Dhaba Style: Murgh Methi ka Saag (Fenugreek Chicken Curry made in a Dhaba Style)


As a student of Architecture I had the opportunity to visit so many places within in India for study tours conducted each in 5 years of my under-grad course. Every state in India has charm of its own.

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Memories of a trip to DelhiAgraNainital and Kasauni bring back the wonderful winter, the delicious food at “Dhabas” (local food joints serving cheap and delicious Tandoori and Punjabi food). The best Aloo parathas in the world loaded with freshly hand-made butter (makkhan) and mint chutney served with freshly made Yoghurt, absolute bliss! I still remember at on such local joint in Agra, we had eaten a bowl (filled up to the brim) of Gajar Halwa (Shredded eggless carrot pudding) loaded with goodness of cashews and almonds made with pure malai (thickened condensed milk) for mere 7 INR!

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Another striking thing was the generosity and hospitality of the local confectioner’s (halwai/mithaiwala) was just beyond words. When they realized we loved the food at their joint,they offered us free servings of Gajar ka Halwa ! And, believe me to feed an army of 20 year old bachelors tired after a long day in bus, it requires guts! But, I appreciate that inherent quality of hospitality and welcome in the Northern parts of India.

We used to visit all these lovely destinations in winter. Winter is the season of fresh green vegetables in India and the cold makes it easy to burn those extra calories from Jalebis (Chickpea flour concentric fried dessert dipped into sugar syrup!) or Malpua (another sweet delicacy similar to pancakes).

Last winter here I saw really fresh and fragranted methi bunches (fenugreek bunches) in the Indian grocery store in Sunnyvale. I got lucky and bagged two healthy looking bunches (those who frequently visit Indian stores would understand the value of a green vegetable looking healthy and full versus the routine smashes, damaged bunch!).

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Nearly a decade after my Delhi study tour I was reminded of a delicious side dish called “Murgh Methi Ka Saag” (Fenugreek Chicken Curry served in local Indian joints called Dhaba) and thought of recreating this for my Chicken loving little guy. Extremely easy to make and super delicious. The recipe could be transformed into vegetarian or vegan by replacing the meat with tofu or Paneer (cottage cheese).

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It’s one of those recipes that has a fancy name but needs only few ingredients available in a typical Indian Kitchen Pantry worldwide.

(Trumpets honking and drums beating in honour of the royal entourage) Pesh-e-Khidmat hai,”Murgh Methi Ka Saag (Presenting Fenugreek Chicken Curry).

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 Ingredients:( for 4 persons)

  • 8 organic chicken tenders, de-skinned and washed.
  • 1 bunch of fresh fenugreek leaves-stems cut, leaves washed and chopped finely.
  • 3 tbsps. Garam masala (all spices) powder.
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds.
  • 1 tsp. ajwain (carom seeds).
  • 1 tsp. kalaunji (nigella seeds).
  • 1 cup. Freshly chopped cilantro.
  • 2 tbsps. Lemon juice.
  • 1 jalapeno pepper finely chopped (optional).
  • 1 large white onion or 2 medium sized white onions-sliced thinly.
  • 1 tbsps. olive oil (can use clarified butter/ghee to get the exact richeness of Dhaba food).
  • 1-2 black peppercorns.
  • Salt to taste.
  • 5 tbsps. minced garlic.
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste or ketchup.
  • 1 cup water, divided into 4 parts.
  • Pinch of cardamom powder.

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 (The Method involves the maker to be patient than anything else, so please bear with me-it’s an authentic slow-cooked recipe! In Dhabas they cook it for hours and hours, but we are trying to achieve most of it in 45 minutes max. I was able to finish the dish in 30-35 minutes. But, the slow cooking makes it rich and tastier.)

Method:

  • Heat the oil in a deep pan and add cumin, black pepper corns, ajwain, kalaunji, jalapeno, garlic and onions in the pan. Sauté until the onions turn golden.
  • The onion slowly comes together and oil begins to ooze out. Don’t worry this is a combination of oil and water content that oozes out once it is fully cooked.
  • Add chopped fenugreek and cilantro along with garam masala. Let it cook well.
  • Add the chicken breast tenders next. Do not cut them into smaller cubes.
  • Slow cooking will allow them to be cut into smaller portions naturally.
  • Sauté well and add water, 1/4 th cup at a time.
  • Cover and cook. Add water and stir at intervals 2 minutes apart.
  • Add tomato paste and add the remaining water. Cook it together. Add pinch of cardamom.
  • Add salt and let it slow cook covered.

Heaven is here J. The aroma is mesmerizing and you’d have to make sure to keep the parathas ready sooner J or like us you would end up swiping most of it JLT! Protein and Iron dose we called it :P!

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The one at Dhaba on the outskirts of Delhi was made in clarified butter and cooked for at least 5 hours on a low flame. This is a lighter and quicker version of the original Dhaba Style Murgh Methi ka Saag!

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