This Dhaba Style Chicken Curry stands for every road trip we’ve had with our families. It stands for all the stop-overs and midway cravings. It is hot and fragrant and is made with ground spices, onions and tomatoes. Its perfect for a family lunch or dinner over which you can reminisce!
I think I’ve finally nailed it. This Dhaba Style Chicken Curry is the BOMB we’ve all been waiting for. It took some time, but this awesomeness is totally happening in my house right now!
Dhabas, for the uninitiated are roadside restaurants scattered all over the country, and their food is unique. Hell, the experience is unique and is one you must have. Small mud shacks, with only chaarpai’s (rope and wooden cots) and a wooden plank for a table, you’ll find them as you drive along the highway. They are usually patronized by truck drivers and budget travellers who are looking for food which reminds them of home. Growing up, the highlight of any road trip was a stopover at a dhaba for steaming hot, spicy dhaba style chicken curry, dal fry and tandoori roti’s fresh from the oven to mop it all up. These soul satisfying meals will always be etched on to my heart!
Even today, visiting home is accompanied by a trip to the local dhaba. Since I’ve moved to Bangalore, food from dhaba’s is something I miss a lot. And I’ve been trying very hard to replicate the dhaba style chicken curry I remember. It took some time, but this recipe comes pretty close to the real thing.
Unlike my other recipes, this one’s slightly time consuming because masala is ground and cooked till it’s color changes. This is characteristic of most Indian curries, and the slow cooking process is what lends dishes a unique flavor.
What is a Dhaba, you ask?
Dhabas are roadside restaurants popularly found on highways and expressways. They are known for their ultra tasty renditions of traditional food. Be it a simple Dal Makhni or something like a staple chicken curry, dhabas provide a unique taste to level it up.
Dhaba-style cooking is something that has gained popularity since the pandemic and lockdowns began. Maybe people began missing road trips? I sure did!
What makes Dhaba-Style cooking unique?
Now here’s to asking the right questions! How is it that common dishes taste extra unique when they come from a dhaba? Well of course, one reason is certainly because it’s made by chefs and cooks who have probably been cooking for a lot longer than us. Experience certainly does count!
The other reasons are what we tried to deduce with this recipe. Here’s what we found – dhabas use more ghee (clarified butter) in place of oils to add more richness, the add a smoky flavour inducing the smoke from hot coal towards the end of the preparation, they liberally use freshly ground spices wherever possible and finally, they end the dish with a sizzling tadka/tempering!
We’ve taken all this information and compiled it into one beautiful chicken curry. Read on to know more! Check out the 6 simple steps that go into making this beautiful curry:
Special Tips to make the Perfect Dhaba Style Chicken Curry
- Never skip the marination
This cannot be stressed enough! Your meat needs to be seasoned and tenderised before cooking. This step takes care of that so do not skip it!
- Cook until the onion paste has browned
This is what will add some extra umami flavour to your dish. When you brown it sufficiently, the roasted onions give an almost caramel sweetish flavour. This in addition with the herbs, spices and tomatoes create the perfect balance.
- Always use fresh garam masala
The whole point of garam masala is to increase the aromatics and flavour of the dish. This won’t be possible if you use stale garam masala. And add it in the end always!
- Perfectly cook the chicken
Follow the time and technique according to the recipe. But if you’re still in doubt, use a meat thermometer. The internal temperature of perfectly cooked, safe and ready to eat chicken is 75C/165F.
- Do not forget the tempering
This tempering makes me swooooon! I’m not kidding one bit, it gives it that extra kick along with the richness from the ghee.
I hope you guys enjoy this recipe as much as I do, it’s truly one of my favorites! You can eat this delicious curry with rotis, naan, or jeera rice. And like all curries, this tastes even better the next day, so no need to worry about leftovers 😉
More Dhaba Style Recipes:
- Dhaba Dal Tadka
- Dhaba Style Dal Fry
- Slow Cooker Dal Makhani
- Paneer Butter Masala
- Butter Chicken Masala (Murgh Makhani)
Watch Dhaba Style Chicken Curry Recipe Video
This recipe was first published on August 10, 2015 and updated on 13 October, 2020 with a minor change in the recipe and a step by step video
Dhaba Style Chicken Curry
- 1 kg Chicken Skinless, cleaned and cut into medium sized pieces
For the marinade:
- 2 tablespoons Ginger Garlic Paste
- 1 Juice of lime
- 1 tablespoon Salt
For the curry:
- 1/4 cup Oil
- 4 medium Onions finely chopped
- 10 cloves Garlic
- 1½ inches Ginger
- 3 – 4 Green Chilies (Adjust the spice as required)
- 1 tablespoon Cumin Seeds
- 2 Bay leaves
- ½ Cinnamon stick Stick
- 4 – 5 Cardamoms
- 8 – 10 Peppercorns
- 4 – 5 Cloves
- 4 medium Tomatoes chopped
- ½ teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- 1 teaspoon Red Chili Powder optional; adjust the spice as required
- 2 tablespoons Coriander Powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala Powder
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 tablespoon Ghee or Oil
- 1 tablespoon Butter
- 2 Chilies Green (slit lengthwise)
- ½ inch Ginger piece , julienned
- Coriander for garnishing
- Marinate the chicken pieces with ginger garlic paste, lime juice and salt. Cover and set aside for 30 mins.
- Grind onions, ginger, garlic and green chilies to a fine paste. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a pressure cooker or a large heavy bottomed pan. Add cumin seeds. Roughly pound all the whole spices (bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns and cloves) and add to the oil. Once they start to splutter, add the onion paste. Cook the onion paste on a low flame, stirring occasionally, till it is reduced to a golden, brown paste and the oil starts to surface.
- Add tomatoes, salt, turmeric powder, red chili powder (if using) and coriander powder. Cook till the tomatoes start melting, and almost form a paste.
- Add the chicken, garam masala and ½ cup water.
- At this stage, if you are using a pressure cooker, place the lid and pressure cook for 3 whistles. Switch off the flame and let the steam escape before opening the cooker.
- Simmer for 5-10 mins on high flame, if required, to thicken the curry (Chicken leaves a lot of water). I didn’t need to do this.
- If you are using a heavy bottomed pan, bring the curry to a boil, reduce the heat, cover with a lid and let it cook on medium heat for 20-25 minutes. Uncover the pan, and cook for another 10-15 minutes till the water evaporates and the curry starts to thicken. Once the curry is ready, switch off the flame.
- In another small pan, heat ghee and add green chilies and ginger. Once they start to splutter and become slightly crisp, switch off the flame and mix the tadka (or tempering) into the curry. Top with coriander.
- Let the curry sit for 10-15 minutes before serving. Tastes best with rotis or rice.