Chicken Korma + Homemade Garam Masala

Today’s the day before Ash Wednesday and aside from that, “International Chicken Korma Day”. I just made that last part up, for lack of other uninteresting things to say. So let me just get right to it.

I got this recipe from Rasa Malaysia, an Asian food blog that I’ve been following for quite some time now, really because I consider it one of the best Asian food blogs out there. Bee Yinn Low, the woman behind RM, brings together cuisines from almost every nook and cranny in Asia – even the occasional Filipino delicacy.
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Since I’m still building myself up as an amateur cook, it makes perfect sense to try to expand my repertoire with dishes from the Asian neighbors. And today I made my first “almost authentic” Indian dish.

I’ll be the first to admit that since Filipino cooking is not heavy on exotic spices (think cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, cumin…), sometimes the aromas of Indian (and also Muslim) cuisine, because of their lack of subtlety, can be off-putting. But of course, I’m one that enjoys the spice and heat that comes with the territory. In moderation, it’s not really a problem with me.

Most of the Philippines is familiar with Chicken Curry, and Korma is essentially a curry, but according to Rasa Malaysia, “Korma, also spelled as Khurma or Kurma, is a milder form of curry and is distinguished from other curries by its rich gravy and smooth texture, mainly because of its heavy incorporation of yogurt as part of its main ingredients.”
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Here in Zamboanga, a virtual melting pot of cultures, predominantly Christian but with a strong Muslim presence (partially because of its proximity to Malaysia) we are familiar with the kulma, and what I made approximates the familiar taste of what we know as curry laden with the trademark spices.
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This doesn’t have curry powder because the recipe called for Garam Masala. Because I didn’t check with our local delicatessen if they had it in stock, well, I made my own spice mix thanks to the wonders of the internet. It’s not difficult as long as you have the ingredients on hand. Heck, it’ll be easier to buy it from a generously stocked grocery, but I went the extra mile today because I had to.
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I say this a lot with my dishes, but I can really imagine myself making this again because it tastes great. Like estofado, I enjoyed eating the korma knowing that the “soup” or sauce has almost dried out, envelopes the tender chicken pieces and has become almost gravy-like. Well, that’s just me.

“Almost authentic Indian” aptly describes what I made today, and really, you either go big or go home. With my homemade garam masala, I guess I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.

Chicken Korma (Chicken in Rich Yogurt Curry) (serves 4 – 6; adapted from Rasa Malaysia)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 kg chicken leg and thighs, cut into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • a dash of cinnamon
  • 4 cardamons
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 8 black peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons liquid seasoning (or more, to taste)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (optional; that’s why I called it “almost authentic”)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Marinade:

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons Garam Masala (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder or paprika
  • 1 cup (250ml) plain yogurt, lightly whipped
  • 3/4 – 1 cup coconut milk (I had a 200ml tetra pack so I used that)
  • 2 large red onions, sliced and fried

Method:

  1. Marinate chicken with Marinade ingredients for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Heat up wok with 2 1/2 tablespoons oil, stir-fry the items listed under Ingredients, except liquid seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and let the whole spices to sizzle a bit until fragrant.
  3. Toss in the marinated chicken (with the marinade) and continue to stir-fry for 10 minutes. Add the liquid seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Turn heat to medium-low, cover the wok and cook for 40 – 60 minutes, or until the oil slightly separates, chicken is tender enough and you have achieved the gravy consistency that you prefer. You may add water if the sauce dries too quickly and if the chicken is still not cooked through.
  5. Season with salt and pepper. When done, remove from heat and serve with rice. Enjoy!

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Garam Masala (makes around 1/2 cup)

  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons whole cardamom pods
  • 2 tablespoons whole black pepper corns
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  1. In a skillet or a nonstick pan, over medium low heat, add the whole spices – coriander, cardamom, black peppercorns, cloves. Allow to toast for about 10 minutes until they take on a darker shade. You may stir it occasionally.
  2. When done, combine the toasted spices with the ground ones – cinnamon, nutmeg,  cumin in a mortar and pestle. Pound until the whole spices have been crushed and the mixture has become one cohesive powder. You may use a food processor or a coffee grinder.
  3. When done, store it in a dry container. You don’t have to put it in the refrigerator. It will keep for 3 months.

If you’re in Zamboanga and you’re thinking of doing this, I bought my cardamom from La Tienda (call them if they have it in stock) and the coriander from the spice and candy store near Mindpro’s grocery entrance, beside Bloomingdale’s. All the other spices can be found in the spice aisle of Mindpro’s grocery. 

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14 thoughts on “Chicken Korma + Homemade Garam Masala

    • here in the philippines Maggi or Knorr sells it. it’s like soy sauce, only milder and sometimes infused with garlic or chili flavor. you can use soy sauce if you want and dont have liquid seasoning on hand. :D

  1. Kudos to you for making your own Garam Masala. Must to try making this because first of all, I love anything with yoghurt in it and secondly, your photo is making me hungry after just having lunch. :)

    • haha! Korma will do that to you. I actually had difficulty getting the right shot and honestly, was pretty surprised at people’s reactions to the dish. I guess if a dish is inherently hearty and rustic people like that more! :D making you hungry – that’s my plan. hahaha

  2. I like kulma (I saw an episode of Chef Wan cooking Kulma so I guess it really is a Malaysian dish) so I will most probably enjoy this too. Here, I enjoy going to an Indian restaurant called New Bombay. I surmise that it serves authentic Indian food because you can see two Indian cooks toiling away at the kitchen :D My favorite dish is palak paneer (feta cheese in spinach sauce) and mutton rogan josh. Yummm!

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