A delicious chicken dish made by cooking chicken in a spicy and tangy pickling spices sauce, ‘achari murgh’ comes from the hotter regions of Northern India. Try this recipe when you are in the mood for a unique, lesser-known but authentic Indian curry.
In my opinion, one can never have too many chicken curry recipes. There is no point staying with the same old recipe all the time. There is so much variety to be explored, so many flavor combinations to be tried, so many cooking techniques to be learnt, it will be a shame to not even try to do so.
Chicken is the favored protein at our house, and we love it in all its different forms. I came to know about achari or pickled curries while browsing for recipes. Since then, I have tried it several times using vegetables, mostly cauliflower and mushrooms, a personal favorite. I never had the guts to try it with meat, simply for the fear of having to chuck the food if it goes wrong.
Achar or Indian pickle is an elaborate affair. It is not simply vegetables or meat preserved in an acid with salt and sugar. Oh, if only you knew!! Making achar involves a delicate layering of flavors, each ingredient so well-thought out, the technique perfected over centuries, a real treat to all the senses. Like everything In India, there is no one correct way to do it. Rather, every region, every household has a preference.
But here are some of the dry ingredients used. Picture here, from the bottom, you can see mustard (rai), cumin (jeera), fenugreek (methi) and onion seeds (kalonji or black caraway seeds). On its own, each ingredient seems to be an odd choice, some are downright bitter in taste, but when it all comes together, it is nothing short of magical.
The chicken curry starts like any other, with sautéed onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes. The chicken is then cooked with hot red chilies and a generous dose of the pickling spices shown above.
The result is tender, succulent chicken, in a spicy and tangy fantastically delicious sauce. This recipe is very popular in certain parts of Northern India, especially Rajasthan, where pickling is essential in the hot climes as a means to preserve food. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot enjoy it as well!
As for the consistency of the sauce, it is a matter of personal preference. If you like it runny, use more water. Or like me, if a thicker coating of masala is your preference, feel free to do so. Achari murgh is typically cooked in mustard oil which has been smoked to remove its pungency, but use any neutral oil that you like.
- Chicken - 1 lb (drumsticks or other cuts)
- Yogurt - ½ cup
- Turmeric powder - ½ tsp
- Salt - ½ tsp
- Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
- Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
- Fenugreek seeds - 1 tsp
- Kalonji (black onion seeds) - ½ tsp
- Oil - 2 tbsp
- Onion - 1 large, finely chopped
- Ginger-garlic paste - 2 tsp
- Tomato paste - 2 tbsp
- Red chili powder - 1 heaped tbsp (or less, for a less spicy version)
- Pickling spice mix - 1 tbsp
- Chicken - 1 lb (marinated)
- Water - 1 cup
- Salt - to taste
- Kasuri methi - 1 tbsp, crushed
- Cilantro leaves - to garnish
- Wash chicken nd pat dry. Marinate chicken in the marinade ingredients at least for an hour, or even overnight.
- Heat a skillet and dry roast the pickling spice mix ingredients over a low heat. Do not burn them. Cool and grind to a powder. It does not need to be very fine, a little bit coarse is okay. Set this aside.
- Heat oil in a pan. Add onions and saute till they are lightly browned. Add ginger-garlic paste and saute till the raw smell is gone.
- Then add the tomatoes paste and red chili powder and cook for a couple of minutes. At this point, you can blend this mixture to make a smooth paste or proceed with the next step.
- Add the pickling spice mix and chicken, reserving the marinade juices.
- Cook the chicken in this thick masala on all sides to seal in the juices, 8-10 minutes. Now add water and the reserved marinade and give it a good stir. Season with salt, cover the lid and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes or till chicken is done.
- Open the lid, check seasoning and spice levels. Add crushed kauri methi and cook further if the gravy needs to be reduced.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves. Serve hot with steamed rice, rotis, naan and such.
2. If you are bothered about the spice, feel free to reduce the amount or use Kashmiri chili powder which has a bright crimson color but not much heat.
3. Though you could use lime juice instead of yogurt as a marinade, the yogurt helps to thicken the sauce as well. So try to use yogurt in this recipe.
4. This recipe works with vegetables or fish as well. I will try to give you proper recipes for the same in the future.
Enjoy this finger-licking curry with a side of plain rice, rotis or naan breads.
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Do try this delicious and heartwarming chicken curry this Fall. It is the perfect comforting spicy dish to rejuvenate your senses.
Have you tried achari murgh? Do you have any special recipes? Do share.
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