Nachiketa DasMain CourseNorth Indianmethi malai chicken, murg methi malai
- Chicken legs and thighs – 750gms
- Fresh fenugreek/methi leaves – One cup
- Kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) – 2 table spoon
- Red chili flakes – 1 tea spoon
- Shah Jeera (Caraway Seeds) – 1 tea spoon
- Cinnamon, cardamom, and clove – for tempering
- Onions (medium size) – 2
- Garlic – 3-4 cloves
- Ginger – ½ inch
- Green chilies – 3-4
- Hung curd – 2 table spoon
- Fresh cream – 4 table spoon
- Vegetable Oil – as required
- Butter or Ghee (as preference) – 1 table spoon
- (Optional) Cashew paste – 1 table spoon
- Marinate the chicken with kasoori methi, chili flakes, half table spoon of salt and one table spoon vegetable oil. You can optionally add the curd while marinating as well.
- Thoroughly wash the methi leaves and chop them finely. Add a pinch of salt and keep it aside. The salt will reduce the bitterness of the methi.
- Finely chop one onion and make some paste of the other one. If you wish, you can chop or paste both. I like to use some amount of chopped onions because of the texture and the extra flavor from caramelizing it.
- Make a paste of the green chilies, garlic, and ginger.
- Heat oil in a pan. When the oil is smoking hot, add the marinated chicken. Sauté the chicken in high flame till you can see it’s turning golden brown in places. Keep stirring to avoid burning or the pieces getting stuck to the pan.
- Transfer the chicken to a separate bowl.
- In the same pan, add butter or ghee to the leftover oil.
- Add the caraway seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, and clove. Temper for a minute.
- Add the chopped onion and fry for 3-4 minutes. Add half a tea spoon of sugar.
- When the onion turns golden brown, add the onion paste and fry for 2 minutes.
- Add the green chilies, ginger, and garlic paste, mix well, and fry for another 2 minutes.
- Squeeze out excess water from the chopped methi leaves and add it to the pan. Cook well for 3-4 minutes.
- While stirring the mix, add the hung curd, to avoid clumping.
- Add the chicken back to the pan.
- Add salt according to your taste and the cashew paste (if you are using), mix well, and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add a cup of hot water. Cover the pan and simmer in medium flame for 3-4 minutes.
- Add fresh cream and simmer in high flame for a minute, while stirring occasionally.
- Taste and adjust salt and sugar as required. Add a dollop of butter or ghee if your cholesterol level agrees.
- Serve with any type of rice or bread.
Ever since I made Methi Malai Chicken and it turned out to be pretty yummy, Sanchari has been asking me to write a post about it here. When she posts a food photograph on her profile (especially the ones cooked by me), she often gets asked about the recipe and this time, she just wanted to be able to provide a link to her friends immediately. I’m not half enthusiastic about writing, as I am about cooking, but as you all know by now, her wish is my command.
Methi Malai Chicken is a creamy gravy preparation of chicken with generous amounts of fenugreek leaves, both fresh and dried. We came across this preparation during our trip to Uttarakhand in October with our parents. The name of the restaurant was Embassy and it was located right at the side of Mall road in Nainitaal. We liked it so much that we ended up returning there the next day, though we had a ton of other options.
An Unexpected Challenge
Fast forward to December 2019 and bam, it was Christmas! One of Sanchari’s favorite aunts was coming to visit us along with her husband all the way from Calcutta and given the kind of things she has heard about my magical culinary skills, it was inevitable that I’ll be asked to cook for her. This is the one problem with my generous, food-loving wife: she talks me up so much to people she cares about that it becomes almost impossible to meet those standards when my skills are put to test. So, to soothe my anxiety about proving myself to her aunt, Sanchari suggested we keep it simple and familiar. Sanchari would make a vegetable pulao and I’d make one of my spicy chicken recipes, something which I’ve already made before and hence felt more confident about.
“But what if I make Methi Malai Chicken?” I asked her instead. “Remember, how delicious it was when we had it in Nainitaal?”, I appealed to her passion for food and memories. But nope, she didn’t agree. She just rolled her eyes and reminded me of the innumerable times I’ve screwed up the first attempt to achieve great culinary heights with a new recipe and kept on insisting that I stick to something I have already done earlier, like a simple Bengali style chicken curry or some spicy Mughlai dish. “Spicy and oily is your strong suit. So, why take chances?”
Her words made me nervous, but I held my ground.
Make no mistake, this was a challenge!
I had to make Methi Malai Chicken and prove that I can cook not-so-spicy and not-so-red chicken recipes as well and at first attempt at that!
Finding a Recipe
A disclaimer here, I can’t follow recipes. I simply can’t. Whenever I’m cooking something, I just go with my guts instead of following a recipe to a T. For example, most recipes say ‘fry the onions for 2 mins’. But I never like the color or texture of onions fried for 2 mins. I’ll definitely go for more than that, or way less if it’s just a stir fry.
Anyway, I went through 3-4 recipes, and learnt the main important point of cooking anything using fresh methi (fenugreek) leaves i.e. you need to add a pinch of salt after finely chopping them. This helps in reducing the bitterness of methi. I did not know this. This was my only takeaway from these recipes, I went with my instincts for the actual part.
A+ from Aunt
Though it was my first time preparing Methi Malai Chicken, it turned out to be delicious. Both Bhalomashi and Bhalomesho (Sanchari’s Aunt and Uncle) asked for second and third helpings during lunch and later for antacid tablets to deal with those portions. As for Sanchari, she looked both apologetic and proud. “I think it’s the best chicken you have ever made”, she told me with an indulgent smile, “I don’t know why I ever doubted you.”
And with that, my Christmas was made!
My Own Recipe
By now, I have prepared this dish twice. And it turned out pretty well both the times. Although overall the steps remained same, I may have changed something here and there. I can’t even follow my own recipe, sometimes.
For example, the first step of the recipe says you can optionally add curd while marinating the chicken. Some people say, that makes the meat tender. But I have found that chicken turns pretty tender if cooked for 15 minutes or so even without any help. And with all the frying and simmering of Indian cooking, if anything, it actually becomes overcooked. Anyway, I digress.
The first time, I had marinated the chicken using curd. But then I could not fry the chicken properly as the curd released a lot of water. And direct frying is necessary to infuse the kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) flavor into the chicken pieces. So, next time I skipped curd, and kept the marinade free of water as much as possible. Note that it shouldn’t be dry either. I added a table spoon of oil in the marinade to give it the moisture it needs.
Eventually, it probably doesn’t matter whichever method you try. In all likelihood, you’ll anyway end up with a fragrant and creamy gravy which can be served with any type of rice or roti.
If you have tried this recipe for Methi Malai Chicken or have any suggestions for us, please let us know in the comments section.