Chicken/ Curry/ Pakistani Food

Murghi ka Salan/ Chicken Curry Version 2 – Kalya

Spring is a tease. Every now and then you get a nice, sunny, warm, bring out the water table and sand box kinda day (can you tell I am a mom??) and then you get a whole bunch of cold-wet-cold-wet-overcast-humid-wet-cold. Pfft.

Don’t worry, I did resist the urge to drown my sorrows in sugar and butter. Not just because I was out of butter. So here is another dish, with considerable less fat and sugar, which I find pretty comforting. It is a version of chicken curry called kalia (kul-ya) that I had not had until I got married. It is very different from traditional chicken curries in that there is no yogurt or tomatoes and of the ‘garam masala’ quartet (cloves, whole black pepper, cardamom, and cinnamon) this one only features one. This makes for a light very clean tasting curry which we all enjoy and trust me pleasing a household of adults and a toddler with the same dish is no easy task!

Chicken Curry or Kalya/Kulya

As a quick note I only use boneless chicken breast meat in most of my chicken dishes because my FIL has a heart condition and should eat minimally fatty foods. This curry still turns out pretty well, but would be far more delicious if you used half a skinless chicken cut into pieces.

Kalya/Murghi ka Salan/Chicken Curry v2
(Serves 4)

1 Pound Chicken Breast Meat cut into 2 inch pieces
½ cup oil
1 large or 2 medium onions
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 heaped tbsp garlic or 5 minced cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 ½ tsp coriander powder
½ to 1 tsp red chilli powder
1 – 1 ½ tsp salt
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Whole green chillies (optional)

Put a medium sized heavy bottom pan on medium-high heat and add in the oil. While the oil heats up slice your onions, try to keep the slices thin and as similar as possible. No need to dice, just slicing across works well. As a quick note, I have been buying yellow onions as of late but red onions work well in curries too.


Add the black peppers, onions, and cumin seeds to the oil. When the onions turn golden brown (or a little bit darker is fine too) then add in the garlic and sauté for another minute or two until the fragrance of the garlic permeates the base for the curry. Please note that I was trying to make this curry with 1/3 cup of oil and ended up with my onions browning quite unevenly. Next time I will use the full half cup and skim the oil off the top towards the end.


It is now time for the remaining dry spices. Toss those in and cook for another 2 minutes. If the mixture starts to stick then you can add a tablespoon or two of water. When the spice mix comes together then add about a cup of hot water to it, bring it to a boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes. This will allow the onions to break down and absorb into the curry. You also have the option of blitzing the mix instead. Blending it will also break down your black peppers and cumin, but since they are both yummy that really is not a problem.

Now back to a blender free scenario. Uncover your pot and increase the heat to dry up the excess water until you have a thick paste and the oil has begun to rise to the top.


Add your chicken, ‘fry’ it in the masala/spice paste for a few minutes. Add a half cup of water, bring to a simmer and cover for another 15-20 minutes. You may be wondering why you need to cook the liquid down first before adding the chicken and the reason is that chicken that is stir fried in the spice paste has both a better flavor and aroma than chicken that is just boiled.

Chicken Curry or Kalya/Kulya

Now add water to adjust the thinness of the curry, check for seasoning and top with freshly topped cilantro.  Add a few whole green chilies for the aroma if you want. Cook for a few minutes and then serve with rice or roti/naan. 

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  • Reply

    Your salan sounds delicious, but how come you do not use tomatoes?

    • Reply

      Hello Nusrat! The chicken salan I grew up eating usually had tomatoes, this one is a traditional recipe passed down from my mother in laws side of the family and it doesn’t have tomatoes in it which it makes it a little different, but very yummy. If you are looking for a recipe with tomatoes then I have one at
      Thanks so much for coming by and for your question!

  • Reply
    Parvez Iqbal

    Fantastic recipe. I followed all your instructions and used all the recommended ingredients. Only thing i did different eas that i used chivken stock instead of water and I added tomatoes with the chicken. all the readers youve got to try this once twice thrice. Thank you Sarah.

    • Reply

      Such a great idea to use stock instead of water!!! I am totally going to try that! Also thank you so much for stopping by and commenting – I really appreciate you taking the time!

  • Reply
    Parvez Iqbal

    Excuse my spelling folks. I do you know how to spell chicken Itza predictive text again

    • Reply

      no worries, predictive text messes me up all the time!

  • Reply
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