Are you looking for an authentic Pakistani Chicken Salan recipe? You’ve come to the right place! Also known as Chicken ka Salan or Murghi ka Salan, this smoky curry is classic Pakistani food you’ll remember for eternity.
What is Salan?
Salan is an Urdu word that, when roughly translated to English, means, “curry with gravy.” In the West, we tend to use the word “curry” to refer to a specific orange, curry powder-flavored dish.
In reality, there is a myriad of different types of “salans” from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.
For example, Aloo gosht ka salan is made with potatoes and red meat (lamb, etc). Chicken Karahi is made using tomatoes. Chicken Qorma is made with barista (fried onions) and yogurt.
This specific recipe, Chicken ka salan, is a chicken curry with gravy. Without gravy, it’d be called dry chicken curry or Bhuna Chicken. If we made a very soupy/brothy gravy, it’d be called Chicken Shorba.
What makes a Good Salan?
1. Whole or Powdered Spices
Spices are the heart of any Pakistani cooking. Whole spices are used more often than powdered spices and are prepared either by dry roasting or by frying directly in oil. This cooking method unlocks the spices’ intense flavors and aromas.
Common spices you’ll find in Pakistani cuisine include:
- Bay leaves
- Cumin seeds
- Cinnamon stick
- Black peppercorns
- Black & green cardamom
- Coriander seeds
- Fennel seeds
- Red chili powder
2. Yogurt / Tomato / Onion
No salan is really a salan without at least one of these three key ingredients: yogurt, tomatoes, or onions. Quantities and cooking methods will vary, but at least one of these needs to be included in order to make a proper curry.
3. A Proper Garnish
Often overlooked, the garnish is the final touch to any decent chicken sala recipe. Here are some common salan garnishes–chopped cilantro, freshly sliced ginger, freshly squeezed lemon, coriander, powdered garam masala, Kasuri methi (fenugreek leaves).
4 Tips for the Best Chicken Salan:
A good chicken salan recipe requires only a few key ingredients and the proper quantities of said ingredients in order to achieve proper consistency.
1. How To Get a Good Salan Texture
Your goal is a smooth gravy without visible onion or tomato chunks. The key to achieving this consistency is to make sure you saute the onions until they’ve been reduced and broken down into a pasty (masala paste) consistency.
If your gravy is too thick, add a bit of water. You can also use an immersion blender or a food processor to achieve perfect smoothness.
A great salan (gravy) hack would be to use onion paste and/or tomato paste rather than chopped ingredients.
2. How To Get a Good Salan Color
The easiest way to get that deep, red, curry color is to make sure you cook the onions until they’re dark and crispy (not burned).
Darker onions = darker salan.
Spices also impact the color. You’ll be adding the following spices; red chili powder, coriander powder, and Haldi (turmeric powder). If you want an even more vibrant red curry, you’d add Deghi Mirch or Kashmiri Laal Mirch.
3. How to Get Perfect Salan Gravy Thickness
It’s hard to mess up this gravy (aka, Salan Masala). Add more water if it’s too thick. Add more onions or tomatoes if it’s too thin.
4. Use Enough Oil
You can tell your salan is done when you’ve got a good oil separation from the sides of the pan. This will only occur if you’ve used enough oil in your recipe, so don’t hold back.
Can I Use Other Meats Instead of Chicken in My Curry?
Yes. Here are some other meats you can use in your curry:
Use the bone-in kind. Bone-in meat will impart much more flavor into your curry.
The most common type of meat used in Pakistani salans is diced, bone-in skinless chicken. If you want to go the authentic Pakistani route, cut a whole chicken into 8 pieces. You can also use chicken breast or chicken thigh meat.
What Sides Go Well With Chicken Salan?
Basmati rice is the king of all rice. Use instant Basmati rice if you’re a fan of convenience (like me) or cook in your instant pot while your curry is cooking. If you don’t have basmati rice you can use plain white rice.
Salan is best served with the following types of South Asian bread: Chapati, Roti, Naan, or Paratha. You can find Naan anywhere.
