Sunday, May 26, 2013

Ma's Murgir Jhol ~ Chicken Curry Bengali Style

An important part of my childhood memories is my mom's style of cooking the Bengali Chicken Curry. No matter how many years pass by, the taste and aroma continues to linger. As a child, Murgir Jhol made by mom would excite me. And even today, when I follow her recipe in my kitchen, I still feel that same excitement. As I cook this curry, it's like I am living my childhood again. That's the magic of mothers' cooking.

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As a child, I hardly took a liking for any dish other than the chicken curry. Even the legendary hilsa would rank after that. Beside the other non vegetarian items that mom would make for dad and herself, she would cook this chicken curry for me all seven days a week (imagine!). No wonder this dish is so close to my heart and is so distinctly etched in my childhood memories. I believed one thing - no one cooks Murgir Jhol better than my mother. And I still believe that. All daughters (yes yes, and all sons too) would believe that.

This preparation is every bit Bengali. We begin by marinating the chicken pieces with mustard oil and some spices. This traditional chicken curry does take a little longer than other recipes, but every bit of that wait is worth it. Another typicality is adding diced potatoes to chicken or mutton curry. We do that in this recipe. Though, other times when i am cooking chicken, I usually skip adding potatoes. But in this case, I just don't omit it. Lest, that will be called tampering with authenticity.

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For every dish, there are numerous 'authentic' recipes. And Bengali Chicken Curry too has many. Like my aunt cooks it by adding cumin powder and garam masala powder. But mom doesn't. And all the versions are, again, every bit Bengali. You possibly can't say that, that's a wrong recipe or that's the right one. Some others in my family also use yogurt in the marination. But we don't. These are simple minor variations, which slightly alter the taste of the final dish. And eventually, they all remain the Murgir Jhol with its widespread reputation.

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Murgir Jhol (Chicken Curry Bengali Style)

Chicken, 1 kg., skinned and cut into medium sized pieces

For the marinade:

Lemon juice, 2 tbsp.
Mustard oil, 1 tbsp.
Turmeric powder, 1 tsp.
Red chilli powder, 1/2 tsp.
Salt as per taste

For the gravy (jhol):

Onions, 3 medium sized, thinly sliced
Tomatoes, 2 medium sized, grated or puréed
Potatoes, 2 large sized, peeled and cut into 4
Bay leaf, 1 no.
Green cardamoms, 4 nos.
Cloves, 2 nos.
Cinnamon, 2 one inch sticks
Black peppercorns, 1/2 tsp.
Sugar, 1 tsp.
Ginger paste, 1.5 tbsp.
Garlic paste, 2 tbsp.
Coriander powder, 2 tbsp.
Kashmiri red chilli powder, 1.5 tsp.
Turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp.
Green chillies, 2 nos.
Mustard oil, about 6 tbsp.
Water, 4 cups
Salt as per taste
Lemon juice, 1 tbsp.
Coriander leaves for garnishing

  1. Wash and clean chicken pieces. Marinate with all the ingredients for marination for at least 2 hours.

  2. Sprinkle a little salt and turmeric powder on the potato pieces. Heat 1 tablespoon of mustard oil in a pan or kadhai (I used my large pressure cooker). Toss the potato pieces and fry till them till they turn slightly golden brown in color. Remove and keep aside.

  3. Next, add one more tablespoon of oil. Once it heats up enough, add the marinated chicken pieces. Fry them for about 5 minutes or till the time they start getting the brown color. Remove from pan and keep aside.

  4. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of mustard oil. Once hot, add the peppercorns, bay leaf, cardamoms and cinnamon sticks. Next, add the sliced onions and sugar. Cook till they are golden brown. Next, add the ginger and garlic paste and fry for about a minute. After that, add coriander powder, turmeric powder and kashmiri red chilli powder. Mix well. Add the tomatoes along with salt. Cook for another two minutes.

  5. Now add the chicken pieces. Mix well. Cook the chicken for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  6. Add water, green chillies and the potatoes. Mix well. Cook till done. Drizzle lemon juice and garnish with chopped coriander leaves before serving.

I love this traditional Murgir Jhol with the Bengali Mishti Pulao.

On days when you are pressed for time, you can skip frying the chicken pieces in step 3. Though I prefer to follow it, I have tried the other way as well. It still tastes good. Also, my mom usually adds the green chillies with the onions. But adding them at the end was Mayank's idea. I have noticed that it does slightly enhance the flavor.

