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Southern Indian Chicken Curry with Mustard Seeds


This dish was inspired by one of Madhur Jaffrey's lamb curries. Mustard seeds pop in the mouth with every bite. Though the sauce is spicy, the meat remains mild and tender.

  • Servings: 4

Photography: Antonis Achilleos

Source: Martha Stewart Living, January 2005


  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 whole, dried, red hot chiles, each broken into 3 or 4 pieces
  • 2 teaspoons brown or yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick (3 inches)
  • 1/2 teaspoon urad dal or yellow split peas
  • 1 1/4 cups very thinly sliced shallots (about 4)
  • 10 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 10 fresh curry leaves (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped plum tomatoes (about 3)
  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Coarse salt
  • Raita
  • Pooris, for serving (optional)


  1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add chiles, mustard seeds, cinnamon, and urad dal; cook, shaking pot, until seeds pop, about 45 seconds. Add shallots, garlic, and curry leaves; cook, stirring, until shallots are golden, about 4 minutes. Add ginger; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomatoes; cook, stirring, 2 minutes.

  2. Add chicken; sprinkle with turmeric and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Stir in 2 cups water. Bring to a boil. Cover; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until chicken is very tender, about 30 minutes.

  3. Uncover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until sauce coats the meat, about 10 minutes. Season with salt. Serve with raita and pooris, if desired.

Cook's Notes

Serve with raita, a cucumber-and-yogurt salad, to soothe the palate; buy pooris, unleavened Indian bread, from an ethnic grocery store, and fry briefly to puff them up before serving.

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