Juicy and tender chicken with a sweet and spicy caramelised onion base that is satisfyingly sticky. This bhuna is packed with flavour and gets an extra helping hand from aromatic garam masala. Cooked in a wok, this is a quick chicken curry that pairs well with plain rice or fresh flatbread.
Chicken bhuna is another variation of the chicken curry that is a staple to have in your Bengali recipe repertoire. According to some fastidious googling, a bhuna is a medium-hot dry curry originating in Bengal, prepared typically by frying meat with spices at a high temperature. There is usually not much sauce added to the curry, resulting in a much more concentrated and spicy flavour. Unlike other curries, which often taste better the next day once the spices have time to marinade and develop, chicken bhunas taste best fresh on the day.
There is a slightly more onion used in a bhuna and leaving the onion base to slowly soften and break down into a jammy consistency is the key to acquiring a great dish.
This is another traditional Bangladeshi recipe that I have picked up from my mother. However, we don’t eat it as much as our usual chicken curries which have a lot more sauce as it is a little more heavier. But some days you just crave the decadence and rich flavour of a good bhuna.
If you follow me on instagram (if not, why not??) then you may have seen some pictures I uploaded a few days ago of a delicious Korean inspired meal that my teenage niece prepared for us. It was in fact the first proper dinner that she had cooked all by herself. Watching her labour away in the kitchen, slightly cautious yet excited and rigidly determined not to accept any of my several offers for assistance bought a wistful smile to my face. Also, I was a total backseat cook and despite her declining any help from me, I couldn’t stop myself from sharing some necessary kitchen tips (sooner or later we all turn into our mothers, riiiight?). We had 3 generations of cooks in the home that day and I look forward to when we can pass traditional recipes like this simple chicken bhuna on to her.
This is a great variation of a chicken curry to serve to guests, a bit more restaurant style cooking and still quick enough to prepare without any fuss. Whilst I stuck to my usually selection of spices, I added a little more red chilli powder as the extra potency is needed to balance out the lack of sauce which might otherwise lead to a dry and bland curry. You can of course add less chilli powder if you’re not so fond of heat. I also used some garam masala near the end of the cooking to add some extra flavour. I used a really aromatic blend from Spice Kitchen, an artisan family business based in the UK. I’ve used their curry powder before in my Sri Lankan Chicken Curry recipe and I’m always so impressed by how fresh and high quality their blends are.
- 2 medium sized onions, sliced.
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
- 2 inch piece of ginger, minced
- 6 tablespoons oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cassia bark/cinnamon stick, snapped into 3 pieces
- 4 green cardamoms
- 1 kg whole chicken, cut into about 10-12 pieces and washed
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 2 1/2 - 3 tsp chilli powder
- 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- Salt to season
- 3 green chillies, cut vertically (optional)
- Handful of chopped coriander to garnish
- Add oil to a wok or similar shaped pan and allow to heat up on a medium heat.
- Add the garlic and stir using a wooden spoon until the garlic is golden.
- Add the onions, ginger, cassia bark, bay leaf and green cardamom. Stir into the oil and garlic. Add 1/2 tsp salt to help the onions to soften. Cover with a lid and leave the base to cook for 3-5 minutes.
- Uncover and stir the onions, making sure that it is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add about 1/4 cup of water to help the onions break down in to a mushy consistency. Cover and leave the onion base to simmer for a further 3-5 minutes.
- Uncover and stir the onions again and use your wooden spoon to push down and mash the onions. Once the water has been absorbed into the onions and it starts looking a little dry again, add the chilli powder, turmeric, cumin and curry powder. Stir the spices in well cover and leave the spices to cook off for 2-3 minutes.
- After 2-3 minutes, check on the curry base, if you find the onions are catching to the bottom of the pan too much then add a few tablespoons of water. Allow the onions to cook until the majority of the onions have broken down into a mushy consistency.
- Add in the chicken and stir until it is coated in the masala. Cover and leave to cook on a high heat for 3-5 minutes.
- After 3-5 minutes, uncover and stir the chicken again. You should notice water coming out of the chicken. Cover and leave the chicken to cook on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes until most of the liquid has dried up and the chicken is cooked through.
- Once the chicken is cooked through, sprinkle the garam masala, stir and leave to cook for a final 5 minutes on a low heat. Check the salt to taste.
- Add in the green chillies and chopped coriander and then remove from the heat and serve.
- Bhuna is meant to be dry so try not to add too much water. Use water if necessary to help the onions break down into a smooth base but you should not add water once you have added the chicken into the pan.
Disclaimer: I was sent products from Spice Kitchen to sample but all opinions stated are my own.