chicken pathia – best restaurant (hotel) style

Chicken pathia. Like they make in the best restaurants. Hotel style. Spicy. Sweet. Sour. A little magic in every bite.

Chatpata. That’s a word I didn’t know. Learned it watching Chef’s Table. Gaggan Anand.

Four elements in harmony. Sweet, sour, salty and spicy in perfect balance. Indian umami.

That describes chicken pathia perfectly. Like textbook perfect. Maybe it should be called chicken chatpata.

He’s talking about it at his level. And his level is so far above mine it’s not even worth measuring.The concept is eye opening though. Brings focus.

Chatpata. Something to be thinking about. Something to strive for.

chicken pathia in a kadai from above.

Madras’ misunderstood cousin

That’s how I think of chicken pathia. My version anyway. A little like a chicken Madras. But not really.

It’s sweet. And it’s sour. A little sugar. A little tamarind sauce. Sort of Madras spicing. That’s it really. Familiar. But different.

Somehow that sweet and sour tweak changes everything. Makes pathia it’s own dish. Amazing how a couple extra ingredients can change everything.

Chicken pathia is a simple dish. Not a lot of ingredients. No whole spices. No pastes to make. Just a few simple spices. Some hotel gravy. Chicken. Tamarind sauce.

It’s almost too simple. Unworthy you might think. Except it’s not. Absolutely not. That’s the beauty of chicken pathia. Simple. Straight forward. And yet complex.

Sometimes simple can be amazing. This is one of those times.

Chicken pathia in a bowl from the front.

Hotel style chicken pathia

This is not takeaway style. Not regular restaurant style. This is about kicking it up a notch. Four notches really.

Hotel style. Fine Indian restaurant style. What the really good Indian restaurants are doing.

Restaurants putting food quality first. The ones that aren’t trying to make a $12 curry. Going for gold. The kind of restaurant I want to eat at.

There are two restaurant based approaches on Glebekitchen. High end and mainstream. Horses for courses.

Restaurant style is what they do at most restaurants. Takeaways. Simple. Fast. And tasty. It relies on a single gravy. Restaurant curry base. One size fits all.

Hotel style is high end restaurant approach. More disciplined. The right tool for job. Different gravies for different dishes. Blending gravies even. It changes the game. And I’m really excited about it.

Think French. Mother sauces. That’s what this is. But applied to Indian cooking. Heavy on the prep. But so worth it. Big tastes. The kind of depth of flavour you can’t get any other way.

It’s a bit of curry magic I think. Not Gaggan magic. Not even close. But for us mere mortals…

All that great chicken flavour

The other big difference is how the chicken is prepared. And it is a big difference.

Takeaway restaurant style relies on pre-cooked chicken. It’s faster. It’s easier. And it’s probably safer. But it comes at a price.

And that price is chicken flavour. Hotel style is a different approach. The chicken goes in raw. You have to pay attention not to overcook it. But you get the juices as it cooks.

And those juices are delicious. Losing them was probably my single biggest problem with takeaway restaurant style. I feel better now. Simple things make me happy.

Table scene - chicken pathia, rice and tarka dal from above.

Tamarind sauce is important

This recipe is pretty specific. Tamarind sauce. Not tamarind paste. And definitely not tamarind concentrate.

Tamarind sauce is like ketchup. A condiment. Not actually like ketchup. But in a bottle. Pre-fab. Commercial product. Papadum dip in a jar.

A little sweet. And sour. A little spicy. And a little salty. See where I’m going? Chatpata in a bottle.

I like it. A lot. There’s something about it. Works well in a dhansak. In this dish. On eggs. In sandwiches.

I’m not shilling. I don’t take bribes. Don’t do sponsored posts. I just really like Maggi Tamarina. It’s perfect for this dish.

It’s like fight club. First rule. Nobody talks about Maggi Tamarina. But there’s probably a bottle in an Indian restaurant kitchen near you. I bet they love it too.

Chicken pathia, rice and chapatis from above.

Chicken pathia done hotel style

Ready to expand your horizons? Give this one a go. It’s definitely one you need to try.

Chicken pathia isn’t the most famous curry out there. Probably not in the top 10. Or even the top 20.

It has lost the popularity contest. And that’s too bad. Because it has it all. Sweet. Sour. Spicy. Salty.


