Chicken Malai Curry


Chicken Malai Curry


Chicken Malai Curry, or Murgh Malai, is a rich creamy dish of Mughlai ancestry from northern India. “Malai” is a type of clotted cream, often used in sweets. The sauce is lightly colored, and the chicken is in tender, boneless pieces. Potatoes can be added. As with many Mughlai dishes, the chili pepper “heat” is restrained compared with other Indian and Pakistani curries.


If regular heavy whipping cream is used, this is a surprisingly easy curry to make, though making curries is never really simple. The recipe serves 6 or more diners, but leftovers are great to serve another time. The flavors are best if the curry is made ahead then reheated (in microwave or stove top) for serving.


Serve the curry with unsalted white, particularly Basmati, rice. (A recipe for cooking Basmati, or Jasmine, rice can be found in the Index of this blog.)


2 medium-large onions, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1-inch piece fresh ginger, skin scraped off, ginger minced with the garlic

1 tablespoon ground coriander

3 teaspoons ground cumin

3 teaspoons turmeric

1 teaspoon cayenne

1 pound small yellow-skinned potatoes, not peeled but cut in quarters

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 teaspoon salt for the chicken plus 1 teaspoon for cooking

1/4 cup vegetable oil, such as sunflower or canola, not olive

1 1/2 cups water

3/4 cup heavy cream

Coarsely chopped cilantro for serving


Prepare the onions and place them in a heavy pot. Prepare the garlic with the ginger and set aside. Mix the dry spices in a small cup. Prepare the potatoes and store them in a bowl of water to prevent browning. Trim tough and fatty parts off the chicken and cut chicken flesh in 1-inch chunks. Mix 1 teaspoon salt into the chicken and set aside.


Add the oil to the onions in the pot and fry over medium-hot heat, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pot. When the onion is well softened, and just beginning to turn golden (10-15 minutes), stir in the minced garlic-ginger mix for one minute. Reduce the heat and stir in the spices for another minute.


Add the water, increase the heat, and bring just to a boil. And add the potatoes. Simmer, stirring frequently, until potatoes are becoming tender when pierced with a toothpick. At that point stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Add the cream and bring back to a boil.


Add the chicken and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 6-7 minutes. Add a little water if the sauce becomes dry. Test the chicken for doneness by cutting off a corner of a piece and checking that there is no pink color in it. Then bite into the piece of chicken to be sure it’s tender. Do not cook the chicken too long or it will become dry.


Turn off the heat. Taste the sauce for salt. Add a little if needed.


Although the curry can be eaten now, it improves in flavor and mellowness if cooled then refrigerated, and reheated later to serve. Taste the sauce again for salt and add a little if necessary. When serving, sprinkle the top with a little chopped cilantro. Accompany with white rice.


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