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  1. Loved each and every snap...Loved the read to this dish comes first...:D

  2. The pics make you want to pick and devour a piece(or perhaps 2) right away..a keeper recipe.

  3. such a lovely recipe... looks absolutely delicious...

  4. First time on your space and the recipes look delicious. Love the color of this murgir jhol. Darun!

  5. Hey,

    I made this yesterday. It was really yum. Just one thing: I was not sure when I was to add the cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. Perhaps you missed this in the recipe? Could you please check? Thanks for the great recipe. Your site is beautifully designed.

    1. Thanks! I am glad you liked the recipe. And thanks again, for pointing out the mistake. I did forget to mention when the bay leaf, cloves, cardamoms and cinnamon sticks should be added. I have rectified that.

  6. Hi,

    I made this curry yesterday. It was lovely. Only thing, when do you add the cloves, cinnamon and cardamom? I added it before the onions, but I am not sure this iss right?

    Lovely site. I love the pictures and the design. :)


    1. You are right Liz. Those are added before the onions. Sorry I forget to mention it in the post.

  7. such a luscious orange gravy, absolutely drool worthy,yummmm :-)

  8. I am bengali and quite an amateur in the kitchen. My mom was away for a month and i was missing her chicken curry terribly that's when i resorted to google and came across your blog. I tried this recipe and OMG it was love at first bite. I have cooked it thrice in the past month for my iftar parties and it is an instant winner!

    Thank you so much for sharing something as precious as your mom's recipe and satisfying the 'ma-er haater khana' craving!

    Can't wait to try other recipes from this blog! :)

  9. I made this yesterday for a friend and it was so lovely!! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I've often made curries from scratch, but never using cinnamon sticks or peppercorns or cardamoms or cloves (it is missing in the instructions when to add this, but I threw it in with the bay leaf etc) in the and I really feel that these made so much difference! I certainly felt like I was doing something right using them all. I used ghee instead of vegetable oil as I had none to hand, but it still tasted wonderful. So once again thanks for sharing, my friend and I were very very happy! Can't wait to try more recipes of yours.

  10. I always cook Bengali though I just lived in Calcutta for eight years. This chicken after it was done almost jumped out at other words excellent to do different variations of Hilsa too.

  11. Arundhuti..I love authentic Bengali recipes...made the chicken and every piece of chicken almost jumped out at me to be other words this is a excellent recipe...I'd like now to try different variations of Hilsa. madly in love with Bengali (Calcutta) food. Just lived there for eight years.

  12. Turned out beautiful! Thank you :)

  13. for the green cardamoms, do you mean the whole pods or 4 seeds out of a pod?

  14. for the green cardamom, do you mean 4 pods or 4 seeds?

  15. It came out very delicious as I followed your recipe as it is. Thanks

  16. I have been trying for sometime to prepare this dish, but failed each time until today. Read this article and finally prepared the dish for the first time. This is also the first dish i have ever prepared. So, Thanks!! The pics here are tempting and eye catching which held my interest to read further. The writing is simple and precise, the style is cohesive and presents everything you need to know about this dish, nothing less or more. In Conclusion, the article represented the dish itself, lots of complicated elements held together in one amazing pot.

  17. Thank you - this is delicious! I made it for friends and they commented on the deep layers of flavor. I didn't have any mustard oil so used vegetable oil and added mustard seeds - this worked well and I hope you'll forgive me for deviating from your mother's treasured recipe. I have one question: do you chop the green chillies or add them whole?
    Thanks again,

  18. This made my very finicky Bengali husband very happy. It's now our "go-to" curry. Thank you for redeeming my sagging repertoire of good Indian chicken dishes....more please...

  19. Great reçipe, tried last eve. Don't know why but the pics on this page are not visible...and the 'photobucket' add are in plenty.

  20. This is an absolutely wonderful recipe and the outcome is a glorious, authentic Murghir Jhol, in all its rich flavors! Do you have any idea how many servings this recipe yields? I am interested in preparing this dish for a gathering of 30 and wanted to know how many batches I should prepare or how I should adjust the measurements accordingly.

  21. I would love to try this recipe. It would be helpful to know what cut of chicken would be best...breast or thighs.

    thank you !

  22. Thank you for sharing this amazing recipe. My first chicken dish and was a major hit!! My husband finished almost half of it :) Thanks!!