You had to know I would finish with that…

chicken pathia, biryani and chapati table scene from above.
Print Pin
4.95 from 17 votes

chicken pathia curry

Pathia chicken is about spice, sweet and sour in perfect balance.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword ceylon chicken curry, Indian restaurant style
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 2
Calories 578kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


The spice mix

  • 1 1/2 tsp hot madras curry powder – you can get this at just about any Indian grocer
  • 2 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 /2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp kasoor methi – dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt – a bit less if you use regular table salt

Pathia chicken curry

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil – any neutral oil works
  • 1 tbsp garlic ginger paste
  • 1 cup Indian hotel curry gravy – recipe link below
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs – cut into 3-4 pieces each
  • 1 tbsp tamarind sauce – Not paste. Not concentrate. Sauce. Sweet and sour tamarind sauce. I like Maggi Tamarina. See note.
  • 1 tsp jaggery or brown sugar
  • 2-4 Tbsp water or chicken stock. Depends how saucy you like your curry.


Do your prep

  • This goes fast. Be ready. Make your spice mix. Combine the powdered spices in a small bowl. Get your ingredients out and close to the stove.

Make the pathia chicken curry

  • Heat the oil in a medium frying pan until it just starts to shimmer.
  • Stir in the garlic ginger paste. Cook until the garlic ginger paste stops sputtering.
  • Turn your heat to medium low and add your spice mix. Gently fry the spices for 30-45 seconds. This is why you added a full 3 tablespoons of oil at the beginning. Spices fried in oil. Bloomed spices. This is where the magic happens. Too little oil and the spices will stick or burn and you will be starting over.
  • Turn the heat up to medium. Add the Indian hotel curry gravy. Bring it to a simmer. Really stir it to get the oil to combine. Cook for about a minute.
    You don't need it to fry like a regular restaurant curry. That's the beauty of hotel style. That step is done before you start cooking the final dish. No need to make a mess of your stove.
  • Add the chicken in an even layer and cover the pan. After about 5 minutes flip the chicken pieces. Tongs are good for this. Can't beat a good set of restaurant tongs in the kitchen. Cover again and cook until the chicken is just done.
  • The chicken should take around 8-12 minutes to cook through. It really depends on how large the chicken thigh pieces are. Best bet is to use an instant read thermometer and go for a 170F internal temperature.
  • Once the chicken is done, stir in the tamarind sauce and the sugar. Simmer for about a minute.
  • The texture should be about right at this point. If it's too thick add a bit of water or chicken stock Not a lot. Probably a couple tablespoons max. More if you like it really saucy.
  • If it is too thin (chicken throws a fair bit of liquid as it cooks) just let the curry simmer uncovered for a minute or two.
  • I love this curry with chapatis and rice and just about any side. Tarka dal. Chana. Dal palak. Whatever you like will work. Except ice cream. Ice cream will not work…


Make your Indian hotel curry gravy ahead of time. 
For maximum flavour you really should make your garlic ginger paste from scratch.
You may notice there’s no tomato paste or passata in this recipe. The tomato comes from the hotel curry gravy. It’s there already.
I like Maggi Tamarina. It just works for pathia. You can substitute 2 tsp of tamarind paste with a second tsp on jaggery if you want. But it is not as good. 


Calories: 578kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 41g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 161mg | Sodium: 1263mg | Potassium: 810mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 717IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 83mg | Iron: 4mg

36 thoughts on “chicken pathia – best restaurant (hotel) style”

  1. 5 stars
    Dear Romain, last week my son asked me – nearly begging – to make another glebekitchen curry. And he was completely correct, it was too long ago! So we chose together, and decided to make this one. Absolutely yummy, although it looked darker on the pictures than in my pan. Next time I will try to make the gravy darker. However, it was extremely delicious, and the kids were immediately hoping for leftovers for the day after. We had it together with Easy Chana Masala and Pilau rice, perfect match of course! And that Maggi Tamarind Sauce is amazing, luckily it is available over here. Another glebekitchen hit, we loved it! All the best from The Hague, Daniel and family.

  2. Hello Romain I always prepare Indian dishes when I am hosting friends, simply due to the fact that they are sssssoooooooo good. I am wondering if I am able to cook some dishes the day before as I do not want to take time away from the group. Here is my planned menu
    Chole Masala,Keema Lamb,Aloo Keema and Chicken Pathia and of course rice.
    Will a day ahead make much difference? And if any which would be more advisable to cook on the day?
    As always I enjoy your site immensely

    • Yes, just gently reheat in a saucepan before serving or better yet, take the recipe to the point just before adding the protein and finish the dish off right before dinner. That depends on the dish of course. Some will benefit from that approach more than others (hotel style the most).

