ultimate comfort food.
Its one of those dishes that you make when you can’t think of anything else. And the popularity is such that it classifies as weekend food, quick dinner food, weekday random meals and ALSO party food. I mean how even? But it is what it is! Paired best with? Zeera pulao rice or steamed rice, but I’ve also seen my dad and other people eat it with chapati (flat breads) too…soooo! you know? Fun fact, chicken handi, nauratan chicken and this chicken curry are currently our top 3 monthly meals.
STEPS TO MAKE CHICKEN KA SALAN
The first step is to fry onions. Ideally, red onions are best for frying or most South Asian curry bases but work with whatever you get your hands on.
Cut your onions into halves vertically and then slice them thin vertically as well as finely as you possibly can. ( You are probably using your gadgets to do this step)
Throw these onions in a pot (aka pateeli) with 2 cups of oil. Now we aren’t going to use all the oil for our curry. In fact once the onions are fried we are going to remove pretty much all of it and set aside. But its important to fry the onions in more oil to get that nice crispy texture which is the base for this curry.
Add onions in the pot with oil and fry at medium to high flame. Once your onions reach this nice golden brown color, remove them from the oil and set it up on a plate. When your onions cools down, chuck them in a food processor and bring them to a nice crushed form. They will reduce in quantity.
IMPORTANT: Don’t put yogurt or water in the processor while processing the onions as it will change the texture of the onions. And while other recipes do call for onions to be blended WITH yogurt (like dam keema) but this one in particular needs dry fried onions.
Remove all the oil from the pot, and leave roughly about 5 6 tbsp behind.
TIP: The remaining oil has a really nice sweet flavor of the onions and is perfect to use later while grilling steaks, chicken etc or while making pasta
Next, you are going to add whole spices as shown above, in the pot along with your washed chicken. Add in garlic ginger paste and saute your chicken and whole spices for about 2 3 mins at high heat or until your chicken turns white.
Then add all the powder spices, salt, red chili powder, turmeric powder and coriander powder. And just temper the spices at medium to high flame for 2-3 mins to remove the rawness of the spices
TIP: This step is known as bhunayi in Urdu and is the reason why South Asian food tastes different than other cuisines. Raw spices cooked in water compared to oil tempered spices have a different taste so be sure to not skip this step.
Then reduce the flame to low. Add beaten yogurt and 1 cup of water and mix well. Then add crushed fried onions to the chicken.
TIP: Use yogurt at room temperature to avoid curdling.
Add another cup of water and cover the pot. Let it cook for a good 15 mins. After 15 to 20 mins, your curry will look something like this.
The oil would have seperated and come on top and the color would have deepend. Now you can fix the salt level and add 3 cups of water to create the perfect curry. You can also make it thinner if you like.
Alternates, fixes and remixes
- If you don’t want to use a cup of oil while frying the onions, you can skip that step and just fry the onions in as much as oil as you want (1/4 cup or 2 tbsp etc). But it might effect the taste over all.
- You can use regular onions instead of red onions if they aren’t available to you.
- Burnt onions – Unfortunately burnt onions or dark brown onions don’t really have a fix and you will have to discard them and start over. You might be able to use them as garnish for haleem or biryani if they are just dark brown.
- Curdled yogurt – If your yogurt curdles in your gravy, put the gravy through a blender to fix it. But make sure to strain your gravy before putting it in the blender to catch any whole spices. Put the blended gravy back in the pot along with 1/4 cup of water and cook for another 5 mins. This should help with the curdled yogurt.
- You can add 1 tomato to the gravy if you want to try a slightly different flavor profile.
- You can prepare a beef curry with the exact same recipe.
- You can add rice to this curry base to make a pulav/tahiri kinda dish.
Is this freezer friendly?
Absolutely! This is one of the perfect foods to be frozen. If you are making this as part of your meal preps, don’t add the water at the end and freeze the thick curry. Then whenever you are ready to eat, chuck the chicken directly in a pot along with the water you didn’t add last time, and in 20 mins it’ll be ready to eat!
Ideally, any food that you want to freeze, shouldn’t go in the fridge at all. Decide whilst cooking and freeze as soon as the food cools down. This way the taste of your food will not change over time.
The curry itself can last in the fridge for a week without alterations in taste.
What to do with left Chicken ka salan?
- Left over gravy can be used to make pulav rice.
- Boil eggs and potatoes and add to left over gravy to make andey aloo ka salan.
- Left over chicken can be used to make sandwiches, pasta, literally anything with shredded chicken.
- Use left over chicken to make potato cakes.