Dhaba Style Chicken Curry

It has been so long , almost a year since I last blogged,, A lot has happened since then.. I moved 2 continents, worked like anything.. lost a loved one, shifted 2 apartments, the list is never ending.. Well all that is in the past, now its time to get back to living my life again.

Well we now live in New Jersey, Princeton to be precise; at least for now.. When I moved here about 4 months back, on a lovely, autumn afternoon , I told P this is the place to be, what a pretty town, what lovely meadows, lush parks and an Ivy League university in my back yard, what more could I ask for.. Now after 4 months and countless snowed in days.. I have just one word, well just about; can we please get out of here; it is so horribly cold, utterly disgusting; funny how seasons can change ones outlook completely..


Fall outside my apartment

Lately, it has been so cold and temperature way below 0 that now have lost track as to how cold it is actually. Work has been on the low down, can’t make it to Manhattan in this weather, even the ever dependable NJ Transit has given up now. So these days there has been a lot of reading, cold weather and books make a wonderful combination. I have been reading a lot and all kinds of books. Then there is chess, the husband and I engage in a game or two every other day or so.. Lets not discuss who wins *** . Finally, there is a lot of eating and cooking, comfort food that is.


And now ; funny how 2 months can completely change a place


This is what I have been reading lately, utterly funny and out of the world..

Today has been specially bad, it snowed all day, heavy snow and we wanted chicken for dinner, one problem, we had none in the freezer, so we decided to brave the snow, after an hour of shoveling the driveway, melting and re-heating the the windshield and rear screen, throwing buckets of hot water on the car and pretty much freezing in the cold, we drove for a mile and a half to the butcher ( he is Chinese, not that I am racist or anything, I just wanted to say this, I have never seen a chinese butcher..) all for chicken, I have to admit, i love chicken..  So after all the exercise, I had not decided what was I to cook.. That is when P suggested, is mausam mein to dhabe wala chicken curry banta hai ( in this weather dhaba style chicken curry works great ) and so I began cooking this glory. I love dhaba style chicken curry and if you google it you would probably find 10,000 recipes, ok may be not 10,000 but quite a few and each widely varying from the other. So I decided, hang it , I am going to make my own dhaba style, some from memory and a lot of it from common sense.

Dhabas are rustic eateries along the highways of India  serve rustic, steaming hot, fresh and very satisfying food to hungry travelers. These are anything but fancy restaurants; set amid large open fields, along the dusty highways they are plainly decorated and often include coir knit charpoys or beds as their seating arrangements instead of chairs and tables, serving food in stainless steel or brass tableware. Though these days some of the Dhabas have become very swanky and posh with air-conditioners running, fancy cutlery and glass crockery.


Puran Singh da dhaba… slurp slurp…..

This particular chicken recipe that I made is inspired from Puran Singh ka dhaba on the Ambala Cantt road in Punjab, a dhaba I have visted many a times during my childhood. Though Puran Singh or any of his cooks would rather go out of business than divulge the secrets of their chicken curry so it was left to our common sense. One thing that I learnt while cooking this curry ( a million times probably ) was that it is all about when you add the ingredients, to get the dhaba taste

So here goes;

Chicken Curry Dhaba style.


  • Chicken – 700 gms (on the bones)
  • Onions 2 large or 4 small ( thinly scliced)
  • Tomatoes-3 medium Chopped
  • Ginger paste ( home made please) – 1 table spoon
  • Garlic Paste (home made please) –  3/4th of a table spoon
  • turmeric powder- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Chilly powder-1 teaspoon
  • Coriander powder- 1.5 table spoon
  • Cumin powder- 1/2 table spoon
  • Garam Masala- 1.5 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon before serving
  • Salt- As per taste
  • Coriander Leaves- 1/2 cup chopped
  • Ginger ( 1 inch julienne)
  • Green Chillies- 2-3 slit
  • Mustard Oil- be generous
  • Ghee- i table spoon

For Tempering:

  • Badi Elaichi -1
  • Choti Elichi- 4
  • Cloves -4-5
  • Cinnamon- 1 inch stick
  • Cumin (whole)- teaspoon


Method :

Take a heavy bottom pan, ideally a degchi would be great but a non stick deep pot with a lid makes the best alternative. Heat Mustard oil. Once the oil is hot add the whole spices for tempering. After a minute of so add the ghee and the onions and gently saute for about 3-5 mins on medium heat, once they turn golden brown add the ginger garlic paste and cook it till the raw smell disappears. Now add the tomatoes and let it cook it it goes all mushy and pulpy, this takes time so be patient. Once it is all mushy add the powdered spice, salt and saute till the oil separates , this takes about about 2-3 mins. Next add the ginger julienne, green chillies and coriander leaves, you could do this later as in before finishing off, but I like to add it at this point because it gives a distinct flavour.  Now add the chicken and cook it with the spice mix for a good 10-15 mins this is called bhuna or kosha in bengali. This allows the flavours to  fuse with and seal in to the chicken. Intermittently keep stirring and then after about 10-15 mins add 2.5 cups of water, this gravy is thin. Then cover the pot and cook it for about 15-20 mins. Finally just before fishing, add a teaspoon of Garam Masala, mine is home made so it gives an extra flavour to the gravy, but you can use the store bought. Cook the gravy at high heat for another, 2-3 mins and then it should be ready. Serve it with steamed rice ( goes best) but you could also have it with chapattis or naan.


Dig in & remember to make the slurpy sound when you eat this gravy.

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