  3. 5 stars
    As you say, Pathia is Madras’ misunderstood cousin. It’s always been one of my favourites, particularly with prawns (or shrimp, depending on what you call them where you are). Chicken is also very nice.

    I made this tonight with some of your latest “simple dal” on the side with plain Basmati rice and some nan bread.

    A dinner truly fit for a king!

    • Not at all. Just forget everything you know about cooking restaurant style and go with the flow. You will wind up somewhere good.

  4. Made this this evening. After making the base. I think my fiancé is a bit disturbed that I can make something so tasty. Like… I’m serious. Weird. But good god is this delicious.

  5. 5 stars
    Made this with my friend Michelle for my sister, who’s entertaining guests next week. It was an unplanned curry after making her a tikka masala and madras but whoa! This one is my new favourite – lovely complex flavour, sweet and spicy with a nice bit of tamarind tang. She’s doing it with king prawns. I’ve shared this site with everyone I know who loves curry – this is THE best curry site online, great work Romain.

  6. 5 stars
    So, so happy to find this post. The pathia is the forgotten one. It’s always my go-to at my favourite restaurant, but almost all of my Indian friends have never heard of it either (originally Persian? Gujarati?). Like you say, it’s the unbeatable sweet, sour and salty heaven. And once the hotel gravy is done, it’s a 10-minute treat!

  7. 5 stars
    I told you & I’ll tell you again, your recipes have been a game changer.
    What an absolute cracker!
    I do start to enjoy playing up with different techniques (heat related) and spices to adapt it to my taste.
    But something is missing man!
    A good ol’ Glebe Kitchen style naan recipe!!!!
    Everything I’ve tried so far is nowhere near your curries standard (never as fluffy as I can get at my local curry house) and bring the whole experience down.
    Any chance we could get one of Romain’s special naan bread recipe? Cheers,

    • You will have it as soon as I figure it out! I am more of a paratha guy but a good naan is a wonderful thing so I need to get going on that.

  8. 5 stars
    Looking forward to trying this one! Is it alright to pre-cook the chicken using your chicken tikka method from the naga chicken recipe? I’m such a fan of that!

    • That will work. It will change the flavour profile a bit but it will be tasty. The only thing to keep in mind is you need to make up the liquid that would have otherwise come from the chicken juices.

  9. This curry turned out amazing, I love cooking the chicken in the pan rather than precooked chicken. I loved this Curry, thank you for the recipe another delicious curry recipe. I think the best so far and the flavor of the sweet and sour was very yummy.

  10. 4 stars
    Hi Romain,
    Delicious, as always. My family’s enjoying the addition of tamarind in many of your recipes. I think I screwed up, though – I made the Madras curry powder myself (by combining 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder, 1/2 tsp fenugreek leaves, and 1/2 tsp kosher salt) and then added the spices & salt you list. This was too salty for me – what did I do wrong? As I said previously, Delicious, but a bit too salty.
    Allison from NY

    • You doubled the salt? Madras curry powder is a blend of a lot more of those three ingredients and there is nowhere near that much salt in the brands I use.

  11. 5 stars
    Another cracker Romain. Thank you. Can’t wait to try it.

    Your blog is amazing. Every write up puts a smile on my face. Excellent dry wit. You could be a chef or a comedian…or both!

    • I don’t know. That’s a function of popular preference and what restaurants are doing I guess. It’s not meant to be a particularly sweet dish. Certainly the dopiaza recipes on glebekitchen are not sweet.

  12. Chicken is good, yum, but my absolute favourite (in a restaurant at least) is lamb pathia (aloo, or with potato). Do you reckon this recipe would work with that ? OK, so you can’t really cook lamb like that from raw unless it was in pretty thin slices…but all the same ..

    • That’s just a little tweak. You can just pre-cook the lamb in a little seasoned stock or water and then proceed with the recipe. You will need to add a bit of stock to thin the sauce to your desired consistency as you won’t have the liquid thrown by the chicken if you go this route. See the hotel lamb madras for more detail.

  13. 5 stars
    Thanks Romain
    Another one to try out, may leave out the sugar as the Tamarind sauce already has some in. We gave up on takeaways due to them having too much sugar in.
    Keep up the good work

    • Leave the sugar out until the very end and taste. I have no sweet tooth whatsoever (check my list of zero desserts on this blog as an indicator:-) so nothing is particularly sweet in my kitchen.

    • That would be a weak approximation. It would cover sweet and sour but not salty or spicy. I will come up with something someday I hope. But for now I can’t beat the bottled stuff. You could try concentrate, water and sugar until it is in balance if you can’t get the sauce.

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