I write Chicken ka Salan here (because well, Google), but my heart always calls it Murghi ka Salan. This Pakistani Chicken Curry is not one of my beloved childhood favorites the way Aloo Gosht ka Salan is, but it has made a place for itself in my heart. 90% because my family basically subsists on it. Murghi or Chicken ka Salan is to my husband what daal +aloo gosht + aloo keema are to me. Yes folks, that depth of love.
That is part of the reason why this iteration is one of three on my blog. The first one is this lovely classic, the second is the comforting Kalya, and the third the White Chicken Salan my kids can't get enough of.
The original recipe that lived in this post was one that was an amalgamation of various recipes I had googled. However, as I have gotten older (and dare I say better?) I wanted to share this Ammi wala Murghi ka Salan. It took me a while to figure out how to get the same flavour as my Ammi (mother). It is nuanced, flavorful, balanced and ultimately healing the way a good salan should feel.
What goes in this Pakistani Chicken ka Salan?
The ingredients are simple, and I love that so very much.
- Bone in chicken (1.5-2lb of it)
- 3 onions
- 2 tomatoes
- ginger paste
- garlic paste
- whole spices - cumin seeds, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon.
- powdered spices - salt, chili powder, coriander powder, turmeric, cumin powder, and garam masala.
How do I make a smooth Murghi ka Salan?
Okay folks. let's talk. The "proper" way to make a salan in my family is as follows:-
- Saute your onions until your desired colour
- Add two cups of hot water, bring to a boil and simmer for 25 minutes
- Dry up the masala and it will be mostly broken down before you even add your protein.
Am I making it the proper way here? No, I am not, but you absolutely can. I cheat a little and use an immersion blender.
Why use an Immersion Blender?
There are two issues I have with the more traditional process.
1.) it takes SO long, I haven't even put my chicken in and the salan has been cooking for over half an hour
2.) more time cooking (admittedly hands off time) means more time for my house to become thoroughly infused with Eau de Salan.
In the interest of avoiding both those things I use an immersion blender like this one.
Can I use a regular blender to make Chicken ka Salan?
You can also use a regular blender, but I don't because to be able to put the salan in a blender I need to let the masala cool first. That takes time.
The second reason I don't use a regular blender is because the immersion blender doesn't do much to my whole spices except the cumin, but in a regular blender they're chopped into little unpleasant pieces. Can you skip the whole spices? absolutely, but they definitely add to the dishes final flavour.
Steps to making a Chicken ka Salan
Here's how we do it folks
Step One: Heat whole spices in oil. This step flavours your oil so you start off beautifully aromatic.
Step Two: Add diced onions, we do three so no one is left hunting for salan/gravy, and saute till the edges are golden brown. Any darker and we hit korma territory.
Step Three: Saute in the desi cooking must haves, garlic paste and ginger paste. You will notice I use more garlic than ginger. Why? Because it tastes better this way.
Step Three: In go the tomatoes and most of the powdered spices and we then do that good old bhunnofying.
What does that mean? It means we cook the tomatoes down to a paste until all the onion, tomato, and spices combine to make a beauteous cohesive delicious thing.
Step Four: Immersion blender here we come, tilt the pot so you can safely puree. If you absolutely need to then add a little water, but not too much ok?
Step Five: sauté the chicken in all that flavorful masala then simmer till cooked through
Step Six: Ahhh my favorite. This is where the magic happens. Add hot water to your salan to adjust for consistency then add your cumin powder and garam masala to it. Now taste, more salt? a little twang from a small squeeze of lemon? make it your own and garnish with bright fresh cilantro and fiery fresh green chilies.
Salan and Oil
Okay folks, let's level here. You cannot, I repeat, cannot, make a classic Murghi or Chicken ka Salan as it's intended to taste without what the oil does for the masala. If you try to make it with less oil then you end up spending far more time to achieve less robust flavour. If you want that actual proper salan taste, but not pools of oil in your plate then simply do what I do and drain the oil off the top by gentling tilting the pot and pouring it out. You can also use a spoon or paper towels to soak up excess before adding the final touches.
Made this Pakistani Chicken Curry? Rate it below and leave a comment! I'd also love to see your recreations over on Instagram so tag me @flourandspiceblog. Happy Cooking!
Chicken ka Salan - Pakistani Recipe
- 1.5-2 lb bone in chicken (or 1.5 lb boneless)
- ⅓ cup oil
- 1 small piece cinnamon stick
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 5-6 whole black peppers
- 2-3 laung (cloves)
- 3 diced onions approx 350g
- 2 diced tomatoes
- 1.5 tsp garlic paste
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1 ¼ tsp salt
- ¾ tsp red chili powder
- ½ tsp kashmiri laal mirch (optional, but gives great colour and a mild spice)
- 1 ½ tsp coriander powder
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp cumin powder
- chopped cilantro
- 2-3 sliced green chilies
- Heat your oil in a large pot on medium high heat
- When it shimmers then add the whole spices i.e cinnamon, cumin seeds, cloves, and whole black peppers.
- After the cumin seeds start to sizzle and smell delicious then add the onions
- When the edges of the onion turn golden then add the garlic paste and ginger paste and sauté for 30 seconds.
- Now stir in your tomatoes and spices. Cover the pot and turn the heat down a little to medium heat for 2-3 minutes - this speeds up the process of cooking the masala.
- Turn the heat back up, remove the lid and sauté the spice mix until the oil rises above the top.
- Use an immersion blender to make the salan into a mostly smooth paste, you will need to tilt the pot to make this happen.
- Add your chicken pieces to your pot stirring periodically until all of the chicken turns white/opaque
- Now add ½ cup of water to your pot if the masala seems very bring to a boil and simmer on low until the chicken is cooked through, 15-20 minutes.
- Adjust the consistency of the salan to your liking, add the garam masala powder and cumin powder, then adjust seasoning.
- Garnish with cilantro and green chilies and serve.