chicken korma – northern style

Chicken korma, or murgh kurma,  is the characteristic Mughal recipe. It is a mildly spiced, delicate and elegant dish.

Korma dishes can be traced back to the 16th century and the Mughal incursions into present-day Northern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. A korma is a braise of meat or vegetables in yogurt or cream. The technique covers many different styles of korma, and is discussed in what is korma?

The flavour of a korma depends upon a subtle mixture of spices and yogurt kept below curdling temperature, incorporated slowly and carefully with the meat juices.

This is our family everyday recipe, and is very traditional.

This recipe could best be described by what is NOT in it. There is no chilli. This recipe pre-dates the arrival of chillies into India by centuries. Such heat as the dish has comes from the so-called “hot” spices – cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. There is no fresh ginger. Many northern Indian dishes do not use fresh ginger, but use dried ginger powder, as this one does. There are no onions or garlic. Some traditionalist beliefs say that onion and garlic “heat the blood” and must be avoided, so asafoetida is used instead. There is no turmeric.

The chicken won’t be swimming in a rich, creamy, sloppy sauce. You need to be careful adding the yoghurt, and the amount described will give a small amount of sauce to hold the dish together. Most people’s experience of korma is usually from a curry house, and most of those tend to prepare the dish with copious quantities of cream and yoghurt – not how the dish should be.

Because of the overnight marination, you should start this recipe the day before.

What you end up with is a mild and aromatic dish. It has a delicate flavour, and is very elegant in its structure.

the recipe

preparation:30 minutes
cook:30 minutes
marinate:12 hours
total:1 hour
servings:4 servings


  • 800 g chicken breast fillets - skin removed and scored

for the marinade

for the sauce

to serve


  • Toast and grind the coriander seeds, and set aside.
  • Put the ghee in a wide frying pan over high heat. When very hot, put in the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom pods, cloves and cumin seeds. When sizzling, take off the heat and allow to cool.
  • Transfer cooled spice mix to a blender, add the ground coriander seeds and salt. Add a little water and blend to a paste of the same consistency as mustard.
  • Place chicken in a mixing bowl, cover with paste from blender and mix well, ensuring that the chicken is evenly coated. Cover, and refrigerate for at least one hour, or better, overnight.

to cook

  • Warm the milk, add the saffron threads and set aside to infuse.
  • Heat the ghee in a wide frying pan, and when hot, add the asafoetida and ginger powder. Stir and fry for 30 seconds.
  • Add the the chicken and marinade, mix well, and cook for five minutes or until the chicken starts to colour.
  • Reduce the heat to low, and add the yoghurt one tablespoon at a time, ensuring it is well combined before adding next tablespoon. Cook the chicken, uncovered, on a very low simmer for 20 minutes.  Do not allow to boil, or the yoghurt will split and curdle.
  • When chicken is cooked, stir in the saffron infused milk, and mix well.
  • Remove from heat, sprinkle with coriander leaves and almonds. Serve.
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