Ahhhh, the classic Pakistani Chicken Salan. This is one of those dishes that will scream simple comforts to anyone who has grown up eating Pakistani food.
It comes under the highly ranks of those nostalgic dishes that take you back in time.
Chicken salan is just so pure and warming, a simple and satisfying hug in a bowl. It’s pretty straightforward to make with a few basic ingredients we all probably have on hand if we cook Desi food on the regular. While it requires a few additional whole spices to elevate the curry, they are completely optional – though highly recommended!
Other Pakistani Classics on Fatima Cooks:
The Art of Making a Good Chicken Shorba
Shorba refers to the gravy/soup of the curry. A good gravy is essential to get the right feel and flavour for your curry.
I’ve talked about getting that elusive shorba consistency before on my Aloo Anday recipe. The trick is to get a good balance between having a shorba with body and colour without making it too thick and gloopy.
In summary, you need to get the quantity and ratio of tomatoes and onion correct (hint: you don’t need a lot!) and also you need to ensure your masala is smooth and jammy with no large chunks before you add in your chicken (hello, heavy bhun-ing and/or blender!).
For this recipe, I’ve used one medium onion and two small tomatoes for a medium sized chicken. I personally find this ratio perfect to create the kind of consistency I enjoy. This is the same ratio I use in my aforementioned Aloo Anday recipe. Additionally, you can use this spiced onion and tomato base for any kind of shorba you’d like to experiment with!
Add-ons To Upgrade This Chicken Salan!
This recipe is a perfect base to add in additional bits and bobs your family might enjoy. For example, potatoes, peas, chickpeas, eggs – the list is pretty much as long as you’d like it to be! Peas and chicken was a particular favourite of mine as a child, but alas my husband is not a fan of peas therefore they do not grace our table often.
You can add these add-ons in accordance to how long they need to be cooked. Frozen peas will probably just need ten minutes before cook-time is over in order to defrost and take on the flavour of the curry. However something like potatoes may take as much time as the chicken and can therefore be added at the same time as you add the water. Boiled eggs will not need much time at all and can be added at the same time as your garam masala.
About the Spices Used
So this recipe calls for a few whole spices – cloves, black peppercorns, bay leaves and green cardamom. These are optional in the recipe. I highly recommend these are used for a more mature, deep flavour and fragrance however if you do not have one or another of these whole spices by all means do not feel like the show can’t go on. My Mother used to say a good curry just needs the salt, chili and turmeric to the right balance to be good enough.
Also, I’ve used paprika/kashmiri red chili powder in this recipe. This gives the curry a wonderfully vibrant colour. You can top up the spice with some regular chili powder if this isn’t enough for you. Alternatively, if you don’t have paprika or Kashmiri red chili powder you are absolutely free to use your regular chili powder to taste.
Finally, regarding the garnishing. I have used kasuri methi (dried fenugreek) here partly because I like the flavour and fragrance of it but mostly because I don’t always have fresh coriander to hand. Kasuri methi is a life saver on those days when I don’t want a naked curry but don’t have coriander! You are free to use either, whichever may be convenient
Without further ado, here is the recipe! Enjoy, with love x
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 small to medium tomatoes, halved
- 1tsp minced garlic
- 1tsp minced ginger
- 3tsp salt (or to taste)
- 2tsp Paprika or Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder
- 1tsp cumin powder
- 1tsp cumin seeds
- 2tsp coriander powder
- 1/2tsp turmeric
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 whole cloves
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- 1 green cardamom
- 1tsp chilli powder (if needed to enhance the spice. Please taste before adding)
- 1 chicken (approx 600-800g cut into 12-14 pieces), bone in, curry pieces
- Coriander or dried fenugreek (kasuri methi) to garnish
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- Heat the oil in a deep pot
- Add in the onions. Cook these on a medium high heat till the onions become translucent and begin to brown lightly on the edges
- Add the halved tomatoes and a splash of water. Cover and steam this on low for about 5 minutes. Once the 5 minutes are up, the peel should slip off the tomatoes easily. Pull these out
- Turn the heat up, add the garlic, ginger and all the spices and dry out the masala, stirring constantly. Use your spoon to mash the onions and tomatoes as you stir. Alternatively, you can blend these to get a super smooth masala fast
- Once the masala is super dry, the oil begins to seperate at the edges and the masala begins to catch at the bottom of the pot, add the chicken
- Saute the chicken on high heat, again stirring constantly, until the chicken changes colour and no longer remains pink
- Add 2.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for half an hour
- Once the chicken is cooked through, stir in the garam masala and coriander/dried fenugreek.
The whole spices are optional although highly recommended
I have used paprika/Kashmiri red chilli powder because its mild flavour allows us to use more powder the colour the curry deeply. If you do not have these spices feel free to simply use red chilli powder to taste