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Chicken chaap

Asma Khan

A subtly spiced Bengali chicken dish from Asma Khan, chef-patron of acclaimed restaurant Darjeeling Express

Recipe Meta


10 mins


30 mins






  • ¼ tsp good-quality saffron strands or a few drops of orange food colouring
  • 10 tbsp sunflower oil or other neutral oil
  • 5 onions, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 1.2 litres thick Turkish or Greek yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
  • 6 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp mild chilli powder (preferably Kashmiri)
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp flaked almonds, to garnish

For the garam masala

  • 2 tsp cloves
  • 4 black cardamom pods
  • 1 nutmeg
  • 2 large pieces mace
  • 6 Indian bay leaves


To make the garam masala, in a dry frying pan (skillet), roast all the ingredients over a medium heat, stirring continuously to prevent them burning. The spices are ready when the cloves swell, turn grey, and pop.

Allow the spices to cool, then grind to a fine powder in a spice or coffee grinder. Grate the nutmeg, before adding it to the spice grinder. Any unused garam masala can be kept in an airtight container for a few weeks.

If using saffron to colour the dish, in a small bowl, infuse the saffron strands in 4 tbsp tepid water.

In a frying pan (skillet), heat 6 tbsp of the oil over a medium-high heat.

Add the sliced onions to the pan and fry gently, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and caramelised. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onions from the oil, leaving as much of the oil in the pan as possible to use later, and place on a plate to drain. Spread the onions across the plate so they crisp as they cool.

In a large bowl, mix the yoghurt with the garlic, ginger, 1 tbsp of the garam masala and the oil retained from the caramelised onions. If using orange food colouring, add this directly to the yoghurt.

In a pan that has a lid, heat the remaining 4 tbsp oil over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken and seal on all sides. Lower the heat to medium and pour the yoghurt mixture over the chicken. Keep the heat at medium so the contents of the pan do not boil. Add the caramelised onions and ground coriander and cook, stirring continuously, for 10 mins.

When the oil rises to the surface and the yoghurt splits, add the chilli powder and salt. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat. Add the infused saffron at this point, if using. Cover and cook the chicken for a further 10 mins. Add the sugar and stir to mix thoroughly.

Before serving, taste to check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. To serve, garnish with flaked almonds.

Recipe from Asma’s Indian Kitchen: Home-cooked food brought to you by Darjeeling Express (Pavilion Books)
Image: Kim Lightbody

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