Madras Chicken Curry

Updated: May 29, 2020

In North America, Chicken Madras Curry is as much of a staple on casual Indian restaurant menus as Butter Chicken, unlike the restaurants in India. Ironically, this curry might not be a part of any restaurant menus in Madras or Chennai. I firmly believe this curry has been developed to suit the western taste buds for two reasons: 1. A creamy sauce is the feature of a British take on Indian food. 2. Curries originating in Madras are commonly and traditionally called kuzhambu, or chettinadu, or kulambu, etc.

Since it is not a traditional curry, there are various versions of making this dish. Some constants, however, must not change, like coconut oil, curry leaves, mustard seeds, good quality coconut milk, and Madras curry powder or a simple Chettinadu spice blend. I personally prefer this simple aromatic curry any day over Butter Chicken. Butter Chicken, in my kitchen, is a rare occurrence. We are a coconut loving family and this recipe with all the coconuty-goodness is as lip-smacking as Butter Chicken. 

Step 1:Prepare the marinade (puree onion, ginger, garlic, and turmeric) and marinate the chicken. Rub the chicken legs with a tsp salt before marinating. Let the chicken sit in the marinade for at least 4 hours. Then take just the legs out, and save the marinade.

Step 2:In a clean wok, heat 2 tbsp coconut oil. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, a pinch of asafoetida, cloves, and cinnamon stick. Fry the spices for a minute or two.

Step 3:Add curry leaves and the marinade after the seeds start sputtering.

Step 4:Add cracked black pepper, red chilli powder, cumin powder, and coriander powder.

Step 5:Toast all the spices for one or two minutes and add 1 cup water.

Step 6: Add marinated chicken legs and mix well so that the chicken is evenly coated. Cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes on low heat. Give it a stir after 15 minutes and once again, cover and cook for another 15 minutes. Keep the heat low or medium-low. Slow cooking helps the protein absorb flavour oils from the spices and the aromatics. Once the chicken is cooked, add coconut cream and Madras curry powder, give it a stir and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes on low heat. Add water if the sauce is over-reduced, check for seasoning, and lastly, garnish with chopped coriander leaves. 

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