Kachumbar is a salad (akin to a pico de gallo) made of chopped onions, cucumber, and tomatoes.
Kachumbar salad recipe: Splash fresh lemon or lime juice over the top and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. The acidity of this salad pairs nicely with the rich, fatty curry.
How to Make Chicken Salan:
Once you’ve mastered the basics of this staple Pakistani cuisine you can branch out to other types of dishes. Whatever you do, don’t use curry powder. Here are the basic ingredients & equipment you’ll need:
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium yellow or red onion (chopped)
- 2 lbs skinless & boneless chicken thighs
- 4-6 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ginger paste
- 1 teaspoon garlic paste
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (haldi)
- 1-1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 cups water
- Fresh Cilantro (chopped)
Step 1: Saute Spices & Onions
- On your stove, heat oil (3 tablespoons) in a large sauce pan or deep frying pan.
- Chop your 1 medium onion
- Once the oil is hot (2-3 minutes), add the chopped onions
- Saute until they begin to turn golden brown (about 10-15 minutes)
- Add the 1 tsp garlic and 1 tsp ginger paste and sautee for 1 minute
Note: To avoid burning the pastes, only add the garlic and ginger pastes once the onions have finished darkening.
Step 2: Add Tomatoes & More Spices
- Grab your chopped fresh tomatoes or your canned (regular can size) tomatoes and add them to the onion mixture.
- Add the 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp turmeric, and 1-1/2 tsp chili pepper powder.
- Change medium heat or medium-high heat and fry the mixture.
- Cook for 15-20 minutes or until your sauce has thickened into a jam-like texture.
Note: At this heat, the tomatoes may splatter. If this is the case, turn the heat down slightly.
Step 3: Blend Sauce
- Remove the mixture from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
- Add mixture to the blender and blend until completely smooth.
- Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
- Turn the heat back up to medium-high.
Step 4: Add Chicken
- Add the 2 lbs diced chicken pieces along with 1/2 a cup of water to the pan.
- Cook the chicken until you see a separation of sauce and oil. (15-20 minutes)
- Add 1-1/2 cups of water and the 2 cardamom pods.
- Reduce heat to low and cover.
- Simmer for 20 minutes.
Note: You’ll know it’s done when you see the oil floating on top of the curry.
Step 5: Garnish
Chop up the leaves and stem of a few sprigs of Cilantro and sprinkle over the curry. I’m serving mine with a side of Kachumbar & basmati rice.
Simple Chicken Salan Recipe
- 3 sprigs fresh cilantro (chopped)
- Step 1: Saute Spices & OnionsOn your stove, heat oil (3 tablespoons) in a large sauce pan or deep frying pan.Chop your 1 medium onionOnce the oil is hot (2-3 minutes), add the chopped onionsSaute until they begin to turn golden brown (about 10-15 minutes)Add the 1 tsp garlic and 1 tsp ginger paste and sautee for 1 minuteNote: To avoid burning the pastes, only add the garlic and ginger pastes once the onions have finished darkening.
- Step 2: Add Tomatoes & More SpicesGrab your chopped fresh tomatoes or your canned (regular can size) tomatoes and add them to the onion mixture.Add the 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp turmeric, and 1-1/2 tsp chili pepper powder.Change medium heat or medium-high heat and fry the mixture.Cook for 15-20 minutes or until your sauce has thickened into a jam-like texture.
- Step 3: Blend SauceRemove the mixture from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.Add mixture to the blender and blend until completely smooth.Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.Turn the heat back up to medium-high.
- Step 4: Add ChickenAdd the 2 lbs diced chicken pieces along with 1/2 a cup of water to the pan.Cook the chicken until you see a separation of sauce and oil. (15-20 minutes)Add 1-1/2 cups of water and the 2 cardamom pods.Reduce heat to low and cover.Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Step 5: Garnish the Chicken SalanChop up the leaves and stem of a few sprigs of Cilantro and sprinkle over the curry. I’m serving mine with a side of Kachumbar & basmati rice.
Thanks for stopping by! I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Is this your new favorite tasty dish? Do you have any salan recipe tips?
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