Shahi chicken korma is a rich and flavourful curry worthy of the Mughlai royalty for which it was invented. Spice, coconut, almond, cream and a hint of sugar come together in a sumptuous curry worthy of any celebration.
Something bad happened to chicken korma. Something horrible really. It used to be a dish prepared for nobility. Mughlai nobility to be precise. They weren’t chili heads. Ate pretty simply really. But I’m pretty sure if they tasted the cloyingly sweet, flavourless versions served today they wouldn’t be impressed. Not at all. Korma used to be party food. Now it’s baby’s first curry.
No spice. Tons of sugar. That’s the British version. Can you tell I don’t get it?
Deeply flavourful. Well spiced. No sugar. Fruit. Super elaborate preparation. That’s the traditional Mughlai version.
Somewhere in the middle. That can be something special. That’s what this shahi chicken korma is about. Spiced. Rich. But no fruit. Not so hard to make. If you’ve made any of the restaurant curries on this blog this one is no different really.
I could see this on a restaurant menu. Two versions. Chicken korma – curry for your kids. Shahi chicken korma – curry for you.
- 1½ tsp indian restaurant spice mix or curry powder
- ½ tsp kashmiri chili powder or ½ tsp cayenne mixed with 1½ tsp paprika
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 3 Tbsp oil
- 1 3 inch piece of cinnamon stick (cassia bark)
- 2 green cardamom pods
- 2 tsp garlic/ginger paste
- 15 oz curry base
- 3 Tbsp coconut milk powder (Maggi brand is pretty readily available)
- 1 Tbsp almond flour
- 10-12 oz pre-cooked chicken (this works with pre-cooked lamb as well)
- 1½ tsp sugar (more - to taste if you like it sweet)
- Zero to 2 Tbsp heavy cream (35%)
- Make the spice mix.
- Combine and mix the coconut milk powder and almond flour with enough water to form a thin paste.
- Heat your frying pan (don't use non-stick) briefly over medium heat. Add the oil.
- When the oil starts to shimmer add the raw spices and cook until they start to crackle.
- Now add garlic ginger paste and cook, stirring constantly, until it stops sputtering.
- Turn down the heat and add the spice mix. This is the critical step. Stir it constantly for 30 seconds. If it starts to darken lift the pan off the heat. You want the spice mix to cook in the oil but not burn.
- Turn the heat up to medium high. This is also really important. The heat is what caramelizes the onion in the curry base and gives the curry it's Indian restaurant flavour. As you become more comfortable with this technique try pushing it.
- Add 3 oz of curry base. Stir until bubbles form (little craters really), around 30 seconds. Think lively boil. Watch the edges of the pan. The curry can stick here. Sticking is OK. Just scrape it back into the base. Burning is bad.
- Now add 6 oz of curry base and stir briefly. Let it cook until the bubbles form again. This takes 1-2 minutes.
- Add the rest of the curry base and let cook until the bubbles form.
- Stir in the coconut/almond paste.
- Turn the heat down to low and add the pre-cooked chicken.
- Let the curry simmer for about 5 minutes. If it gets too thick add a bit more curry base. Don't add water.
- Add the sugar. Taste and decide if you want it sweeter. Creep up on it. You can add sugar. You cannot take it away.
- Add heavy cream to taste. None is a really good curry. 2 Tbsp is a creamy, kingly version. Decide what you are in the mood for. The cream does dull the flavours but it adds richness and tempers the heat.
- Garnish with a bit of chopped fresh saffron if desired and serve with rice or Indian flatbread.